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Karen Hughes


Research Interest

Speciation processes/ hybridization of fungi


1972 - Ph.D., University of Utah


My interests are in fungal (agaric) speciation patterns and biogeography.  Phylogenies based on DNA sequences are used to answer the following questions.

  • Do agaric  “species” have a global distribution indicating widespread gene flow via airborne spore distribution or are they partitioned into geographic sub-areas?  If partitioned, what factors act to prevent gene flow between populations and how did populations migrate to present-day distributions?
  • Are current distribution patterns within species a consequence of vicariance events or more recent quaternary migrations?
  • What roles do fungi play in wildfire recovery?
  • Are pyrophilous (heat loving) fungi locally adapted to wildfire regimes or are they cosmopolitan?

Together with Ron Petersen and many other mycological experts, we are examining agaric biodiversity in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park (GSMNP) with a grant from NSF. This is in conjunction with the All Taxa Biodiversity Inventory that is taking place.  We wish to answer the following questions:

  • What factors contribute to the unusually high diversity of fungi found in the Smokies? Is diversity partitioned?
  • What factors contribute to the unusually high rates of heterozygosity observed in fungi from the Smokies and are there limits to the observed heterozygosity.
  • How has biodiversity changed over a 50 year period?  Can the effects of climate change be detected?

A third interest is in modernizing biological collections.  The fungal herbarium at Tennessee  holds over 60,000 specimens.  An NSF grant has been awarded to digitize the collection and make it available through GBIF.  Funds are available for undergraduate and graduate students who are interested in collections to work on this project.


  • Aldrovandi S. P., O’Meara, B, Johnson, J.E., Petersen, R.H., Hughes, K.W. (2015). Xeromphalina section Xeromphalina: Intercontinental Biogeography and Cryptic species.  Mycologia 107 (6):1270-1284
  • Petersen, R.H., Psurtseva, N., Zmitrovich, I., Arslanov, S., Hughes, K.W. 2015. Lignomyces, a new genus of pleurotoid Agaricomycetes. Mycologia 107(5):1045-1054. doi: 10.3852/14-355
  • Hughes KW, Reboredo-Segovia A, Morris SD (2015) Cloning of ribosomal ITS PCR products creates frequent, non-random chimeric sequences – a test involving a heterozygotes between Gymnopus dichrous taxa I and II. Mycokeys 10: 45-56 doi: 10.3897/mycokeys.10.5126.
  • Hughes KW and Petersen RH. Transatlantic disjunction in fleshy fungi III: Gymnopus confluens. doi: 10.3897/mycokeys.9.4700
  • Petersen R, Borovička J, Segovia A, Hughes K (2015) Transatlantic disjunction in fleshy fungi. II. The Sparassis spathulata – S. brevipes complex Mycological Progress 14:1-18 doi:10.1007/s11557-015-1049-8
  • Tulloss RE, Rodriguez Caycedo C, Hughes KW, Gemp J, Kudzma LV, Wolfe B, Arora D. (2015) Nomenclatural changes in Amanita. II. Amanitaceae 1(2):1-6
  • Petersen RH, Hughes KH, Justice J. (2014) Two new species of Ramaria from Arkansas. MycoKeys  8:19-29 doi: 10.3897/mycokeys.8.7356.
  • Schock et al, 2014. Finding needles in haystacks: linking scientific names, reference specimens and molecular data for Fungi. Database bau061, doi: 10.1093/database/bau061 (
  • Petersen RH, Hughes KH, (2014) Cauliflower Tales. McIlvania 23 (popular journal- article about sparassis)
  • Petersen, R.H., Hughes, K., Voitk, A. 2014. Gymnopus eneficola—species nova from Newfoundland. Omphalina 5(5):5-12
  • Hughes KW, Aldrovandi M, Petersen RH, Voitk A. 2014. Gymnopus dryophilus-like mushrooms in Newfoundland. Omphalina 5(5): 13-15.
  • Voitk A, Hughes KW, Aldrovandi M, 2014. Dryophilic and dryophobic clade clusters. Omphalina 5(5): 17-20.
  • Lodge DL, Padamsee M, Matheny PB, Aime MC, Cantrell SA, Boertmann D, Kovalenko A, Vizzini A, Dentinger B, Kirk P, Ainsworth M, Moncalvo J-M, Vilgalys R, Larsson E, Lücking R, Griffith G, Smith M, Norvell LL, Desjardin DE, Redhead SA, Ovrebo CL, Lickey E, Ercole E, Hughes KW, Courtecuisse R, Young A, Binder M, Minnis A, Lindner DL, Ortiz-Sanatan B, Haight J, Læssøe T, Baroni TJ, Geml J, Hattori T (2014) Molecular phyologeny, morphology, pigment chemistry and ecology in Hygrophoraceae (Agaricales). Fungal Diversity 64: 1-99. (DOI) 10.1007/s13225-013-0259-0
  • Hughes KW, Reboredo-Segovia A, Petersen RH. (2014) Transatlantic disjunction in fleshy fungi. I. The sparassis crispa complex. Mycological Progress 13(2): 407-427

Contact Information

  • 330 Hesler
  • Mailing Address: 569 Dabney Hall, 1416 Circle Dr, Knoxville, TN 37996
  • Phone: (865) 974-6387
  • Fax: (865) 974-3067
  • E-mail: