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Danny’s DNA Discoveries – Hygrophoraceae (Waxy Caps)

by Danny Miller




Cuphophyllus 'borealis'

A common, small and white, dry or slightly viscid capped waxy with no odor. Several white species of Hygrophorus are very, very similar but are either quite viscid everywhere, not as striate, have a pruinose stem apex, or some colour to them on the disc and a non-mothball odor. It's unclear if we have more than one species and if the proper name is C. borealis or not. The east coast, where the species was described, has at least 3 genetic species, and ours matches a common one, so it could possibly be the real thing. There are about a dozen species worldwide known so far, and that's with limited sampling. Four or so species in Europe could be the "real" C. virgineus (probably not found here, despite reports to the contrary). The European name C. niveus is available for one of the species in Europe, since the genetic diversity we've found in this group shows that it may not be the same thing as C. virgineus as currently assumed. Since other locations have more than one species, it is to be expected that once more sequencing is done here we'll find ours is a species group.

C. burgdorfensis - this rare, small, yellow capped, viscid 'borealis' like species is only known from the type in Idaho. No DNA yet to know if it is a unique species or how it fits in. Its official name is still "Hygrophorus burgdorfensis", but it most likely is a Cuphophyllus.

Cuphophyllus 'borealis' © Steve Trudell


C. russocoriaceus/lawrencei

Two almost identical, rare, small and white waxy caps, that smells strongly of cedar! It's an amazing odor to experience. C. lawrencei is a little stockier, with the cap usually between 1 and 3 cm, and the stem more than 0.5cm thick. C. russocoriaceus' cap is reported as being between 0.5cm and 2.5cm and the stem usually 0.25cm thick or so.

They are not sister species, but rather the cedar smelling species are sprinkled in the tree amongst the dozen C. virgineus/borealis species around the world discussed above, which is interesting. C. russocoriaceus is a UK species and DNA from the UK and from WA differ by only a couple of nucleotides and indels. C. lawrencei is described from Oregon, and while we have no sequences from Oregon, we have California and Washington sequences that differ by 2bp and a handful of indels that probably represent this species. It was thought that all of our local PNW specimens were likely to be C. lawrencei before C. russocoriaceus DNA was found in Washington, so perhaps C. lawrencei is less rare here. (Technically, Hygrophorus lawrencei is the correct name as it has not been recombined into Cuphophyllus yet, but will be).

Cuphophyllus russocoriaceus © Steve Ness, C. lawrencei CA © Alan Rockefeller


C. aff lacmus

Our uncommon, purple-brown cap and gilled mushroom with a white stem and no odor has an unpleasant taste that can be either bitter, hot or nauseating. It is different than both the European C. lacmus and the eastern North American C. subviolaceus, which are also different from each other, unlike popular thinking. Ours will need a new name. It is a bit more closely related to C. lacmus than it is to C. subviolaceus, not that it matters. It is similar to the next two even rarer species.

C. 'cinereus' - similar but with a mild taste and no odor, it was reported once from Mt. Rainier but we need samples from here and the EU to see if we really do have this species, an unnamed similar species, or if this find was really a different mushroom that was misidentified.

Cuphophyllus subviolaceus from Eastern North America © R Lebeuf


C. rainierensis and C. nordmanensis

Two rare, similar mushrooms to C. lacmus and C. subviolaceus, but they taste mild and smell of green corn, differing from each other by spore size. These need DNA for study to verify they are distinct and how they fit into the tree. Cuphophyllus nordmanensis has not yet been renamed from Hygrophorus nordmanensis and needs to be, as it has pretty much been proven to belong in this genus. Getting a sequence should clinch that.

probable Cuphophyllus rainierensis or C. nordmanensis © Ben Woo


Cuphophyllus 'colemannianus'

An uncommon, warm brown capped mushroom with pale gills and a white stem. Ours might need a new name, we don't know yet, as there are two genetic European species going under that name and we don't have any local DNA to compare to see if ours is the same, nor do we know yet for sure which is the real one in Europe. We need local specimens.

Cuphophyllus 'colemannianus' © Christian Schwarz


Cuphophyllus recurvatus

A kind of similar but rare, dark olive-brown capped mushroom with white gills and a more slender, slightly coloured stem. It is similar to Gliophorus unguinosus (but dry capped with more decurrent gills). We don't have any DNA yet to know how it fits in the tree. We need sequences from eastern North America (where it was described) and local sequences to see if ours is the same species. It should also be compared to the very similar, European 'Hygrophorus' subradiatus, which some have wondered might be the same species, but nobody is really sure what that species is and rather than worry about it longer, we may just give up on using that name so it won't matter.

probable Cuphophyllus recurvatus © Buck McAdoo


Cuphophyllus pratensis group

Larger species, orange to pink capped (else pale). Not uncommon, two sister species are found both here and in European (where C. pratensis was described). One of them is the real thing, it's just not clear yet which, nor do we yet know how to tell them apart.

Cuphophyllus pratensis group member © Steve Trudell


Cuphophyllus graveolens

An uncommon, similar mushroom described from Oregon with a paler cap, more slender stem and a sweet odor. It's official name is still Hygrophorus graveolens as it has yet to be formally renamed.

Cuphopyllus cremicolor (still properly called Camarophyllus cremicolor because nobody has renamed this one yet either) may be the same thing. It is a rare mushroom described from Washington and said to be smaller, with an even paler cap, yellower gills, and perhaps but not always a slight fragrant odor. We need DNA to determine if this is different than C. graveolens. If they are the same, this is the older name that would have priority.

Cuphophyllus graveolens © Christian Schwarz

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