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Entolomataceae

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One of two families of pink spored mushrooms. By pink, I mean salmon-pink (almost a brown) and not a bright or slight pink that you sometimes see in the pale spored mushrooms. The Entolomataceae and Pluteaceae seem to have developed salmon-pink spores independently. The Entolomataceae are also interesting because their spores are shaped differently than almost any other mushroom - an angular, almost stop-sign shape instead of round. Therefore, when in doubt, many Entoloma can be spotted a mile away under a microscope (although some, like Rhodocybe and Clitopilus, are very subtle). Young Entolomas will often still have white gills, so make sure you take a spore print or analyze a mature specimen to be sure. You will notice that many of the young mushrooms on this page have white gills.

Pink spores, found in Entolomataceae and Pluteaceae.

Pale pink spores, considered pale spores in these pages. (Here, Lepista)

Angular Entoloma spores 

The current controversy over the dozen or more genera in the Entoloma family is whether or not they are really different enough to be different genera, or if many of them should just be called Entoloma. Statistically speaking, the DNA may match close enough to justify making them all the same genus, but practically speaking that would make one giant confusing genus with literally over a thousand species, some looking nothing like each other. Unfortunately, you may need to remember a whole lot of genera to name them properly if you don't decide to lump them, but at least here in the PNW there are few enough groups that I think it makes sense to talk about them separately and give a name to each group that, to humans, look like they belong together. The entire family is related to the Tricholoma family (Tricholomatoid clade).

Most mushrooms in this family are saprophytic, but some Entoloma sensu stricto (s.s.) probably form mycorrhizal relationships. Members of the Pluteus family are kind enough to differentiate themselves by having free gills and growing on wood. (Occasionally you may find an Entoloma on wood, if so, the gill attachment is a better way to differentiate them).

This entire family is notoriously difficult to identify. Along with Russula, Cortinarius, Psathyrella and Inocybe, it is often not possible on sight alone to correctly identify a particular species.

 

Entoloma s.s. - the main genus, with medium to large (5-15cm) mushrooms and often boring colours. There are many species in this clade, very difficult to tell apart. Most of our local species do not have names yet.

They seem to all be related and form the core of Entoloma. If everything else was given a new name, these are the ones that would still be called Entoloma. Usually collybioid to tricholomatoid in stature, but easy to tell apart from Tricholoma by the pink spores, greasy cap and pale stem. Some (all?) in this clade have evolved to be mycorrhizal.

At least a few are quite poisonous but nobody took good notes of which ones. Don't eat them.

Entoloma rhodopolium clade (lividum grp) - light to dark brown, watery hygrophanous caps, pale stem and young gills. These may be farinaceous, nitrous or viscid.

E. 'sericatum' - dark cap and fleeting nitrous odor.

E. pseudocostatum (lividoalbum grp) - stockier (thick stem). Farinaceous.

E. subsaundersii - stocky  mostly underground, southern species. Oak.

E. 'politum'/'alnobetulae' - smaller species almost like Omphalina/Nolanea.

Entocybe etc. - formerly part of Entoloma and Rhodocybe, these mushrooms are in the basal clade of Entoloma. I don't know why so many members of the Entoloma family want to be a beautiful blue. There is something magical about the texture, not just the colour.

'Entoloma' medianox ('bloxamii'/'madidum') - This is the largest (>5cm) blue Entoloma. The colour may fade to brown or rarely, be missing altogether. It has a viscid cap and smells farinaceous. If the splitters win, this may need its own genus.

Entocybe nitida ('Entoloma' nitidum) - smaller than E. medianox, dry capped, and without as strong an odor. Larger than Leptionas (except L. cyanea which grows on wood).

Entocybe trachyospora (Rhodocybe trachyospora) - smaller, perhaps pointy, with 4 varieties with varying amounts of blue. Resembles Nolanea and Leptonia.

 

Nolanea - smaller (<5cm with the smallest being <2.5cm), Mycena-like, and more delicate than Entoloma, also boring (my apologies to those who don't think that little brown mushrooms are more boring than iridescent blue ones). Like almost every group of Entolomas they are hard to tell apart, but easier to get to genus. This is another reason not to call everything on this page Entoloma since these groupings can be useful. Nolaneas can sometimes be told apart by whether they usually grow in the spring or fall, grow in the grass or forest and smell and taste farinaceous or not. They are sometimes differentiated by whether the cap is conical or not and if the young gills are white or brownish before they turn pink but this seems unreliable. They are usually hygrophanous, striate and umbonate with adnexed to adnate gills, so those features don't usually help to tell them apart. Here are a few of the more common ones. Note: The following characters are not always reliable. Please note that this is a difficult genus of very similar mushrooms and without a microscope (and sometimes even with one) you cannot reliably ascertain the species of your Nolanea except for a few distinctive species. Could be confused with some Entocybe and Rhodocybe, which are not as thin and fragile.

