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Medium to Large Terrestrial Brown-spored Mushrooms

As usual, if they are only associated with hardwood trees, that will be noted.

Pholiota terrestris has a scaly cap and stem and is found on the ground, unlike all its relatives.

One Stropharia (S. albivelata with a yellow-brown cap, a ring and a scaly stem) and Stagnicola (black horny stem) have warm brown spores instead of the usual purple brown spores found on mushrooms on the Stropharia page.

 

 

"Rozites" (Cortinarius) caperatus - actually a Cortinarius, but the only one with a normal membranous partial veil instead of a cortina, so you might not think of looking there, although the rusty spores and terrestrial habitat still point to Cortinarius. Not hygrophanous, but sometimes with a hoary sheen to the cap. Mycorrhizal. Resembles many smaller poisonous Inocybe and Hebeloma.

Also recognized by the yellow-brown, dry cap that is wrinkled, sometimes with an uplifted cap margin. Cap from 5-15cm across, one of the largest Cortinarius.

 

Bolbitiaceae - delicate LBMs found in grass, manure, rotting debris or wood with an often viscid, striate, non hygrophanous cap. Gills may be free but are sometimes adnexed. They are very much like Psathyrella and the inky caps, but with lighter brown spores. The spores have a kind of a rusty tint to them like Cortinarius, but these are usually paler. This gives these mushrooms cinnamon coloured gills in maturity.

This family has a cellular cap cuticle (the top layer of cells inflated and round) like Agrocybe, Psathyrella, Panaeolus and the Inky Caps. (And the Russulaceae, but their entire fruitbody is cellular). This sometimes gives them a subtle granular look, but it also makes them susceptible to breaking in any direction, not just radially from the cap to the centre. Put a little bit of pressure on the cap by bending it and see if you can get it to easily break like this:

That might indicate a cellular cap cuticle, although any old rotting mushroom is also likely to break easily in any direction.

Bolbitius - usually a viscid, striate capped, yellow LBM,  but may have olive colours too, or be less colourful or with an interesting reticulated cap. <4cm. (Conocybe is also in this family, but usually smaller and to be found on the LBM page).

B. titubans (vitellinus) - viscid, yellow (sometimes olive), striate. The yellow will fade!

B. reticulatus - net like pattern in the cap, yellow or lilac-grey, fading. Viscid. Perhaps synonymous with B. aleuriatus.

B. aleuriatus - lilac grey cap even when young, some yellow in stem. Viscid. Perhaps synonymous with B. vitellinus.

 

Phaeolepiota aurea - the name means a dark Lepiota (referring to the spores), which is what it looks like, and in fact is what it is. Lepiota is related to Agaricus but the spores have lost their colour... in Phaeolepiota the spores are yellow- to orange-brown. Probably saprophytic.

Looks like it is covered in orange leather. The thick partial veil is "peronate", meaning the veil flares out from below instead of hanging down from above like a skirt. Up to 20cm across or more.

 

Phaeocollybia - most easily recognized by their often orange colours and long, tough, cartilaginous rooting stems, if you have carefully dug the entire thing out. The underground part of the stem may be up to three times longer than the above ground part, and reach down more than a foot! Digging them out can be quite an ordeal. They are mycorrhizal, and possibly related to Hebeloma in the Hymenogastraceae family, but they have somewhat warty spores. None are common, they are only known from a limited number of habitats. The large species are not usually hygrophanous, the rest of them are. Can be mistaken for Mythicomyces/Stagnicola as well as a few other rooting stemmed dark spored mushrooms on that page.

P. kauffmanii - large, cap 10-15cm or more. Orange cap.

P. ammiratii - pointier orange cap. Not that closely related.

P. benzokauffmanii - large, drab purple cap tones.

P. redheadii - darker red-brown cap, similar to P. spadicea.

P. piceae - small, <4cm, often orange stems like cap.

P. pleurocystidiata - similar, spring

P. attenuata (similis) - among the smallest, <4cm, thin, dark stems.

P. scatesiae/californica - ~5cm, clustered growth, viscid, whiter young gills and thicker stems. P. scatesiae has a more yellowish-brown cap.

