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Expert links: Marginate Gills Colourful Alternate Clades
Bleeding Odor Basal Disc/Sugary Viscid Stems
Large Hemimycena Boring/Other

The gill attachment can be virtually anything, but usually appearing adnexed to adnate, with some species being arcuate. Sometimes the gills are adnately attached to a "collar" that separates from the stem to make the gills free, although the species will often be described as having adnate gills. Found on the ground and/or on various kinds of plant litter (leaves, needles, wood of all sizes, etc). Most are thought to be saprophytic.

You'd think we'd know exactly what such a large, important group of mushrooms is related to, but it's unclear. Most species on this page are distinguished by having warty outgrowths in the cells of the cap, even those that aren't related, which is interesting. The core group of Mycena have somewhat amyloid spores (turn dark in iodine).

Galerina semilanceata grp (etc.) and Psathyrella gracilis grp can look remarkably like a Mycena if you aren't careful to notice the spore colour.

Key to cap diameters: (XXS) <5mm, (XS) <1cm, (S) <2.5cm, (M) > 2.5cm. All are Small (S) unless specified. The medium sized ones are so large you might not think to look on this page.

Key to Mycena:


Marginate Gills - Some Mycenas are obviously colourful, but many also have brightly painted gill edges which you almost need a magnifying glass to see. That may be the only bright colour on the fruitbodies. In many cases, the closer you look, the more beautiful the mushrooms get.

M. purpureofusca - reddish-purple caps fading to purple-grey with purple gill edges.  Very similar to the next group in age.

M. rubromarginata/bulliformis - northern/southern species, pinkish grey caps, pink to reddish brown gill edges.

M. viridimarginata - grey cap but olive gill edges.

M. capillaripes - usually more grey than M. bulliformis with the same pink edges, smells like bleach!

M. pterigena - (XXS), pink cap (fading) with pink edges on dead fern debris.

M. rosella - pink (more so than M. bulliformis), sometimes coral-pink, fading to orange, with pink edges.

M. rutilantiformis/pelianthina - (M) stature of M. pura, purple edges. M. rutilantiformis may have a yellow stem top.

M. strobilinoidea (strobilinoides) - (XS) orange with orange edges. Fuzzy stem base. Above 2,000'.

M. aurantiomarginata - beautiful olive-yellow-orange cap, orange edges.

M. citrinomarginata (olivaceobrunnea)/chloranthoides - almost boring brown cap, yellow edges.

M. sanguinolenta - stem bleeds red, reddish-brown cap, found on the ground, red gill edges!

These two are definitely in the Marasmioid clade and only somewhat related. (Therefore Mycena oregonensis needs a new name). They do not have amyloid spores.

'Mycena' oregonensis - (XXS), yellow (to orange), yellow gill edges, on individual needles.

Hydropus marginellus - brown with brown gill edges, on wood.


Colourful Mycenas - These next two groups are the colourful Mycenas (but without coloured gill edges) and they truly are some of our prettiest, dainty little mushrooms.

M. pura/pearsoniana grp - quite large (M), cap flattens in age, purple fading to grey, smells of radish. I've seen blue and albino versions.

M. monticola - pink, sometimes coral-pink. Found above 2,000'. Darker stem than M. adonis, slightly larger.

M. tubarioides - XS pink on canes, striate cap, distant, arcuate gills

M. epipterygia group - slimy yellow stem and cap. Caps grey or yellow. Edge of the gills can be pulled off as an elastic thread!

M. nivicola/griseoviridis var. cascadensis - robust, distinct member(s) of the epipterygea group, grey cap, dark lower stem.

M. amicta - blue, fading to two-toned grey or brown, but still recognizable by a cap cuticle that peels off.

Alternate Clades - The following colourful species are in groups that will be separated from Mycena. These do not have amyloid spores. Marasmioid clade.

Atheniella adonis - coral pink to orange cap, paler stem than M. monticola.

Atheniella flavoalba - yellow cap fading to white, pale stem.

Atheniella aurantiidisca - 3 shades of orange on cap, yellowish stem.

'Mycena' acicula - (XXS), red-orange cap, yellow stem.

'Mycena' oregonensis - (XXS), yellow (to orange), yellow gill edges, on individual needles.

Hydropus marginellus - brown with brown gill edges, on wood.


Bleeding Mycenas - Break the stem (and sometime cap), and these Mycenas will exude a latex. Do not confuse them with Lactarius, which are not as frail. There is plenty of colour in some of these species, as well as one with marginate gills, so you might look for them in the colourful section if you don't notice the fluid, or if the specimen is old and dry, you may not identify it.

