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Expert links: Pluteus Volvariella

The Pluteaceae are a second family containing some salmon-pink spored mushrooms (along with the Entolomataceae). Pluteaceae found in the PNW contain two traditional genera, Pluteus and Volvariella (the latter having a sac-like volva at the base of the stem like some deadly poisonous Amanitas). Volvariella has since been split into Volvopluteus and Volvariella (viscid smooth caps vs dry fibrillose caps). These Pluteaceae have free gills. Pluteus are usually found on wood, but Volvariella/Volvopluteus can be found anywhere. They are saprophytic. Usually dry capped (except for Volvopluteus), seldom hygrophanous, never with a partial veil. Most Pluteus are 5-15cm or so across unless otherwise specified. Few if any are known to be poisonous.

Pluteaceae is sister to the Amanitaceae, which, with their often tall statuesque habit, you have to admit, they do look like (especially since some share a volva). Other mushrooms in the Pluteaceae, but not found on this page because they don't have free gills and do have white spores, are Melanoleuca.


This page should be small enough to browse. For species with a volva, jump to Volvariella.


Section Pluteus - this section smells and tastes like radish and has fat, spindle-shaped pleurocystidia on the gill faces that look like they are wearing jester caps.

"jester cap" pleurocystidia

Pluteus cervinus group. Our most common 5 species not only smell and taste strongly of radish, but usually have black fibrils on the stem and white gill edges. To know which of the 5 you have, you must look under the microscope for "clamp connections" and other microscopic details. Up to 10cm across.

P. cervinus/exilis - usually medium brownish grey capped, but may be dark or pale or even white. Recognized by a lack of microscopic clamp connections, these two species are almost impossible to tell apart without DNA.

P. primus - cap anywhere from dark brown to very pale brown, on conifers. With clamps.

P. orestes - very similar, medium brown to pale tan, in the cascades on conifers. Also with clamps.

P. parilis n.p. - also very similar (use a scope to distinguish them), medium brown to pale tan, on both the coast and in the cascades on conifers. Also with clamps.

Other Section Pluteus - these next species either have black gill edges or do not have black fibrils on the stem.

P. laricinus (atromarginatus?) - black marginate gill edges!

P. petasatus (magnus) - usually whitish, overlain with dark fibres but usually without black fibrils on the stem. On urban area hardwoods. Southern species. May be larger than P. cervinus/exilis, also clampless, but sometimes very difficult to tell apart.

P. leucoborealis - another pale capped, white stemmed species like P. petasatus, but more often in wild areas.

P. brunneidiscus (washingtonensis/heterocystis) - ~5cm, smaller than P. cervinus/exilis, sometimes with a dark centre. Bald stem. Usually on hardwoods. With clamp connections. Compare with P. thomsonii below.

P. 'salicinus' - small, white stem (without dark fibrils) that turns blue when handled. Contains psilocybin like the magic mushrooms. Hardwoods.

P. phaeocyanopus - stem bluing, darker cap, no radish smell (see below).

Section Celluloderma - often colourful, mostly small (<5cm) Pluteus to watch for, that do not have the "jester cap" cystidia and do not smell of radish. This section has rounded microscopic elements in the cap cuticle, which often means the cap will wrinkle. Often the cap is not hairy nor felty, but that's not always true so check this section even if the cap is hairy/felty.

P. fulvobadius ('romellii') - yellow stem!, felty-ish, often wrinkly, dark brown cap. Hardwoods. See P. leoninus below.

P. rugosidiscus - olive yellow often wrinkled cap, yellow gills & stem. This or the lookalike P. chrysophlebius probably occurs here. (Hardwoods)

Pluteus aurantiorugosus - beautiful orange cap and stem. Hardwoods.

P. phaeocyanopus - stem bluing, dark cap.

P. thomsonii - often reticulated cap. Much like P. brunneidiscus if the cap is normal.

P. tomentosulus - ~5cm, white, hairy cap. Many species are susciptible to albino versions, so not every white Pluteus is this.

Section Hispoderma - this section has elongated microscopic elements in the cap cuticle without rounded elements, giving the cap a velvety, granular or hairy texture. Some section Celluloderma species also have a hairy/felty cap, so check there too. Usually not smelling of radish, and without "jester cap" cystidia.

P. leoninus grp (flavofuligineus) - yellow-brown to brown, granular to felty cap sometimes with a yellow rim, but not wrinkled like the sometimes similar P. fulvobadius ('romellii'). Somewhat yellow stem. <7cm. Hardwood.

P. granularis/umbrosus grp - warm brown granulated-scaly cap with stocky, scaly stem (>5 mm?), no yellow tones like P. leoninus.

P. plautus grp - cold brown scaly somewhat hygrophanous caps. Stem may not be scaly. Four local species found so far.

Volvariella - usually white or off-white and with a sac-like volva at the base of the stem that makes them look like the deadly poisonous Amanitas. One species now called Volvopluteus is the most closely related to Pluteus. None are common and you're more likely to find a deadly Amanita, so remember that before you eat one. Some even grown on the ground, uncharacteristic for the Pluteaceae. They range in size from 2.5cm to 20cm.

Volvopluteus gloiocephalus ('Volvariella' speciosa) - large, found on the ground. The only smooth capped and only viscid species.

Volvariella bombycina - huge, on hardwood, silky with a large volva.

Volvariella hypopithys/smithii - small (<5cm), on humus. The disc and volva are white/off white. Entirely pubescent stem is remarkable.

V. pusilla - stem not pubescent, even smaller (<3cm). In damp gardens and lawns. Which of these three species are unique and occur here needs study.

Volvariella surrecta - grows parasitically on Clitocybe nebularis. It has a pale, fuzzy cap. <10cm

Volvariella volvacea is the common paddy straw mushroom found in many Asian dishes. It should not occur here, but may have escaped into the wild. Unlike all the other whitish capped species, this one has a darker greyish brown cap that can also be velvety.


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