Mexican Corn Truffle, Corn Smut, Huitlacoche/Cuitlacoche •
Legend and Lore • In the Garden

Ustilago maydis (fungus)


  • Native to Mesoamerica, introduced to Europe, Africa and Asia
  • Annual, fungus can live up to 3 years in the soil
  • Higher rate of infections during years with warm, dry summers
  • Manifests itself in stalks, leaves, aerial roots and silks

Legend and Lore

Ustil from the Latin – to burn, refers to the black sooty texture and colour of spore mass also referred to as gall, maydis is the indigenous reference to corn; Cuitlat is excrement and cochi is sleeping.

The fungus grows in the soil through the corn stalk and causes two things to happen in the corn kernel that cause massive smut galls to form: hypertrophy - enlargement of the host cells and hyperplasia - uncontrolled cell division resulting in enlarged, discoloured corn kernels.

In the Garden

Plant fungus that grows on corn, a delicacy in Mexico but considered a pest in other countries, the spores overwinter in plant debris and in the soil. Soils high in nitrogen (N) or manure are more susceptible to produce succulent and disease prone foliage.

In the Kitchen