M. haematopus - bleeds red, often scalloped or velvety cap spotted red. On wood. Sometimes with red gill edges.

M. sanguinolenta - bleeds red, reddish-brown cap, found on the ground, red gill edges!

M. galopus - white milk, boring grey/brown. You won't ID it if you don't break the fresh stem.


Unusual Odors - OK, now it's getting harder, but we can still do it. The following otherwise boring grey-brown Mycenas may have an unusual odor. You may need to crush the mushroom to detect the odor, just another reason I sometimes say that I can't tell you what mushroom you have, but I might be able to tell you what mushroom you used to have.

M. abramsii/alcalina grp - (M), brownish (or greyish), usually found on actual wood, smells like bleach! Possible red-brown stains on gills.

M. leptocephala - bleach odor, darker grey-brown when young, found on the ground or woody debris.

Mycena atroalboides - also dark when young but also fading. Slight radish odor or possibly bleach? Gills may spot reddish-brown. Conifer duff.

M. metata - smells of iodine, at least when dried. May develop red tones? Stem base may be hairy. Cap margin may overhang.

M. filopes - similar, also iodine odor, possibly greyer with no red tones and a long stem.

M. cinerella - farinaceous! contrasting striations. Arcuate.

M. inclinata - farinaceous or wet paint odor.

M. tenax - rancid-farinaceous. Not arcuate. Viscid stem.

M. odorifera - tiny, dark discMatsutake smell. Viscid stem.


Basal Disc/Sugary - These white Mycenas are recognized by the tiny disc at the base of the stem or by a sugary appearance. (Mushrooms with strongly decurrent gills and a basal disc may be a Hemimycena). Their white colour reminds one of Hemimycena, and the minuscule ones also resemble Marasmiellus but are sugary. They will have hairs or granules on the fruitbodies.

M. stylobates - (XS), long stem, maybe some hairy thorns projecting from cap.

M. aciculata ('longiseta') - (XXS), hairy thorns all over the cap and stem, small bulb at base.

M. tenerrima ('adscendens') - (XXS), short stem, sugary overall

M. bulbosa - (XXS) - not sugary

Resinomycena saccharifera - (XS) no bulb, sugary (amyloid as well)

M. alphitophora - (XS) long stem, no bulb, sugary.


Viscid Stems - These otherwise boring greyish-brown Mycenas have a viscid stem, and perhaps also cap. Many have arcuate gills (but so do other nondescript grey Mycenas). It is unusual for a mushroom to have a viscid stem but not cap, as the viscidity usually comes from a universal veil that affects the entire mushroom, or a special layer of cells in the cap. To have a special layer of cells in the stem only is unusual.

Roridomyces roridus - (XS). Only the stem is super-slimy. Arcuate gills. (Amyloid spores)

M. clavicularis - (S). Only the stem is viscid but not ridiculously so. Arcuate gills as well?

M. vulgaris - (S). similar, but the cap is viscid too and the gill edge is slimy.

M. tenax - (S). only the stem is viscid, gills not typically as decurrent, smells rancidly farinaceous.

M. epipterygia - slimy yellow stem and cap. Caps grey or yellow.

M. nivicola/griseoviridis var. cascadensis - distinct member(s) of the epipterygea group, grey cap, dark lower stem.

M. quiniaultensis - almost black and entirely viscid.

M. odorifera - (XS) dark disc, smells like Matsutake!

M. laevigata - off-white and entirely viscid, larger than Hemimycena and growing on wood.

M. insignis - (XS) white, more arcuate gills, said to drain the colour from the surrounding needles.


Large Grey/Brown Mycenas - OK, now things are starting to get difficult, but the following Mycenas can be recognized by their large size and tendency to grow in groups or clusters, even though they are boring greyish-brown like dozens of others. These are all very common, although of course you have to be in the mountains next to melting snow to find the snowbank species. The only trouble is, they are so large (perhaps with a flattened cap in age) that you might not look for them on the Mycena page. They are all (M) size (>2.5cm at maturity).

M. maculata - on wood, develops reddish spotting like a large M. haematopus.

M. galericulata - nothing to differentiate it except its larger size (up to 5cm!), usually on wood.

M. parabolica - similar, usually slightly smaller and more fragile.

M. hudsoniana - a distinctly shiny brown, fairly large winter/spring species, found on the ground from sea level and often higher, with an umbo and a pale rim.

M. robusta - a similar larger winter species, also found on the ground, but more grey than brown and less shiny.

M. overholtsii - marasmioid stature, arcuate gills and fuzzy stem. Snowmelt. Resembles Clitocybula.


Hemimycena - these are recognized by being completely white, and very small with dry caps and no basal disc nor viscid stem (although there is one species with a basal disc and strongly decurrent gills). (The similar Mycena laevigata, M. flavoalba and M. pura may be white or fade to white, but they are larger). Not hygrophanous (there's no colour to change)! Here are a few of the most common, although in practice they are very difficult to tell apart macroscopically. They do not have amyloid spores.