P. phaeogaleroides - <4cm, more fragile stem than others, orange or dark stem. 

P. spadicea - medium, <10cm, dark cap like P. redheadii

P. fallax - green cap, purple gills, orange stem. Our most beautiful species. ~5cm.

P. olivacea - green cap, orange-tan gills and stem. 5-10cm.

P. pseudofestiva - same, <5cm, stem hollow in age.

P. lilacifolia - lilac gills, lilac-orange tones in stem. ~5cm.

P. rifflipes - <5cm, brighter cap?

There are other rare Phaeocollybias around as well, see the specialized literature mentioned at the bottom of the page for more info. In practice, it is hard to tell many of these apart.
Other mushrooms have long rooting stems and could be confused with Phaeocollybia... see Hypholoma, Stropharia, Rhodocollybia and Cortinarius duracinus.

 

Hebeloma - Most quickly recognized by their viscid (usually non-hygrophanous) caps, which others on this page don't have. Those that have a partial veil actually have a cortina, like Cortinarius, but Hebeloma spores are (usually) duller brown, not rusty, and their odors are stronger. Hebelomas mostly smell like radish, but some are sweet. Medium sized, all >2.5cm and usually close to 5cm across, although some get larger (7.5cm or more). Many are suspected to be poisonous. They are mycorrhizal. Hebelomas are sometimes thought to be part of the large Strophariaceae family, but sometimes considered near the core of their own family, the Hymenogastraceae (Hymenogaster is the traditional name of a trufflized Hebeloma).

Once again you can expect to find some species that cannot be identified. The group is in critical need of further study, but thankfully a study is underway! Here is what I have been able to glean so far:

H. velutipes ('crustuliniforme' grp) - "poison pie". Pale, no veil, cylindrical stem. Radish.

H. cavipes - very similar (spores not dextrinoid).

H. incarnatulum - similar, club stem enlarged at the base. Radish

H. mesophaeum - dark cap, darkest in centre, almost cobweb veil (fibrillose). Radish.

H. 'marginatulum' - usually more uniformly dark, and small (<3cm).

H. sacchariolens - darker in centre as well, but sugar odor and no veil.

H. praeolidum - as sacchariolens with a cortina. Sugar odor.

H. sinapizans grp - stocky, 10cm at times, medium brown, barely viscid, stem scales, hollow stem apex, perhaps bitter, no veil. Radish.

H. colvini (no veil) and H. amarellum (veil) have also been found here. Stay tuned as a study is ongoing.

H. spoliatum - very distinctive for only growing on rotting carcasses. Requires the ammonia released by the decaying nitrogen rich material. I'm not sure this counts as a mushroom growing on the ground, but it is medium brown (like the photo of H. sacchariolens) with no veil and no odor. Only recognizable as a Hebeloma by the viscid cap. The only hygrophanous Hebeloma.

 

Inocybe - Recognized by a usually tattered appearance, sometimes called "fibre heads" or "thread caps". I mention unusual groups of mushrooms (like Psathyrella) that have a cellular cap cuticle, composed of spherical cells that can break up in any direction. In contrast, Inocybe is the poster child for the typical kind of mushroom cap. Made up of long fibrous material, the caps will usually only split radially from the centre out to the edge of the cap. The smooth capped species are hard to recognize, but the typical Inocybe cap is fibrillose or scaly, and often umbonate.

