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Expert links: Ringed Odiferous T. saponaceum
  White or Yellow-Brown Brown to Orange-brown Grey

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One of the basic mushroom statures you'll hear about is "tricholomatoid", which simply means a big mushroom. Technically it means "like a Tricholoma", which are usually big, so therefore it has come to be a way to describe any large mushroom, not just Tricholomas. But a true Tricholoma is more restricted than that.

However, there are exceptions, and a mushroom as small as 2cm across could still be a Tricholoma, so you also want to consider how stocky the mushroom is. The 2cm Tricholomas will have thick flesh and a thick stem to go along with them, and look "meaty". Equally important, a Tricholoma will not have a hygrophanous cap. Compare these two photos:

Tricholoma - caps are only 2cm across, but cap distinctly scaly with thick flesh.

Not a Tricholoma (the stem is not stocky enough, caps are thinner, slightly hygrophanous.) (Clitocybe)

And not all pale gilled large mushrooms are Tricholomas:

Tricholoma (Matsutake)

Amanita smithiana - DEADLY lookalike, gills are not notched

Entoloma lividum grp - too greasy/translucent, wrong "look and feel", pink spores.

If you browse all the photos on this page to get a feel for Tricholoma, you should come to recognize that Entoloma, Lyophyllum etc., although big and stocky, have the wrong look about them (hygrophanous and/or translucent). The Amanita has free gills, not notched gills (although the difference is very subtle, and other characters need to be used as well).

Even if a mushroom has all of the ingredients of a Tricholoma, it still might be something different. It could look exactly like a Tricholoma, but be growing on buried wood instead of soil, or have gills attached in a slightly different way, or a coloured spore print, which usually means you have something different. And not every Tricholoma follows the rules either. As usual, browse the following pictures for a while, and you can learn what they all have in common.

Tricholomas often have that farinaceous smell we talk so often about - a mix of raw bread dough, cucumber or watermelon. Most are in the range of 5-15cm, with the ones tending towards one end of the spectrum or further labeled as being small or large. They are mycorrhizal found under conifers and in mixed forests unless otherwise specified.


Tricholoma saponaceum group - I mention this one first because you should always wonder if you have one of these very common spring and fall Tricholomas before spending time keying out the yellow, green, brown and grey species. The caps are not viscid. The cap colours can be quite variable (most frequently with yellow or grey). These soapy smelling Trichs (although many people say they don't really smell like soap) have somewhat of a faint unpleasant odor. Usually smooth and not scaly, sometimes with a touch of pink at the very bottom of the stem, so dig it up carefully. Another clue is that the stem is often somewhat spindle shaped, being widest in the middle. We may have 4 or more species in this group, none of them the real thing.




Key to Tricholoma (except T. saponaceum group):


Strongly Veiled Tricholomas

These mushrooms (none of which are truly viscid) have a veil developed enough to leave a ring around the stem. The first two species in the Grey Tricholoma section have a weak veil (a cobwebby cortina), but you won't see it leave a ring behind on the stem.

Back when we thought it was difficult to evolve or de-evolve a partial veil, these mushrooms were placed in the genus Armillaria, with other ringed mushrooms like the Honey Mushroom, which grows on wood. But it turns out that whether or not you grow on wood or on the ground (because that implies a different ecology) is much more important in determining if two organisms are closely related than whether or not they have a veil (we got it backwards).

Tricholoma vernaticum (olida) - strongly like cucumber. Spring. Big. Ring often disappears making it similar to smaller white or brown species.

T. cingulatum - smaller, farinaceous, with willow.

T. murrillianum ('magnivelare') - Matsutake - big, one of the most interesting smelling mushrooms and most sought after edibles. DO NOT CONFUSE WITH DEADLY AMANITA. It is OK if you confuse it with Catathelasma or Russula brevipes group, which you probably will.

Be careful! Here is a Matsutake on the left and a deadly Amanita smithiana on the right.

T. dulciolens ('caligatum') - a bit darker, with a thinner stem. It can smell the same, but does not taste as good, so if you mix them up, you might not have a good tasting meal.

T. focale (zelleri) - bright orange colours, somewhat farinaceous.

T. badicephalum ('robustum') - a name some give to the pale to dark brown but without orange version with small black fibrils on cap. Perhaps a corn silk odor.

