Aleuria Fuckel (1870) and Sowerbyella Nannf. (1938) are both accepted genera according to the 1995 8th edition of the Dictionary of Fungi and well as the online CABI Biosciences Database. Sowerbyella was separated from Aleuria due to the presences of a stalk as well as ornamentation on the Apothecium and/or Peridium. My original reason for accepting this change is personal correspondence with Dr. Richard Korf in 1994 who knows far more than I do about cup fungi. The most common species in the western US, Sowerbyella rhenana , is often listed as Aleuria rhenana Fuckel.
The folowing correspondence from Dr. Lorelei Norvell explains in more detail the reasons for calling our stalked orange cup fungus Sowerbyella rhenana (Fuckel) Moravec:
The fungus in question was originally listed as "Aleuria splendens" here on the NWF list in 1994. Nancy Smith Weber has thoroughly investigated its taxonomy and evaluated most North American herbarium collections in 1995. She determined that Sowerbyella is indeed the appropriate genus [and "rhenana" the appropriate species epithet for the old "Peziza -> Aleuria splendens"]. Nancy's usual thorough research so convinced the government that the organism in question is now governmentally "sanctioned" as Sowerbyella rhenana (see the USDA FS "Handbook to Strategy 1 fungal species in the Northwest Forest Plan" by Castellano, Smith, O'Dell, Cázares & Nugent in 1999 for excellent photographs -- one of a photogenic cluster taken by George Barron on his PNW trek in 1992, and the other showing the very distinctive [and non-Aleuriaceous] stipe by Thom O'Dell).A description of each of the genera can be found on in Nancy Weber's PezWeb Genus Finder.
For those of you with access to a good library, there is a key to the 12 recognized Sowerbyella species (in English) in Ceska Mykologie 42(4): 193-199 by Jiri Moravec, who transferred A. rhenana [originally named by Fuckel] to Sowerbyella in 1986. In his 1988 paper, Moravec notes the following interesting fact: "The pigment in paraphyses of Sowerbyella seems to be quite different from that in Aleuria, and deserves a special examining in future, as well as the pigment in Otidea. The characteristic smell of dried apothecia in all species of Sowerbyella, resembling a smell of Lactarius helvus is, in my opinion, caused probably by this pigment. In my opinion, Aleuria is not a closely related genus. In Aleruria and other discomycetes with paraphyses containing carotenoid pigments, the dried apothecia, especially when they are [rehydrated] in water, have a smell of Viola odorata." I should note that the carotenoid pathway is an exceedingly complex one and the fact that Sowerbyella lacks carotenoids while Aleuria contains them is quite a persuasive argument for separating the two genera.
Interestingly, in his 1988 paper, Moravec actually cites Breitenbach & Kranzlein who actually included Sowerbyella in their 1981 tome even though rhenana had not yet been validly transferred to the Sowerbyella. If they were around to revise the Ascomycete tome today, they would unhesitatingly use "Sowerbyella".
As it turns out, those ascospores are actually quite distinctive -- the reticulations are far more subdued than those ridges found in Aleuria and the presence/absence of apiculi is an important character not to be dismissed lightly. When Nancy returns from her visit to New Mexico, she should be able to rattle off chapter and verse as to where the presence/absence of apiculi are being found to be supported at the molecular level. Aren't we glad we have the presence/absence of a MACroscopic stipe to guide us in our determinations?
As a final defense, I note that if the USA government is persuaded, perhaps we also should be!
Lorelei L Norvell, PhD (2001)
Literature with relevant species:
Arora, D. 1986. Mushrooms Demystified, 2nd Edition. Ten Speed Press, Berkeley, California. 959 pp. This text does not use Sowerbyella but gives a description and photos under the name Aleuria rhenana.
Bessette, A. E., A. R. Bessette, and D. W. Fischer. 1997. Mushroms of Northeastern North America. Syracuse University Press, Syracuse, New York. 582 pp. This text does not use Sowerbyella but gives a description and photos under the name Aleuria rhenana Fuckel.
Breitenbach, J., and F. Kranzlin. 1984. Fungi of Switzerland Volume 1 Ascomycetes. Verlag Mykologia, Lucerne, Switzerland. This text lists Sowerbyella imperialis (Peck) Korf. It also mentions Aleuria rhenana Fuckel as a possible alternative for Aleuria splendens Quel. The most obvious difference between the Aleuria species and the Sowerbyella in this text is the reticulation on the spore. I have not looked at the spores of the California material to see what the ornamentation is like.
Hawksworth, D.L., P.M. Kirk, B.C. Sutton and D.N. Pegler. 1995. Ainsworth and Bisby's Dictionary of the Fungi. CABI International, Oxon, United Kingdom. 616 pp. Lists both genera and gives the following additional references: Aleuria Wakefield (Transactions of the British Mycological Society 23: 281, 1939), Kaushal (Mycologia 68: 1021, 1976; Indian spp.), Rifai (1968; Australian spp.), Moravec (Ceska Myk.26: 74, 1972), Haffnew (Rheinl.-Pfalz. Pilzj. 3: 6, 1993). Sowerbyella: Moravec (Mycol. Helv. 1: 427, 1985; key 9 spp., Ceska Myk. 42: 193, 1988; key 12 spp.), Jeppson (Goteborgs Svampklubbs Arsskr 1980: 9; key 3 spp.).
Index of Texts