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Hygrocybe pakelo Desjardin & Hemmes

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Scientific name
Hygrocybe pakelo
Desjardin & Hemmes
Common names
IUCN Specialist Group
Mushroom, Bracket and Puffball
Assessment status
Assessment date
IUCN Red List Category
IUCN Red List Criteria
Vellinga, E.C.
Dahlberg, A.

Assessment Notes

The content on this page is fetched from The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: https://www.iucnredlist.org/species/125434908/125435615


Hygrocybe pakelo is a native Hawaiian species, that only grows in native wet-montane forests. The species name ‘pakelo’ refers to the Hawaiian word that means “to slip out of the hand like a slippery fish”. This is indeed a very slippery mushroom, with yellow-golden cap and stem. It is known from only two islands of the Hawaiian archipelago. Native forests are under various threats, development and road construction (especially on Hawai’i), invasion of non-native plants and other organisms, and the spread of Rapid ʻŌhiʻa Death (Ceratocystis fimbriata), which kills Metrosideros polymorpha the most widespread and dominant native tree of Hawaii. A reduction in population size of more than 30% is projected within the span of 3 generations (30 years) for this species, due to the spread of the introduced pathogen that kills the overstory tree, M. polymorpha, which results in a decline in habitat quality. The species is likely to have a very small Extent of Occurrence and Area of Occupancy, and so Hygrocybe pakelo is listed as Endangered under criteria B1ab(ii,iii,iv,v)+2ab(ii,iii,iv,v).

Taxonomic notes

This species potentially belongs in the genus Gliophorus because of the glutinous cap and stem.

Geographic range

This species is endemic to Hawaii, U.S.A. Reported from three sites on Hawai’i (two less than 1 km apart), and one from Moloka’i.

Population and Trends

The population is fragmented and consists of small subpopulations on different islands; at present it is known from three sites on Hawai’i, and one on Moloka’i. The habitat where they occur is fragmented as well, due to volcanic activities and the lava streams that surround the tree islands (kipukas) where the species occurs. Only four subpopulations are known, despite long-term surveys for this conspicuous fungus.

Population Trend: decreasing

Habitat and Ecology

This species is solitary in mosses over soil or among mosses on fallen hapu’u logs in Montane Mesic Forest (Ohi’a Forest) and Montane Wet Forest (Ohi’a/Hapu’u Forest) (Desjardin and Hemmes 1997). The nutritional mode of Hygrocybe species is still not fully understood; it is presumably biotrophic, but how is not clear yet. Hygrocybe is not saprotrophic, nor ectomycorrhizal (Griffith et al. 2002, Halbwachs et al. 2013, Seitzmann et al. 2011). Dispersal is by airborne spores.


The populations on Hawai’i (the Big Island) are most threatened. Habitat destruction is the biggest threat to the occurrence of this species, first of all because of a rapidly spreading deadly disease of the overstory tree (Metrosideros polymorpha; ʻŌhiʻa), caused by Ceratocystis fimbriata (Keith et al. 2015; see also College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources, University of Hawai'i at Manoa 2019). Ceratocystis fimbriata kills mature trees and since it was first detected in the Kuna and Hilo Districts on the Big Island in Hawaii, it has spread, reached the areas where Hygrocybe pakelo occurs in 2017, and is threatening all habitats in which Metrosideros is the dominant tree. The name of the disease, Rapid ʻŌhiʻa Death, is an indication of its sudden appearance and fast work. This will change the whole ecosystem of the islands, as M. polymorpha is dominant in many different habitats. The disease had been found on Hawaii only, but occurrences have now been reported from other islands (see College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources, University of Hawai'i at Manoa 2019). Secondly, the species may be impacted by habitat destruction of the kipukas, tree islands in the middle of old lava flows, along the Saddle Road on the Big Island because of widening of the road. The Saddle Road connects Hilo with the observatory on Mauna Kea, and is the shortest route from Hilo to the Kona coast. Thirdly, the native montane forests of Hawaii are under constant threat of invasive plants and other organisms.

Conservation Actions

Sanitary actions to restrict the spread of Ceratocystis fimbriata have to be taken immediately, and action to maintain the kipukas along the Saddle Road on the Big Island are needed.

Source and Citation

Vellinga, E.C. 2019. Hygrocybe pakelo. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2019: e.T125434908A125435615. https://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2019-3.RLTS.T125434908A125435615.en .Accessed on 1 February 2024

Country occurrence