Cordyceps is a Chinese fungus used in traditional for “lung protection” and “reproductive invigoration.” Cordyceps is also known as the Chinese caterpillar fungus because it is a parasitic organism that grows on a rare Tibetan caterpillar until the caterpillar dies and the mushroom sprouts from the caterpillar’s head. Cordyceps sinesnsis is the only species of this genus found in Nepal. Its Nepali name is Yarshagunba. Cordyceps Sinensis is from the ergot family. Yarsagumba is a parasitic, annual, nonchlorophyllous fungus. The gruiting structure of this species comes from the anterior head of larva of caterpillar. Yartshagumba has two components the lower part is dead caterpillar and the upper part is a fungus. The fungus has a small spike with dark brown fructification and yellowish white stalk. The size of the fungus is about 4 to 12 cm in length and 0.14 to 0.4 cm in girth. The meaning of Yarsagumba is ‘summer-grass winter-worm’ in Tibetan language.
Synonyms: Sphaeria sinensis Berk. (1843); Cordyceps sinensis (Berk.) Sacc. (1878)
Local Name: yarshagumba, yarchagumba or yarsagumba, Jivanbuti, Buti
Chinese Name: Dong Chong Xia Cao
English Name: Caterpillar Mushroom, Cordyseps
Habitats/distribution: Cordyceps sinensis grows in the meadows above 3,500 meters (11,483 feet) in the Himalayan region of Nepal. It is mainly found above the snowline in Dolpa, Jumla, Humla, Kalikot, Baglung, Mustang, Manang, and Rasuwa districts of western and central Nepal.