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Danny’s DNA Discoveries – Clitocybaceae of the PNW
by Danny Miller

Click here for my Pictorial Key to Clitocybe


Every clitocyboid mushroom, those of at least a certain size (caps >2.5 cm across or so) with decurrent gills and white spores (occasionally with an indented cap to boot) and no partial veil, was once placed in Clitocybe. The most similar stature is omphalinoid, usually reserved for smaller, similar mushrooms. The clitocyboid form has evolved independently many times, and many have been moved to new genera. Those that are left in Clitocybe usually grow on the ground and have inamyloid spores and clamp connections. Here is a summary of some of the segregate genera:

- Ampulloclitocybe - are very similar, but often have an umbo that Clitocybe usually lack.
- Pseudoclitocybe - greyish-brown species with strongly decurrent gills and an indented cap in age, with amyloid spores.
- Harmajaea - similar Pseudoclitocybaceae species that have no clamp connections
- Clitopaxillus - similar Pseudoclitocybaceae species that have inamyloid spores and clamp connections, exactly like Clitocybe.
- Aspropaxillus - large with amyloid spores and easily removable gills
- Cantharellula - amyloid spores and forking gills that stain red.
- Cantharocybe - large and yellow usually with an eccentric stem.
- Paralepista - some orangish funnel shaped mushrooms with almost round spores.
- Ripartites - have pale brown spores and pink tones in the gills.
- Leucopaxillus - have very dense flesh and easily removable gills.
- Lyophyllaceae - sometimes have decurrent gills. All genera have siderophilous granules. If you heat a section of gill in acetocarmine, parts of the basidia turn black under a microscope.
- Bonomyces - a few farinaceous orange clitocyboids.
- Catathelasma - ponderously large with a sort of double ring
- Cleistocybe s.l. - have partial veils
- Infundibulicybe - some strongly funnel shaped species, difficult to differentiate from Clitocybe.
- Pseudoarmillariella - grow on wood
- Spodocybe - small and felty grey.
- Hertzogia - true cystidia, pale pink smooth spores, a somewhat pinkish-orange cap and stem with a hoary white coating, and strong farinaceous odor and taste.
- Gerronema atrialbum - one black and white thin fleshed funnel shaped mushroom

Left inside the Clitocybaceae family are:

Clitocybe - the group that is left after all of the above were segregated out. The gills aren't always strongly decurrent and it's often a puzzle whether or not to look for an adnate gilled mushroom here or somewhere else.

Lepista - was split from Clitocybe for having spores that were warty (as well as always having a slightly coloured spore print which only happens sometimes in Clitocybe). Warty spores evolved three independent times inside the genus Clitocybe and therefore Lepista can't be thought of as a proper genus. They are all inside Clitocybe.

Collybia - tiny mushrooms growing on other decaying mushrooms, often Russula, and often with a sclerotium at the base of each stem. The gills are not decurrent so it is not obvious that they belong here. Other genera on rotting mushrooms are larger, with Asterophora being the closest lookalike, being fairly small but usually powdery, never with sclerotia, and with stockier stems a couple mm wide instead of 1 mm wide like Collybia). They are all inside Clitocybe too.

Singerocybe - these are just Clitocybe, at least the species reported from the PNW. I suppose it's possible the type species, Singerocybe viscida, once sequenced could turn out to deserve its own genus, but I doubt it.

Leucocalocybe - should never have been created as a genus. Its one species is a Clitocybe.

Dendrocollybia - a rare unique LBM with branches growing out of the stem. This is a distinct genus.

Collybia, Lepista, Leucocalocybe, Singerocybe, and Clitocybe all form one monophyletic group, with Clitocybe and Collybia being equally old names from 1821 (as tribes) and 1857 (as genera). By far more species are currently in Clitocybe, so that name will probably win out. This means that we should properly call all Lepista by the name Clitocybe, and we should even call all Collybia by that name too. These changes haven't been made yet. Dendrocollybia does in fact appear to be a distinct genus.

The authority on clitocyboids is Bigelow. His monograph will be needed to continue to demystify the many unknown species of Clitocybe.

abundant common uncommon rare - colour codes match my Pictorial Key and are my opinions and probably reflect my bias of living in W WA. Rare species may be locally common in certain places at certain times.

Click here to download the FASTA data of all my DNA sequences

Clitocybe - click to expand

Smooth spores that are very close to white in print.

Usually large, tricholomatoid mushrooms, these have slightly coloured, warty spores. There are 3 monophyletic groups, each paraphyletic inside Clitocybe. Therefore, species with warty spores should probably all be called Clitocybe.

Collybia and Dendrocollybia - click to expand

Of these small, decaying mushroom parasites, at least Collybia lives inside Clitocybe and technically need to be moved to that genus (or they to this).


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