Floccularia albolanaripes - <15cm, dark scales on the cap and a shaggy stem. No odor. Not a Tricholoma, but related to Lepiota.

Be careful! As shown above, the Matsutake has a deadly lookalike Amanita. The Amanita gills don't have a notch just before they reach the stem, they are said to be "free" although they often do not look free. The stem of the real Matsutake is much tougher and harder to break, and never gets thicker and then thinner again like a spindle. The Matsutake will more commonly have ash on the bottom of the stem as shown. The ring on the Matsutake is usually more well developed than on Amanita smithiana, and the scales tend to be more well formed. But most of all, the characteristic smell is not there in the Amanita, although many hopeful foragers have fooled themselves into thinking it is!  I can't begin to describe that smell, you have to find yourself some genuine Matsutake and smell it a hundred times and get that scent into your brain. Do not eat one based on this description (or any other). You need an expert to show you in person.


Odiferous Tricholomas - White and Yellow

All of these have dry caps (not viscid). The famous farinaceous smell is covered elsewhere. This section is for more unusual odors. The odiferous ringed Tricholomas are described above.

There are a few that have the smell of "coal tar", which, if you weren't around 150 years ago (when these mushrooms were first described) stoking your own coal furnace, you might not recognize. So suffice it to say that it is unpleasant, somewhat like mothballs, but you will learn it quickly once you smell it. Most do not get very large.

Others might have quite pleasant odors, like one which often has a coconut smell!

T. platyphyllum ('inamoenum') - mostly white. The gills are fairly well spaced. The least uncommon. Coal-tar odor.

T. 'sulphureum' group ('bufonium') - mostly yellow. Sometimes with a brown to reddish-brown cap. Coal-tar odor.

T. lutescens ('sulphurescens') - often smells sweet like coconut, but may smell bad. Mostly white but turns yellow where it's been handled, or in age. All other Trichs are more evenly yellow, except T. arvernense.

T. 'stiparophullum' - more slender, pure white, unpleasant sickly-sweet odor.

T. apium - smells like celery, but this odor is hard for some to detect. Mostly white except for a tan, dry cap that cracks in age.

Tricholoma vernaticum - strongly like cucumber, more so than the ordinary farinaceous odor. Spring. Big. Has a ring that often disappears.


The best way I can think of sorting out the rest of the Tricholomas is by cap colour.

Pale caps, no ring.

T. farinaceum - its strong farinaceous smell is not unusual for a Tricholoma, but its slender stature and dry white cap is. Probably not actually a Tricholoma, we need collections!

T. japonicum/manzanitae - viscid, pale pinkish tan cap, stocky with conifers/madrone. Odorless.


Yellow-Brown - Either viscid or dry, and usually have somewhat of a farinaceous odor and taste, but not the coal-tar odor of the stinky Trichs. The soapy Trich can look a lot like dry capped mushrooms in this section, so make sure you don't have that one before proceeding.

T. equestre group - the Man on Horseback edible, although one group member mysteriously killed some people in France. Viscid, farinaceous, with yellow on the cap, gills and stem, although the cap can be brownish. Our species may be T. frondosae (hardwoods?) and T. 'ulvinenii' (conifers), plus one more.

T. intermedium complex - viscid, farinaceous group member with a yellow brown cap, but no yellow in the gills and usually stem. Other brown sticky Tricholomas below are not yellow-brown or have black fibrils.

T. atrofibrillosum ('sejunctum') - black radiating fibrils over a yellow ground colour, viscid, farinaceous, gills sometimes also yellow near the cap margin. May look grey capped if the yellow is completely covered.

T. subumbrinum - thinly viscid, yellow brown disk and pale rim, white elsewhere. Farinaceous! Gills staining brown.

T. arvernense - very similar, dry cap, gills may be yellow near the cap margin. Weakly farinaceous. Much like one colour form of the soapy Trich.

T. davisiae - fading yellow-green dry cap with darker point, else white. Farinaceous.


Brown to orange-brown

Viscid Orange-Brown or Brown - Even when dry and not sticky anymore, you might find lots of debris stuck to the cap, proving that it once was sticky. Their caps are usually smooth, not scaly. They are farinaceous, and some species are quite similar to the T. equestre group which have yellow tones but not orange tones.

