Serpula lacrymans

Serpula lacrymans
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Fungi
Division: Basidiomycota
Class: Agaricomycetes
Order: Boletales
Family: Serpulaceae
Genus: Serpula
Species: S. lacrymans
Binomial name
Serpula lacrymans
(Wulfen) P.Karst. (1884)

Boletus lacrymans Wulfen (1781)
Merulius destruens Pers. (1801)
Merulius lacrymans (Wulfen) Schumach. (1803)
Serpula destruens (Pers.) Gray (1821)
Xylomyzon destruens (Pers.) Pers. (1825)
Gyrophana lacrymans (Wulfen) Pat. (1900)

The damaged wall with fruit bodies
Wooden beam with mycelia

Serpula lacrymans is one of the fungi that causes damage to timber referred to as dry rot. It is a basidiomycete in the order Boletales.


The species was first described under the name Boletus lacrymans by Franz Xavier von Wulfen in 1781.[2] It was transferred to the genus Serpula by Petter Karsten in 1884.[1]

The specific epithet is derived from the Latin words serpula for "creeping" (as in a serpent) and lacrymans, meaning "making tears".[3]


Serpula lacrymans has a preference for temperatures of 21 to 22 °C (70 to 72 °F) but can survive any temperature from 3 to 26 °C (37 to 79 °F). It is not clear how much light is needed to promote Serpula lacrymans growth. In terms of aeration Serpula lacrymans often grows near ventilation shafts which shows a preference for concentrated oxygen. A moisture content of 30 to 40 percent is its ideal level in wood to promote fruit body formation.[4] It appears that Serpula lacrymans requires an environment where both inorganic and organic materials are present. The fungus uses calcium and iron ions extracted from plaster, brick, and stone to aid the breakdown of wood,[5] which results in brown rot.


Although it is a common indoor biodeterioration agent, it has only been found in a few natural environments, the Himalayas,[6][7] Northern California,[8][9] the Czech Republic[10] and east Asia.[11] A recent study on the evolutionary origin and spread of this species using genetic markers (amplified fragment length polymorphisms, DNA sequences and microsatellites) on a worldwide sample of specimens suggested the existence of two main lineages, a nonaggressive lineage found in North America, and an aggressive lineage found on all continents, both in natural environments and buildings.[12]

Impact on structures

Serpula lacrymans is considered to be the most damaging destroyer of indoor wood construction materials in temperate regions.[13][14]

"In the United Kingdom alone, money spent by building owners rectifying damage caused by dry rot was at least 150 million pounds per annum."[13]


  1. 1 2 "Serpula lacrymans (Wulfen) P. Karst. 1884". MycoBank. International Mycological Association. Retrieved 2011-09-29.
  2. Jacquin NJ (1781). Miscellanea austriaca ad botanicum, chemiam et historiam naturalem spectantia (in Latin). 2. p. 111.
  3. Oliver A; Douglas J; Stirling JS (1997). Dampness in buildings. Wiley-Blackwell. p. 86. ISBN 978-0-632-04085-8.
  4. Grieve N. "Dry rot/Wet rot". The Conservation Glossary. University of Dundee.
  5. J.W. Palfreyman, The Domestic Dry Rot Fungus, Serpula lacrymans, its natural origins and biological control. Ariadne workshop 2001.
  6. Bagchee K (1954). "Merulius lacrymans (Wulf.) Fr. in India". Sydowia. 8: 80–5.
  7. White NA; Dehal-Prabhjyot K; Duncan JM (2001). "Molecular analysis of intraspecific variation between building and 'wild' isolates of Serpula lacrymans and their relatedness to S. himantioides". Mycological Research. 105 (4): 447–52. doi:10.1017/S0953756201003781.
  8. Cooke WB (1955). "Fungi of Mount Shasta (1936–51)". Sydowia. 9: 94–215.
  9. Harmsen L (1960). "Taxonomic and cultural studies on brown-spored species of the genus". Friesia. 6: 233–277.
  10. Kotlaba F (1992). "Nalezy drevomorky domaci – Serpula lacrymans v prirode". Česká Mykologie. 46: 143–147.
  11. Kauserud H; Högberg N; Knudsen H; Elborne SA; Schumacher T (2004). "Molecular phylogenetics suggest a North American link between the anthropogenic dry rot fungus Serpula lacrymans and its wild relative S. himantioides". Molecular Ecology. 13 (10): 3137–3146. doi:10.1111/j.1365-294X.2004.02307.x. PMID 15367126.
  12. Kauserud H; Svegården IB; Saetre GP; Knudsen H; Stensrud Ø; Schmidt O; Doi S; Sugiyama T; Högberg N (August 2007). "Asian origin and rapid global spread of the destructive dry rot fungus Serpula lacrymans". Molecular Ecology. 16 (16): 3350–3360. doi:10.1111/j.1365-294X.2007.03387.x. PMID 17688538.
  13. 1 2 Serpula Lacrymans Fundamental Biology and Control Strategies, edited by D.H. Jennings and A.F. Bravery, Wiley, West Sussex, 1991, ISBN 978-0-471-93058-7. Quotes are from page 9 of the introduction in the book.
  14. Schmidt O (2006). Wood and Tree Fungi: Biology, Damage, Protection, and Use. Berlin: Springer. ISBN 3-540-32138-1.
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