Inocybe spores may take a while to mature, leaving the gills white for a long time, so it is hard to tell that they are brown spored until they are old. This is a good reason to always consider other possible spore colours unless you have proven what the spore colour is by taking a print. Pholiotas have scaly caps, but they grow on wood and are usually viscid, where Inocybes have dry caps. The caps are not hygrophanous. The mushrooms are mycorrhizal. Inocybes can also be recognized by their odor, usually an unpleasant spermatic smell. They also usually have a cortinate veil like Cortinarius, and are actually very easily confused with some Telamonias, which lack the spermatic odor and never have a bulb. They are sometimes considered part of their own family, the Inocybaceae, which is closely related to the brown spored mushroom family Crepidotaceae. Most Inocybes are suspected to be poisonous, and due to their being ubiquitous near almost every forested area, they are responsible for many of the accidental mushroom poisonings by children and pets.

Very difficult to tell apart, Inocybes are one of those genera that most identifiers cannot usually get to species, along with Cortinarius, Psathyrella, Russula and the Entolomataceae family. Only a few species are colourful, and the rest are usually just shades of brown. This of course also means that the identities of the species found around here are not well understood, so many common Inocybes are going going to be missing or incorrectly labeled here. I confess that I myself, in moments of weakness, have tossed an Inocybe aside with disdain stating that I just didn't care which one it was.

However, there are very interesting things to see under a microscope. Some Inocybes have cystidia, sterile cells on the gills, that are shaped like bowling pins with bad haircuts, called "metuloids". Some of those have very distinctive warty or nodulose spores. The ones without the interesting cystidia represent the oldest evolutionary lineage, but interestingly enough, the warty spored species are not a related group; warty spores seem to have evolved back and forth a few times in Inocybe, something I can't explain. So while I can't always help you identify an Inocybe to species without any help from a microscope, I can help you if you can look under a scope and tell me which of three groups it is in (something fairly easy to determine for beginners): No metuloids, metuloids with elliptical spores and metuloids with nodulose spores.

Inocybe metuloides, sterile cells called cystidia on the gills.

Nodulose Inocybe spores.

Most caps are fibrillose, with stringy fibres radiating along the cap. If the cap is smooth, or actually scaly (raised scales) it will be noted. The cap colours can be grouped into whitish, yellow-brown, orange-brown or dark brown. There is often a small bulb at the base of the stem, and the stem apex is usually pruinose (tiny white dots instead of stringy fibres on the stem, but these quickly rub off - see the photo of I. sindonia). If the stem is entirely pruinose or not pruinose at all it will be noted, but this is probably not a good reliable differentiating feature. These observations, along with some easy microscopic analysis can help identify many of the common Inocybes around here. Otherwise, just find the closest match in each of the three groups and make your best guess, because the differences might be subtle. A few are <2.5cm and a few are found on wood, making them confused with LBMs (Pholiotas are usually viscid).

This first group has smooth spores and no metuloids. Most are distinctive enough to recognize on sight, but I. maculata is easily confused with similar species in other groups. By default with a fibrillose cap and pruinose stem apex.

I. sororia/rimosa grp - yellow straw coloured, very pointy, tattered and splitting. 2.5-10cm. Not pruinose. I. sororia has an odor of freshly husked green corn. Pseudosperma clade.

I. calamistrata - dark brown, scaly with a scaly stem as well. Stem base stains blue-green, but not from Psilocybin. Not pruinose. <4cm. Inosperma clade.

I. hirsuta - stem stains more strongly red and base is more weakly green than I. calamistrata.

I. maculata/lanatodisca grp - dark/yellow-orange brown, stem bulb. White velar material may be on the umbo. 2.5-7.5cm. Inosperma clade.

I. dulcamara/terrigena - very fibrillose, almost wooly cap and stem. Not pruinose. Orange-brown. ~5cm. I. terrigena is said to have a more scaly stem with a ring zone. Mallocybe clade.

This group has round, smooth spores, and metuloids. By default with a fibrillose cap and pruinose stem apex.

