Crystallicutis gen. nov. (Irpicaceae, Basidiomycota), including C. damiettensis sp. nov., found on Phoenix dactylifera (date palm) trunks in the Nile delta of Egypt.
The taxonomy of Polyporales is complicated by the variability in key morphological characters across families and genera, now being gradually resolved through molecular phylogenetic analyses. Here a new resupinate species, Crystallicutis damiettensis sp. nov. found on the decayed trunks of date palm (Phoenix dactylifera) trees in the fruit orchards of the Nile Delta region of Egypt is reported. Multigene phylogenetic analyses based on ITS, LSU, EF1α, RPB1 and RPB2 loci place this species in Irpicaceae, and forming a distinct clade with Ceraceomyces serpens and several other hitherto unnamed taxa, which we also incorporate into a new genus Crystallicutis. We name two of these species, Crystallicutis huangshanensis sp. nov. and Crystallicutis rajchenbergii sp. nov. The distinctive feature of Crystallicutis gen. nov. is the presence of crystal-encrusted hyphae in the hymenium and subiculum. Basidiomes are usually honey-yellow with white margins but there is variability in the presence of clamp connections and cystidia, as noted for other genera within Irpicacae. C. damiettensis is hitherto consistently associated with date palms killed by the red palm weevil Rhynchophorus ferrugineus, a highly damaging and invasive pest, recently spread to the Mediterranean region. C. damiettensis causes rapid wood decay by a potentially unusual white-rot mechanism and may play a role in the damage caused by R. ferrugineus.