Pleurotus nebrodensis ssp. nebrodensis 

Scope: Global & Mediterranean
Language: English

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Fungi Basidiomycota Agaricomycetes Agaricales Pleurotaceae

Scientific Name: Pleurotus nebrodensis ssp. nebrodensis (Inzenga) Quél.
Common Name(s):
English White Ferula Mushroom
Agaricus nebrodensis Inzenga
Pleurotus nebrodensis (Inzenga) Quél.
Taxonomic Notes: Although Pleurotus nebrodensis demonstrates a (low) in vitro intercompatibility with P. eryngii, a study by Zervakis et al. (2014) using ecomorphological characters and sequencing results advocates for its continued recognition as a distinct species. It is associated with Prangos ferulacea only, but the Zervakis et al. (2014) study indicates that its distribution is not restricted to Sicily (as previously believed) but extends to southern continental Greece and to west Asia as well on the basis of molecular data. The name ‘Pleurotus fossulatus’ previously used to accommodate white-pilei Pleurotus growing on Pr. ferulacea from western and central Asia has been replaced by P. nebrodensis subsp. fossulatus  since specimens described under the former name are linked to European P. nebrodensis material after the comparative evaluation of morphological, mating compatibility and molecular results (Zervakis et al. 2014).

This is an amended assessment to accommodate the change in status of the taxon formerly assessed as P. nebrodensis to now being a subspecies; a reassessment is currently underway to include the range extension to southern Greece.

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Critically Endangered B1ab(iv,v)+2ab(iv,v) ver 3.1
Year Published: 2016
Date Assessed: 2006-02-01
Needs updating
Assessor(s): Venturella, G.
Reviewer(s): Strahm, W. & de Montmollin, B.
Listed as Critically Endangered (CR) because the area where it is found is less than 100 km² and the population is severely fragmented, and there is a decline in the number of localities and mature individuals.
Previously published Red List assessments:

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:This mushroom only occurs in northern Sicily, growing in scattered localities in the Madonie mountains from 1,200-2,000 m in altitude.
Countries occurrence:
Italy (Sicilia)
Additional data:
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population:It is estimated that less than 250 individuals reach maturity each year.
Current Population Trend:Decreasing
Additional data:

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:It grows on limestone substrates, in pastures containing "Basiliscu" Cachrys ferulacea, a member of the Umbelliferae or celery family.

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): P. nebrodensis (now P. nebrodensis subsp. nebrodensis) was first described as Agaricus nebrodensis by Giuseppe Inzenga in 1863 and he called it "the most delicious mushroom of the Sicilian mycological flora". It has been a sought-after species since ancient times, and today remains a prized species. Given its rarity, it is sold in northern Sicily at a price fluctuating between 50-70 Euros per kg. However, as the species is so rare there is no formal market and the species is used in only a few restaurants where it is prepared using a number of traditional recipes.

The population declines are due to the increasing number of mushroom gatherers, both professional and amateur, who are encouraged by the high price this mushroom commands. In addition to this increasing human pressure on the remaining natural populations, unripe fungi are usually collected.

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: Actions in Place
Legally: Currently, local regulations in the Madonie Park as well as a regional law do not exist. Draft rules have been prepared and submitted for the approval of the Government of Sicily. When approved, the collection of P. nebrodensis will be totally forbidden in zone A of the Park which is an integral reserve area. In other zones the collection of unripe mushrooms (i.e., those under 3 cm in diameter) will also be forbidden.

In situ: This species grows in Madonie Park which is a protected area. Experimental tests demonstrate that it is possible to inoculate the roots of the host plant Cachrys ferulacea with the mushroom, thereby increasing mushroom production in the wild.

Ex situ: This species has started to be cultivated in order to reduce collection pressures on the species in the wild. The mushroom is grown in a tunnel made of metal arches varying in length between 20-30m, and covered by a black net that provides 90% shade, and can be grown at various altitudes. Fortunately cultivated Pleurotus mushrooms retain the same characteristic aroma and flavour of the wild varieties, which is not the case with other species such as oyster mushrooms. The ex situ cultivation also provides additional income for local farmers, who can offer a cheaper product than that collected from the wild which reduces the pressure on the wild population.