N. sericea grp - fall, grass, not conical, farinaceous, Dark cap.

N. edulis, also dark in grass, has a depressed cap, no odor.

N. holoconiota - spring, conical, odorless. Paler with a pruinose stem.

N. verna - spring, similarly w/o odor, darker cap and stem like N. sericea.

N. strictior - similar, spring-fall, with a longer non-pruinose stem.

N. pseudostrictia is large and fragile with a wavy cap margin.

N. bicoloripes - a fibrillose young cap and thin stem.

Similar, shorter stemmed fall mushrooms:

N. staurospora is somewhat farinaceous.

N. clandestina has a sharp umbo.

Strong odors/tastes:

N. hirtipes - spring/fall, long stem with white fuzzy foot. Sharply conical, fishy and farinaceous!

N. hebes - farinaceous, dark disc, small.

N. fructofragrans - smells like candy!

N. cetrata - fall, somewhat farinaceous. Striations on the cap alternate dark and light in these species. White young gills.

N. minutostriata - odorless.

N. proxima - farinaceous, brown young gills.

 

Leptonia - Also small and delicate like Nolanea (usually <5cm with the smallest being <1 cm), these are some of my favourite mushrooms. They have scaly caps, special pigments that give them an other-worldly aura and they come in fascinating colours, very often midnight-blue like the larger Entoloma and Entocybe. Even the brown capped species are an interesting iridescent scaly brown (in the same way brown waxy caps are an interesting waxy brown). In fact, they remind me a lot of the waxy caps with their brilliant colours and odd texture, except waxy caps have white spores and a waxy texture and Leptonias have a metallic texture. They are never boring. Unfortunately, none of them are common. Like almost every other group in the Entoloma family, they are hard to tell apart. One group is found on the ground and one group is found on wood, and although they look the same, they are not closely related. Assuming they all aren't lumped into Entoloma, one group will need a new genus name.

First of all, the famous blue Leptonias (with blue stems and sometime blue caps too). These are all generally smaller than the other blue Entolomas. Since they are rare and hard to ID there are unfortunately few reliable photographs easily available to help demonstrate which one is which. They have, however, been grouped into categories, but their descriptions are very similar and even determining which category your Leptonia is in usually requires microscopy beyond the scope of this page. But it might not matter, as that may not be the right way to categorize them anyway. A current study is analyzing if these groups actually describe how they are related to each other. More later. The caps are dry and rough. These are usually found on the ground. Additional unrelated blue Leptonias usually found on wood are found further down the page.

L. decolorans/subviduense groups - the typical Leptonias probably found around here, blue caps and stems with white/blue young gills.

L. parva - the blue caps may fade to brown.

L. trichomata grp - caps are very dark blackish-blue

L. subgracilis grp - with an extra kind of pigment that gives a violet tone to the cap scales, on a brown or blue background. Young gills often yellow.

L. occidentalis - with an especially iridescent stem, though they all look iridescent to me.

L. gracilipes grp - only the stems are blue, but the caps are brownish.

L. foliocontusa grp - caps often more reddish-brown.

Entocybe trachyospora (Rhodocybe trachyospora) - moist, smooth cap. Small, sometimes pointy, often with hints of blue that make it resemble Leptonia.

 

The following blue "Leptonias" are not closely related to the others. Many of them grow on conifer wood, and the different ecology might help explain why they are more closely related to Claudopus, which are also not terrestrial, than to the other Leptonias.

L. cyanea - our largest Leptonia (<10cm), on conifer wood, with blue and brown tones. Could be mistaken for Entocybe nitida which grows on the ground.

L. tjallingiorum - smaller (<2.5cm), on wood, with a brown cap and an unpleasant odor.

L. subeuchroa/violaceonigra - also small (~2.5cm), on wood, with more bell shaped blue caps with white/pale blue young gills respectively.

L. violacea grp - (steel blue-grey-violet) Found on the ground, but might belong to the clade that grows on wood. Recognized by their tiny size, <1cm caps, <1mm wide stems.

 

A few Leptonias are distinctive by their marginate gill edges.

L. serrulata grp - entirely blue, striate cap, blue gill edges.

L. fuligineomarginata - orange-brown scaly cap with similar gill edges.

L. caesiocincta - mostly orange-brown but has blue tinges to the cap and gill edges.

L. rosea - pink with pink gill edges when young.

Leptonias come in other brilliant colours as well.

