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Cordyceps (Dongchong Xiacao)

Wild Cordyceps is mainly produced in Qinghai, Tibet, Sichuan and Yunnan provinces.  The best ones are produced in Qinghai province and Tibet.  But now the majority is cultivated.  



It has to be stressed here that it is a composite consisting of the stromata of the fungus. It is a parasite of the larva in some species of insects (Fam. Hepialidae).
It resembles a silkworm, 3-5cm long, and 3-8mm in diameter. Externally it is deep yellow to yellowish brown, with 20-60 annulations and those near the head are relatively fine. There are 8 pairs of feet (3 pairs near the head, 4 pairs in the middle and 1 pair near the tail), only the 4 pairs of feet in the middle are conspicuous. The head is reddish-brown and the tail looks like the tail of a silkworm.  Its texture is fragile, easily broken, and the cross section is slightly even, yellowish-white with dark brown V-shaped clefts.
The stroma is deep brown to brown, thin and cylindrical, 4-7cm long,3mm in diameter, with fine longitudinal wrinkles and the upper part is slightly swollen above. The texture is soft and the cross section has whitish fibers.
It has a fishy odor (like that of straw mushroom) and slightly bitter taste.
Sichuan Cordyceps:  It is smaller, irregular in size with yellowish-brown color and its stroma is fairly long.
Qinghai Cordyceps:  It is thicker with bright gold color and the stroma is fairly shorter.  
Tibet Cordyceps:  It is thicker with bright gold color and the stroma is short.
The best quality:  It has a full complete body with bright gold color, and internally it is white.  The stroma is short.


Quality classification

In the market it is divided into three categories—Sichuan Cordyceps, Qinghai Cordyceps and Tibet Cordyceps.  Each
category is further classified into different grades, which vary in price.
Commonly Seen Fake Ones
(1)    Cordyceps Hawkesii Gray: It is brown with fine dark spots.  The stroma curves at the base or branches. It has a fragrant odor and it is tasteless.
(2)    Cordyceps Liangshanensis Zang Liu et Hu: It resembles a silkworm, covered with a brown mycorderm.  The place where the mycorderm exfoliates is purplish brown.  The feet are inconspicuous, and the stroma is linear with or without branches.  It has a very light odor.
(3)    Cordyceps Barnesii Thwaites:  The body is curve or in the shape of a flat bean, short and stout.  It has a small head and there are 3 pairs of feet in the chest.  The odor is slightly offensive.
(4)   Moulded ones with flour, etc.: There are regular annulations and 8 pairs (or more) of feet in the chest. On the cross section there is a blackish-brown V-shaped cleft.  The odor is not pleasant.

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