Cordyceps sinensisalso known as caterpillar fungus, or by its more prominent names yartsa gunbu or Keeda Jadi, is prominent in Garhwal and Uttarakand regions. My first encounter with it was during my Roop Kund trek in 2017. My guide mentioned it in the passing and showed me a dried half mature keeda jadi he had spotted suring the trek. The story of how it forms got stuck in my mind.

As the name suggests Keeda Jadi is a fungus hat grows on insects. It is mainly found in the meadows above 3,500 meters in the Himalayan regions of Nepal, Bhutan, India and Tibet. The fungus germinates in the living larva, kills and mummifies it, and then a dark brown stalk-like fruiting body which is a few centimeters long emerges from the corpse and stands upright.

PITHORAGARH in Dehradun is where this is found the most. This Keeda Jadi sells for almost 10 lakh/kg making it a lively hood for many villagers.

During my Zanzkar trek in 2019 I stumbulled upon a bottle with one sample of this in a small science laboratery next to where we were wating for our bus. My curiosity jumped all hurdles and I started chatting with the guy who was in there. I was surprised at how many medicinal plants I could actually identufy. Impressed with myself and the guy concluding that I worked in the forest department I walked out taking a pic of the Keeda Jadi as my sovinour.

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