I. pudica ('whitei') - smooth when young and white, stains orange, not umbonate. 2.5-7.5cm.

I. armeniaca - <2.5cm, slender and pointier like I. geophylla, cottonwoods.

I. geophylla grp (insinuata) - smooth and white, more umbonate than a young I. whitei. Smaller, too. <5cm

I. lilacina - smooth, umbonate, lilac variety of geophylla. <5cm.

I. sindonia grp - pale cement or tan colour, odor of "wet dog", mostly pruinose stem. <5cm.

I. laetior has a red-brown cap and bright pink stem when young! Entirely pruinose.

I. pusio - a few species have lilac colours at the top of the fresh stem. Brown, spring and fall. Usually under hardwoods. ~2.5cm

I. cincinnata - lilac stem apex, usually dark-brown scaly cap and stem with brown contrasting scales. Not pruinose. 2.5-5cm.

I. pyrotricha - related, lilac stem apex not pruinose, red scales on stem, reddish tones in the dark brown scaly cap.

I. griseolilacina - related, lilac stem apex not pruinose and w/o contrasting brown scales, paler grey-brown somewhat scaly cap. 2.5-5cm. A floral odor?

I. fuscodisca - dark brown, darker umbo (not always this extreme). <2.5cm, LBM size. Related to I. geophylla.

I. leiocephala (catalaunica)/nitidiuscula (subdestricta)/fuscidula grp - <5cm, various browns, varying stem pruinosity maybe with a hint of pink. Textbook drab Inocybes.

I. lacera - dark brown, <5cm, sometimes actually scaly. Not pruinose. Grows anywhere - middle of dirt roads, sandy areas, if there's a tree within 50 feet.

I. flocculosa - brownish, ~5cm, sometimes scaly, like lacera (but pruinose apex). Specimens with bright gills (shown) sometimes found resembling this species.

I. cinnamomea - conical, orangish gills, resembles a small Chroogomphus tomentosus. <2.5cm, LBM size. Brighter than I. acuta.

I. posterula - yellow-orange-brown, two toned I. flocculosa, not scaly. ~5cm.

I. chondroderma - yellow-orange brown. Similar to I. posterula, but stem less (or not) pruinose. ~5cm.

I. olympiana - yellow-orange-brown, slightly farinaceous, old growth coastal forests, stem bulb, ~5cm.

I. picrosma - yellow-brown, vinegar-radish odor, pruinose stem with bulb. <5cm

I. kauffmanii - similar w/o odor, indistinct bulb, entirely pruinose stem. ~5cm.

I. praecox - yellow-orange-brown, spring, entirely pruinose stem with bulb, ~5cm, no cortina even when young.

I. vaccina - bright red-orange cap, entirely pruinose stem, no cortina. <5cm.

As you can see, the dark brown and yellow-orange-brown species are especially difficult to tell apart.

This group has distinctive nodulose spores. By default with a fibrillose cap and pruinose stem apex.

I. variabillima - dark pointy umbo less pronounced than I. fuscodisca. ~2.5cm.

I. radiata (curvipes) - dark broad umbo, urban. <5cm.

I. albodisca (grammata) - cap centre white, margin tan. Stem bulb. ~2.5cm.

I. umbratica - white, pointy like I. geophylla, but with stem entirely pruinose with bulb.

I. suaveolens - white (to yellowish), sweet pea odor, stem entirely pruinose with bulb. Old growth? <5cm.

I. jacobi - LBM size, <2.5cm, like a small Telamonia, brown, distant gills, no cortina. Entirely pruinose.

I. petiginosa - small two toned cap w/ dark centre, yellowish gills. Entirely pruinose. <2cm.

I. napipes - dark brown, turnip stem bulb. Not pruinose. ~2.5cm.

I. assimilata - rounder bulb than I. napipes? perhaps darker cap, but apex pruinose. ~3cm.

I. lanuginosa/leptophylla - scaly, dark brown, on wood. W WA/E WA. Not pruinose.

I. stellatospora - on the ground. All ~2.5cm

I. chelanensis - dark brown, ~2.5cm, high elevations in spring. Not scaly, sometimes white veil material on disc. Rocket shaped spores.

