Spring09

[Alumni News]

Alum Discovers New Mushroom Genus

The new polypore mushroom discovered by Baroni. The new polypore mushroom discovered by Baroni. Photo Courtesy of Timothy Baroni

In the foggy Maya Mountains of Belize, a salmon-colored mushroom grows on fallen logs. While the mushroom looks intriguing, it’s notable for another reason: It represents a new genus of polypore, a group of mushrooms bearing significant medical potential. Dr. Timothy Baroni, a mycology professor at State University of New York at Cortland and a Humboldt State alum, discovered the new genus during a recent research expedition to Belize.

“We found lots of new species, but finding a new genus is almost unbelievable,” Baroni says.
Discoveries like Baroni’s new polypore have the potential to treat cancer and other illnesses. Approximately 25 percent of medicines originate in fungi or molds, including penicillin, though only 5 to 10 percent of mushroom species have been identified. There simply aren’t enough mycologists to do the research. Scientists like Baroni who hunt for rare mushrooms are indeed a rare breed.

Professor Timothy Baroni, the “Indiana Jones” of mushroom hunters. Photo Courtesy of SUNY Cortland

“I’m just like some kind of Indiana Jones when I go out in a new area,” Baroni says. “I grab a couple cigars—I like to smoke while I work—a machete and my snake guards and say, ‘Let’s go find some fungi.’”