Truffle Species

Hypogeous fungi are those soil fungi which produce fruit-bodies partially or completely embedded in soil or humus. While the term “truffle” is sometimes used to refer to any of these, in the very strictest sense, “truffle” refers to those in the genus (group) Tuber which includes those that are prized eating. These are sometimes called “true truffles”, while the many other underground fruiting bodies are “false truffles”. Here we introduce British truffle species, determining which species a truffle is and the history of their study.

How many truffle species?

In Britain, around 80 native (i.e. occur naturally) species of hypogeous fungi have been found, of these 13 are true truffles (Tuber). Four of these are considered edible though, to our knowledge, only one is found and sold in this country (including by us). Several of these, and one additional species, are cultivated.

SpeciesWild in Britain?Cultivated in Britain?
Summer truffle (Tuber aestivum)YY
Winter truffle (Tuber brumale)Y
Smooth black truffle (Tuber macrosporum)Y
Whitish truffle (Tuber borchii)YY
Périgord Truffle (Tuber melanosporum)Y
Tuber aestivum
Tuber aestivum (Summer Truffle)

Examples of “false truffles”, i.e. underground fungi that are not in the Tuber genus, include Slime Truffles and Veined Choiromyces.

British Truffle Species

The 13 species of British truffles can be grouped. For each group, information on its species is given to support identification. This includes their appearance and British distributions. If you are trying to identify an unknown truffle, the page on determining the species of a truffle may also help.

Black truffles

White truffles

Determining the species of a truffle

Having evolved underground, truffles lack the distinctive features of mushrooms such as coloured caps, with many looking more like potatoes or clods of soil than mushrooms. Determining the species of a truffle requires examination of macroscopic characteristics (visible to the naked eye) and potentially, using a microscope to look at the truffle’s spores. You can read more on determining a truffle’s species.

Tuber borchii (Puberulum group)
Tuber borchii (Puberulum group)

Studying British Truffles

Much of our knowledge of the British truffle species and their distribution is down to the efforts of a small number of people. You can read about the phases of truffle study.

The Rev. M.J. Berkeley