Actions Needed
Legal action and enforcement is needed to stop over-collection and collection of unripe individuals of P. nebrodensis in the wild. At the same time the species needs to be cultivated ex situ to remove pressure on the wild populations. Reinforcement measures by inoculating the roots of its host plant and boosting wild production would also help, provided wild collection is carefully managed.

Classifications [top]

3. Shrubland -> 3.8. Shrubland - Mediterranean-type Shrubby Vegetation
3. Species management -> 3.3. Species re-introduction -> 3.3.1. Reintroduction
3. Species management -> 3.4. Ex-situ conservation -> 3.4.1. Captive breeding/artificial propagation
5. Law & policy -> 5.4. Compliance and enforcement -> 5.4.1. International level
5. Law & policy -> 5.4. Compliance and enforcement -> 5.4.2. National level
5. Law & policy -> 5.4. Compliance and enforcement -> 5.4.3. Sub-national level

In-Place Research, Monitoring and Planning
In-Place Land/Water Protection and Management
  Occur in at least one PA:Yes
In-Place Species Management
  Subject to ex-situ conservation:Yes
In-Place Education
5. Biological resource use -> 5.2. Gathering terrestrial plants -> 5.2.1. Intentional use (species is the target)
♦ timing:Ongoing    
→ Stresses
  • 2. Species Stresses -> 2.1. Species mortality

Bibliography [top]

IUCN. 2016. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2016-3. Available at: (Accessed: 07 December 2016).

Montmollin, B. de and Strahm, W. (eds). 2005. The Top 50 Mediterranean Island Plants: Wild plants at the brink of extinction, and what is needed to save them. IUCN SSC Mediterranean Islands Plant Specialist Group. IUCN, Gland, Switzerland and Cambridge, UK.

Palazzolo, E. and Venturella, G. 1996. Comparative analyses of the chemical composition of spontaneous and cultivated sporophores of Pleurotus nebrodensis. Quaderni di Botanica Ambientale e Applicata 5: 75-78.

Venturella, G. 1999. The conservation of Pleurotus nebrodensis through its cultivation. In: XIII Congress of European Mycologists, Book of abstracts, pp. 131. Alcalà de Henares, Madrid, Spain, 21-25 settembre 1999.

Venturella, G. 2000. Typification of Pleurotus nebrodensis. Mycotaxon 75: 229-231.

Venturella, G. and Ferri, F. 1996. Preliminary results of ex situ cultivation tests on Pleurotus nebrodensis. Quaderni di Botanica Ambientale e Applicata 5: 61-65.

Venturella, G. and La Rocca, S. 2001. Strategies for conservation of fungi in the Madonie Park, Italy. In: D. Moore, M.M. Nauta, S.E. Evans, and M. Rotheroe (eds), Fungal Conservation. Issues and Solutions, pp. 156-161. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

Zervakis, G. and Venturella, G. 2002. Mushroom breeding and cultivation enhances ex situ conservation of Mediterranean Pleurotus taxa. In: J.M.M. Engels, V.R. Rao, A.H.D. Brown and M.T. Jackson (eds), Managing Plant Genetic Diversity, pp. 351-358. CABI Publishing, UK.

Zervakis, G.I., Ntougias, S., Gargano, M.L., Besi, M.I., Polemis, E., Typas, M.A. and Venturella, G. 2014. A reappraisal of the Pleurotus eryngii complex – New species and taxonomic combinations based on the application of a polyphasic approach, and an identification key to Pleurotus taxa associated with Apiaceae plants. Fungal Biology 118(9-10): 814–834. doi: 10.1016/j.funbio.2014.07.001.

Zervakis, G., Venturella, G. and Papadopoulo, K. 2001. Genetic polymorphism and taxonomic infrastructure of the Pleurotus eryngii species-complex as determined by RAPD analysis, isozyme profiles and ecomorphological characters. Microbiology 147: 3183-3194.

Citation: Venturella, G. 2016. Pleurotus nebrodensis ssp. nebrodensis. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T61597A102952148. . Downloaded on 26 September 2018.
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