I. rainierensis - Mt. Rainier in summer.

I. castanea - a chestnut dark brown species, like I. chelanensis but in forests in fall.

I. subcarpta - also similar, dark brown, not pruinose. ~5cm.

I. soluta - hard to distinguish from I. subcarpta. <5cm.

I. acuta/prominens - dark brown, conical shape. <5cm. Duller than I. cinnamomea.

I. mixtilis - smooth young cap, yellow-brown, stem bulb, entirely pruinose. Small, ~2.5cm

I. praetervisa, larger, <5cm, 1/2 pruinose. These have no cortina.

I. xanthomelas - like I. mixtilis, fibrillose cap and oily-radish odor. Stem darkens. <5cm

I. glabrodisca - red-brown capped I. mixtilis.

 

Agrocybe - Hmm. I'm not sure what to say about these mushrooms except if you tried everything else and it doesn't fit, try one of these. Very nondescript like Hebeloma, but not even as viscid (perhaps slightly but not nearly as noticeable). Fortunately most of them smell strongly farinaceous, otherwise they are difficult to identify. Occasionally found on wood and therefore might not be looked for on this page. Saprophytic, they also grow in urban settings... wood chips, gardens and grass (the most common of which will be noted) and not as often in wild forests. They are very common in spring as well as fall (unless only one season is specified) and are mostly yellow-brown. In fact, Agrocybe praecox may be the most popular spring mushroom of all time, especially since it grows in urban settings and is therefore noticed by almost everybody. Usually ~5cm across.

The cells in the cap cuticle are roundish (called a cellular cap cuticle, unlike the more common filamentous cap cuticle). Russula/Lactarius have these round cells everywhere.) The cap cuticle can be easily broken in any random direction. (This property is shared by the Psathyrellaceae and the Bolbitiaceae). In Agrocybe this causes the cap to sometimes crack by itself when it dries, which is another clue in recognizing one. Previously thought to be related to the delicate Bolbitiaceae because of this cellular cap cuticle, they are now recognized as being another brown spored group (like Pholiota) that is related to the normally dark purple-brown spored Strophariaceae and likely evolved this type of cap independently.

Spring and fall unless noted.

A. praecox grp - mainly spring, cracking, veil, farinaceous and may be bitter. Up to 10cm. Wood chips. Those found in forests may be a distinct species.

A. dura (molesta) - almost indistinguishable, but mostly found in grass.

A. putaminum - Wood chips, cracks, no veil, club stem, farinaceous and bitter.

A. smithii - similar, may be more umbonate. Stem is scaly. Spring.

A. semiorbicularis/pediades - grass, seldom cracking, no veil, farinaceous. <3.5cm. Similar to dark spored Protostropharia.

A. arvalis - grass and gardens, not cracking, no veil, no odor, bitter. Ball of sclerotia at base! (like Hypholoma tuberosum). <2.5cm (LBM size).

Cyclocybe erebia - somewhat related to Tubaria. In forests, fall only. Striate ring. No odor. Not cracking but hygrophanous. Dark cap.

A. acericola - also in forests, spring and fall, on obvious or buried hardwood. Hygrophanous and not cracking with a prominent striate ring, but lighter yellow-brown like A. praecox and strongly farinaceous.

A. columbiana n.p. - small LBM sized (<2.5cm), spring and fall, greenish brown cap, cracking, farinaceous, without a veil or ring.

 

There is a wonderful publication for Phaeocollybia, Phaeocollybia of Pacific Northwest North America by Lorelei L. Norvell and Ronald L. Exeter, available (along with a Ramaria volume) directly here from the BLM. There is also an Italian book with 150 unusual European Inocybes with colour photographs of each one, Fungi Non Delineati - Inocybe alpine e subalpine by Ferrari. The already mentioned Fungi of Switzerland Volume 5 also has a particularly large collection of ~100 European Inocybes each with a colour photograph and drawings of microscopic features.

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