Chuck Kleine Published

Edible Mountain – Cordyceps: The Zombie Mushroom


Cordyceps, often called the zombie mushroom, is an elusive target for any mushroom hunter. Learn how to find this strange and valuable fungus with mushroom expert William Padilla-Brown!


A parasitic mushroom that attacks the host insect, the cordyceps replaces its tissue with fungus and spores. It even takes over its host’s nervous system, controlling the insect and positioning it to distribute the  spores. That’s how it gets its spooky nickname.

There are thousands of species of cordyceps associated with almost every insect. One commonly found in West Virginia is cordyceps militaris; it’s so successful because it can live on 32 different species of insects, including the sphinx moth seen in our video.

Padilla-Brown is mushroom grower, forager, and educator and entrepreneur.

“Cordyceps is like an energy tonic,” he said. “It’s also a powerful aphrodisiac, it’s great for respiratory health, it can help get more oxygen into your body, so it’s really good at fighting the effects of hypoxia”.

A self-taught mycologist, a biologist who studies fungi, Padilla-Brown will make thousands of clones in his laboratory of every cordycep he finds.

“There’s a lot more research coming out that shows that it has compounds effective against retroviruses like HIV, AIDS, and malaria, which has incredible potential,” Padilla-Brown said. “So there’s a lot more research that needs to be done”.

Edible Mountain is a bite-sized, digital series from WVPB that showcases some of Appalachia’s overlooked and underappreciated products of the forest while highlighting their mostly forgotten uses.

Disclaimer: Folks, we hope that you take caution when entering the forest. Please always be aware of your surroundings, while treading lightly, so as to not disturb the natural joy and wonder that our wilderness provides.

Although most of the flora or fauna described in Edible Mountain has been identified by experts in the field, it is critical to your health and safety that you properly identify any item in the forest before eating or touching it. If you are uncertain about anything, please leave it alone and ask for an expert’s advice. Many dangerous plants and fungi share similar properties, which make them easily confused with their nonlethal relatives.

West Virginia Public Broadcasting (WVPB) wants you to discover, protect and enjoy your natural surroundings. We do not want to see you harmed. Please harvest sustainably so that the bounty can be enjoyed by future generations.

The information contained within Edible Mountain is for general information purposes only. WVPB assumes no responsibility for errors or omissions in the contents on this service. WVPB make no guarantees as to the accuracy of the information presented, and any action you take upon the information in this program is strictly at your own risk.

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