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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.

Cuphophyllus 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


Cuphophyllus russocoriaceus and 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, Cuphophyllus lawrencei © Alan Rockefeller


Cuphophyllus lacmus

Our uncommon, purple-brown cap and gilled mushroom with a viscid cap, white stem and no odor has an unpleasant taste that can be either bitter, hot or nauseating. We appear to have this European species and not the eastern North American C. subviolaceus, which is a sister species that is about 3% different, and not necessarily a synonym as is currently thought. The supposed yellow stem base of C. lacmus does not appear to be a reliable way to distinguish the two, as our local material does not have it. Collections from WA and northern BC were very close to European sequences, 1 bp and 1 long indel different in the WA collection. Another WA collection was 5 bp different, but as the waxy caps tend to show a little more genetic variation than usual, I'm not ready to declare that we have a second species.

Cuphophyllus rainierensis and nordmanensis are said to be similar rare mushrooms that taste mild and smell of green corn, differing from each other by spore size. However, one Mt. Rainier collection that smelled of green corn sequenced only 1bp and 1 long indel different than the European C. lacmus, so odor and taste may vary and it may not be correct to consider different smelling collections different species. The longer spores of Cuphophyllus nordmanensis may be explained by the fact that 2-spored basidia and 4-spored basidia are both found in these species, and 2-spored basidia are known to produce larger spores (because fewer of them need to fit) so that could account for finding larger spores on the type collection of C. nordmanensis from Idaho, the only collection known.   Cuphophyllus nordmanensis has not yet been renamed from Hygrophorus nordmanensis and needs to be.

Cuphophyllus cinereus  is a European species described as similar to C. lacmus but with dry cap, a mild taste and no odor. It was reported once from Mt. Rainier, but given that the special odor of C. rainierensis does not necessarily indicate a different species, and that viscidity has already been shown to not necessarily indicate a different species, I hesitate to believe that this one collection from well over 50 years ago actually represents a unique species found in the PNW.

Cuphophyllus lacmus (rainierensis) © Noah Siegel


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 dry capped (else pale). They can be confused with Hygrophorus pudorinus, which has a viscid cap and more closely spaced gills. Not uncommon, at two species are found here, the real European C. pratensis and at least one other (a third potential species is 9bp and 7 indels different from our second unnamed species, and two of those indels are long strings).

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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