Marasmiellus is very similar, but usually with darker, tougher stems.

H. delectabilis - (S) white, arcuate gills, smells of bleach.

H. delicatella grp (lactea) - (XS) usually adnate gills often more closely spaced than others.

H. gracilis - cap may become sordid yellow in age. May not be a distinct species.

H. albidula - (XS) decurrent gills, basal disc at bottom of stem.

H. tortuosa - (XXS), adnate, on bark. Cool "tortuous" cork-screw cells in the cap.

H. pseudocrispula - XS cap translucent, decurrent gills.

H. hirsuta/cyphelloides - (XXS) - no gills! covered in hairs. Might be difficult to recognize as a gilled mushroom.

Marasmiellus filopes - ~2mm!, teensy on conifer needles, with few gills and long stem. Whitish stem like Hemimycena. Garlic odor in quantity!


Boring grey/brown Mycenas - Does your Mycena have coloured gill edges, white milk in the stem or a bleach, farinaceous or subtle iodine odor (easy to miss)? Did it have a viscid stem or was it >2.5cm? Many of these are boring grey or brown and were covered above. Otherwise, read on.

Mycena picta - (XS) often Omphalinoid in stature, unique looking gills and distinctly grooved cap.

Mycena atroalboides - dark when young but fading. Slight radish odor or possibly bleach? Gills may spot reddish-brown. Conifer duff.

M. amicta - blue, fading to two-toned grey or brown, but still recognizable by a cap cuticle that peels off.

Other genera - Boring brownish grey mushrooms, with nothing at all that I can think of to easily distinguish them. This last group of photos are not even Mycenas, but since even mycologists have at one time or other thought they were, you would be forgiven if you did. These are likely Marasmius relatives: Phloeomana, Mycopan, Hydropus - but these could be in the Tricholomatoid clade: Fayodia, Gamundia. Fayodia and Gamundia have warty spores, and Fayodia and Mycopan's spores are also amyloid (turn dark in iodine). Gamundia may look omphalinoid or clitocyboid. Mycopan and Hydropus are missing the warty outgrowths in the cap cells, and Hydropus actually has inflated cells like Marasmius. Most are hygrophanous. Obviously, these species are very difficult to ID.

Also consider Tephrocybe for your greyish-brown "Mycena".

Phloeomana speirea - (XS) Only a few arcuate gills, cap not really conical, with grey-brown striations. Spring on bark and sticks.

Gamundia striatula - (M) often looks omphalinoid or clitocyboid, cap becoming umbilicate, gills adnate to decurrent. Hygrophanous, striate when moist. Warty spores like Lepista.

Fayodia bisphaerigera - (S) odd warty spores, but just a grey/brown Mycena to the naked eye, slightly decurrent.

Mycopan (Hydropus) scabripes - (M) much like a large Mycena, umbo, subtle stem fibres, usually adnate.

Hydropus pseudotenax - (M) - stem is cartilaginous like in the Marasmius clade, stem base hairs become yellow, adnate.


There are dozens more grey or brown Mycenas, in fact many species seem to be sometimes grey and sometimes brown, but I'm going to stop now. Some people have tried to come up with ways to identify them (like M. subcana and M. madronicola supposedly only grow on bark) but I don't know of any reliable way to tell them apart. Heck, I've probably misled you to think that you can reliably tell apart the species that I have included here, as it can be hard even with a microscope. The only thing more common than a Mycena in the woods is a mycologist looking at one and saying "Well, it's probably one of the grey-brown Mycenas...". But before I go I will at least leave you with the names of the some of the grey-brown species that I cannot tell apart. There is no way to tell how rare they are because hardly anybody has ever actually inventoried them since Alexander Smith circa 1940. Perhaps some in the following list are fairly common, but just not recognized.

M. fuliginella (arcuate gills). M. murina. M. latifolia. M. vitilis. M. fragillima. M. alcaliniformis. M. fagetorum. M. capillaris (XXS on beech leaves). M. gaultheri is said to be more yellowish greyish-brown than others favouring dead salal leaves and M. culmigena is said to be more wine coloured greyish-brown than others on decaying sedges and rushes. M. megaspora has a somewhat rooting stem. M. tenella (lohwagii) on fern rhizomes, M. subcucullata and M. deceptor are usually particularly small.

Mycenas, being small, are often overlooked and not often studied, but as you can tell from the wide range of colourful species, it can be a very rewarding group to hunt for.

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