L. subrubinea - similar to L. rosea, usually darker red, with gills edges that might bruise darker when old.

L. incana - brilliant yellow/green stem (somewhat faded here)

Alboleptonia adnatifolia ('sericella') - entirely white. Sometimes stains yellow.

A. ochracea - discolours orange.

These orange/brown Leptonias are not as brilliantly coloured as the rest, but there is still an iridescent quality about the colour that separates them from the more boring Nolaneas.

L. formosa grp - beautiful orange/brown, scaly Leptonias.

L. exalbida - similar, with a white stem.

L. earlei grp - almost boring enough to be mistaken for Nolanea, but scaly. Less orange than the L. formosa grp.

 

Claudopus etc. - tiny stemmed pink spored mushrooms found on wood or other mushrooms. Also found on the Oddballs page because of their often eccentric or missing stems.

C. byssisedus (avellaneus) - fibrillose, brown. Farinaceous. 2.5cm or so. Tufts of rhizomorphs at the base.

Clitopilus hobsonii is a similar rare "oyster", whiter.

C. parasiticus - parasitic on chanterelles! Fibrillose, grey. <1cm.

 

Clitopilus and Rhodocybe - closely related to each other. Difficult to recognize small to Medium sized mushrooms (<5cm unless specified) usually with adnate to decurrent gills and an odor that may or may not be farinaceous (if it's always farinaceous, that     will be noted). Their spores are less angular under the microscope, and their spore colour can be quite pale pink, so they are difficult to identify as Entolomataceae. They are, in fact, easily mistaken for the white-spored Lepista or Clitocybe and the brown adnate species can be confused with Nolanea, although Nolaneas are more thin and fragile. One species of Clitopilus is an "oyster" mushroom and described with Claudopus. Some are hygrophanous.

Clitopilus prunulus - >5cm, felty cap, very decurrent and farinaceous, similar to the poisonous Clitocybe dealbata.

Rhodophana (Rhodocybe) nitellina - reddish orange, roughly adnate, strongly farinaceous. Much like Clitocybe sinopica.

R. sp. - an unidentified species smells like fresh cut wood or sawdust.

Rhodocybe nuciolens - orange-tan, slightly decurrent.

Rhodocybe hirneola - greyish-brown, umbilicate cap, slightly decurrent gills. Perhaps farinaceous. <2.5cm

R. caelata - usually grey (here brownish-grey), slightly decurrent. <2.5cm

R. aureicystidiata - brownish-grey, adnate. Not as thin and fragile as Nolanea. <2.5cm

 

Other rare "Entolomas" - these can be very hard to identify. They can be recognized by their omphalinoid stature, or by the fibrillose cap and boring dark grey-brown colours (combinations unusual for Entoloma). If you have good photos of these, please let me know! The species in these genera that occur here are not well understood.

Paraeccilia perundata grp - umbilicate and decurrent like Rhodocybe hirneola but dark grey-brown. Usually found above 2,000' on wood. <2.5cm
P. minutissima - <1cm

Pouzarella fulvostrigosa etc. - mycenoid (<2.5cm) conical, fibrillose unpleasant smelling mushrooms that resemble dark Nolaneas.

Inocephalus cystomarginatus etc. - larger (<5cm) non conical dark grey-brown fibrillose mushrooms, less scaly than Trichopilus. "Scummy disc". Other species do not have the marginate gill edges.

Trichopilus jubatus etc. - grey-brown scaly-fibrillose cap, resembles the Tricholoma moseri grp. <5cm.

Entocybe trachyospora (Rhodocybe trachyospora) - small, pointy, sometimes with hints of blue but if not, may be looked for here.

 

Not an Entoloma:

Macrocystidia cucumis - I call this the sushi mushroom, because it actually smells like fish and cucumber, with a hint of rice. OK, I'm joking about the rice. But it's quite amazing. Note the pale cap edge. Usually labelled as collybioid, but the spores are pinkish, almost enough to make it look like an Entoloma, but it turns out it is in fact related to Pluteus.

 

So many of the mushrooms in the Entolomataceae can be very hard to identify, but some are so beautiful that they are well worth hunting and studying. If you are careful to notice the pink spores (and angular shape under a microscope) you should be able to get to genus or section with some success. If you really want to know what species you might have, you can try your hand at the gigantic online PNW Key Council Entoloma Key. For specialized literature, there is Entolomatoid Fungi of the Western United States and Alaska by David Largent, but only some species are illustrated with colour photos, and the manuscript itself is as rarely seen as many of the mushrooms it describes.

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