Bhutan: Bhutan Cordyceps

Yartsa Gunbu aka Cordycep – this incredible mushroom was featured in the Planet Earth documentary. The mysterious fungus, known by the latin name of Ophiocordyceps Sinensis, is one of the strangest and otherworldly things that nature has created. The mushroom only grows on the Tibetan plateau and Himalayan highlands in China, Nepal, and Bhutan. The mushroom “hunts” and kills the caterpillars of giant months. The caterpillars eat or inhale the fungus spores – then the fungus grows inside the caterpillars body and takes over the caterpillar like a zombie. The caterpillars then dig into the ground (like zombies!) and position themselves head up in the soil about 1-2cm (1 inch) below the ground level (like zombies!) and die. The fungus fills the caterpillar body and makes it rigid. In the spring, cordycep grows from the caterpillar head and breaks out as a fruiting body. Yartsa Gunbu mushroom has been prized in Chinese and Tibetan medicine for centuries and supposedly cures pretty much everything from cancer to infertility to being a super aphrodisiac and a huge status symbol. The mushroom is dug from the ground and sold as a single fungus-caterpillar entity. Attempts to grow it commercially failed and it is only collected from the wild (listed as critically endangered now). It’s more valuable then gold, with a single Cordycep on sale in Paro in Bhutan being $20 and a small can of them priced at $3000. Over the past 25 years the fungus has appreciated on average at 60-70% annually making it the best investment worldwide.