T. aurantium - beautiful orange scales on the lower stem that stop abruptly where the veil would be, but no ring is left on the stem. Viscid, unlike T. vaccinum that is sometimes colourful like this. Very farinaceous.

T. fulvum ('pessundatum') - usually a rich or dark brown. Often yellow tones. Conifers.

T. albobrunneum - specifically with pine and no yellow tones.

Tricholoma ammophilum ('populinum') - usually paler brown, from sandy habitats near cottonwood. The gills stain red-brown in age.

Tricholoma subannulatum - just brown, specifically with oak.

Tricholoma 'stans' - somewhat scaly stem, tree association unclear. Possibly not as viscid as the others?

T. japonicum/manzanitae - viscid, pale pinkish tan cap, stocky with conifers/madrone. Odorless.

Dry Orange-brown or Brown - Their caps are usually scaly, not smooth. Not as strongly farinaceous. Two are very common.

T. aurantio-olivaceum - notable for its slender stature and orange-yellow-olive colours. Less scaly cap than the larger T. vaccinum

T. apium - smells like celery! Mostly white except for a tan, dry cap that cracks in age.

Tricholoma vernaticum - strongly like cucumber, more so than the ordinary farinaceous odor. Spring. Big. Has a ring that often disappears.

T. 'imbricatum' - your basic brown capped Tricholoma, but the shade of brown and amount of scales can vary significantly.

T. vaccinum - warm orange-brown and often a hollow stem. More distinctively scaly. Hint of a veil when young. Compare T. aurantium.

T. 'psammopus' - dark brown cap and stem contrasting with bright white gills and a scaly stem (like a dry capped T. 'stans').


Grey Tricholomas - This is probably the most confusing group, made even more confusing by the fact that T. saponaceum can be greyish. Let's start with the small to medium sized ones (~5cm). There are all quite densely scaly on the dry cap and may smell farinaceous.

T. argyraceum/'scalpturatum' - faint cobweb veil, may spot yellow, farinaceous, spring and fall.

T. terreum var. cystidiosum('myomyces') - very similar, even fainter cobweb veil, not spotting yellow and less farinaceous.

T. moseri (=triste?) - the smallest one (<5cm), found in spring. No veil and odorless.

Larger scaly dry capped grey Tricholomas, mostly with a farinaceous odor, but without the yellow staining of T. luteomaculosum, which is described above.

T. venenatoides ('pardinum'/'venenatum'/'huronense') - The most common large, dry, scaly species. Strongly farinaceous too. Not usually as densely scaly as the smaller ones.  Poisonous.

T. atroviolaceum - with a distinct purple tint to the grey, very scaly cap and greyish-brown sometimes marginate gills.

T. 'atrosquamosum' - cap more densely scaly and darker than T. pardinum, stem has fine scales too. Gills possibly marginate.

T. 'olivaceotinctum' ('squarrulosum') - similar, very scaly stem! All are larger than scaly stemmed Lepiotas.

Grey caps more radially streaky than scaly - these differ by odor and taste. Only the last two are viscid, and the others are easily mistakable for the soapy Trich.

T. subacutum (virgatum var. vinaceum) - peppery tasting, odorless. Usually streaky and pointed. Similar to T. atrofibrillosum but that has yellow and is viscid.

T. aestuans - peppery tasting, lots of yellow-green and only a little grey, but dry capped and odorless unlike the other yellowish Trichs.

T. megalophaeum - also both yellow and grey and dry capped but pointier and somewhat farinaceous smelling/tasting. With coastal spruce.

T. nigrum - strongly farinaceous. Streaky but less pointy.

T. portentosum (griseoviolaceum) - the viscid smooth grey species. May have yellow in the gills or stem. Edible. Somewhat farinaceous.

T. mutabile/marquettense - only thinly viscid, paler grey, no yellow, farinaceous.


Congratulations! You are now familiar with many of the larger, and therefore most eye-catching pale spored mushrooms. For specialized literature, please see Tricholomas of North America by the Bessettes, Trudell and Roody.

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