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

Click here for my Pictorial Key to Gymnopilus


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

Gymnopilus - growing on wood, like so many others, but the rusty orange brown spores distinguish them but the orange-brown to brick-red caps and bitter taste will help clinch it if you're still not sure. The bluish species G. punctifolius was rumoured to be hallucinogenic with psilocybin, but that has not been confirmed. I suspect it is just a blue mushroom, as it does not turn more blue when handled. G. ventricosus has also been rumoured to be hallucinogenic, but that's not true, at least locally. It's not even blue at all so I don't know how that rumour started.

'Albogymnopilus' nana n.p. - a new provisional name we're giving to a white capped species from CA and southern OR. It might belong inside Gymnopilus, or possibly outside it, but for now, let's not assume that a new genus will need to be erected for it.

There is a taxonomic problem with this genus. Gymnopilus is found inside the Mycenopsis clade of Galerina (like Leucocoprinus is found within Leucoagaricus) which means it doesn't necessarily deserve its own genus distinct from the genus that will probably be erected for that clade of current Galerina. Hopefully there will not be a call to split the future Mycenopsis into a bunch of small genera to accommodate Gymnopilus. I'm happy considering Gymnopilus a paraphyletic genus.

'Albogymnopilus' nanus n.p. - a white species found in CA and southern OR. Although provisionally given its own genus, more genes need to be sequenced besides ITS to determine if it actually needs its own genus. It may just be a Gymnopilus.

'Albogymnopilus' nanus n.p. © Christian Schwarz


Gymnopilus ventricosus CA / Gymnopilus voitkii ENA - differentiated microscopically. These orange species are larger than all the others, between 15 and 30cm across or more. G. ventricosus is probably more common. We do not appear to have Gymnopilus junonius EU (=Gymnopilus spectabilis EU) nor Gymnopilus magnus NY, as previously reported. (In the study that discovered which species are really here, the type sequence of G. mangus failed to sequence, but otherwise the study showed that species was restricted to ENA. If you disagree and think you find one of those other species, let us know. They have been confused with Phaeolepiota aurea, even by the mycologists that described and studied them, but that mushroom has the texture of leather and paler brown spores that are not rusty.

Gymnopilus ventricosus © Sava Krstic and Richard Tullis


Gymnopilus punctifolius ID - quite distinctive, medium sized with a blue to purple green cap and stem and yellow-green gills (fading to the usual orange). No veil. Likes old growth forests.

Gymnopilus punctifolius © A and O Ceska


Gymnopilus luteofolius NY (=G. aeruginosus EU) - these always sequence the same, supporting the synonymy (although 2-3 locations are ambiguous). It has a medium sized scaly, brick red cap and flesh, and bright yellow gills. It actually looks quite like Tricholomopsis rutilans which has white spores and no veil (this species has a partial veil present). This mushroom is known to grow from timber so you might find it growing from your roof or even upholstered wood. That is never a good sign for your structure. It has been suggested that other genes like ITS might still show there is more than one species here, but for now, I'm assuming not.

Gymnopilus luteofolius © Andrew Parker


The rest of the species, mostly small LBMs, become more difficult to tell apart without a scope.


Gymnopilus bellulus NY - one of the smallest species, usually <2.5 cm, orange with no veil, but best recognized microscopically (e.g. the spores are rather small). We have an east coast sequence that's probably this, and a pretty good from BC that's only off by a couple of bp, showing that we probably have this species here.

Gymnopilus cf rufescens CA - another similar smallish (<5 cm), veil-less species with equally small spores best differentiated microscopically. I'm assuming I now known what the ITS DNA looks like as we think we found it in WA (it is a sister species as G. rufescens is expected to be, and a close micro match with small spores) but we should get more collections to verify this.

Gymnopilus cf rufescens © Richard Morrison



Gymnopilus aff picreus EU (=Gymnopilus oregonensis?) - also small, probably a darker, reddish colour and darker stem than most other species. No veil. G. picreus is said to have a somewhat scurfy cap. Gymnopilus oregonensis was described from here as a lookalike with a smooth cap. We already know from the G. sapineus/penetrans fiasco that the smoothness of the cap might not be a good indicator of species. Given that most EU sequences agree on what G. picreus is (21/23), and that all our local sequences so far don't match those, but they match with a minority of sequences found in the EU (2/23 of them) instead, it's an educated guess that perhaps we don't have both species here, separated by a smooth cap or not.

Perhaps Gymnopilus oregonensis is the proper name for all of our local collections that we've been calling G. picreus, and that it's a species which appears to be present in the EU as well. We need a type sequence to prove it. And we should sequence scurfy capped collections to see if they have the same sequence.

Gymnopilus aff picreus © Yi-Min Wang


Gymnopilus penetrans EU - a not quite as small (~5 cm) weakly veiled species with a bald cap. With 86 EU sequences, we know what this species is, and the DNA has been found 3 times in WA. Gymnopilus hybridus is said to be a newer synonym, or if not, cryptic with it and possessing the same ITS DNA. Gymnopilus sapineus supposedly differs by having a fibrillose cap and it has been controversial whether or not it is a different species or not, but a 2022 paper finally settled the matter and found that it is a distinct species. Although commonly reported from the PNW, that DNA has not been found here yet, so we should sequence fibrillose capped collections to see what they actually are.

Gymnopilus aurantiophyllus OR (=G. subsapineus OR) - this similar local species is at least as common, being found recently twice in WA and twice in OR. Everyone has been mistakenly calling it Gymnopilus sapineus or Gymnopilus penetrans, not knowing to look for this one, which is said to have a bald cap and can barely be differentiated from G. penetrans by subtle colour differences. We'll need more study to find out how to reliably differentiate them. G. subsapineus was described one page earlier than G. aurantiophyllus in the same publication, but that is not necessarily how you determine which name wins out, and since G. aurantiophyllus has come into usage recently, that's the name that probably will be chosen.

Gymnopilus sp. #1 - a possibly undescribed sister species (or perhaps it's one of the below little understood species), also resembling G. penetrans or sometimes G. hybridus. I don't know how to tell this apart from G. penetrans and aurantiophyllus yet, as it seems to have a bald cap too.

It would be most interesting to see what collections with distinctly fibrillose caps end up being, as the three species above seem to share a bald cap. It's also possible that character is not genetically significant.

Gymnopilus penetrans © Ellen Rice King,     G. aurantiophyllus © Richard Morrison,     G. sp. 1 © Buck McAdoo and Yi-Min Wang


Gymnopilus decipiens UK -  this species was not known from the PNW until the sequence showed up in WA, matching a couple of EU sequences that I am assuming are correctly identified. It is known overseas as a burn site mushroom, but here it was found in prairie soil. Identification is microscopic.

Gymnopilus decipiens © Bitty Roy


Gymnopilus sordidostipes OR - we have the type sequence, and a microscopic description.

Gymnopilus cf fulgens EU - a moss associate. one recent OR collection, which is a sister species to G. sordidostipes, is a good morphological match to G. fulgens. There is 1 EU sequence in GenBank, which is quite dirty, but it is closer to our OR sequence than to anything else. This doesn't mean its the only or the best name for this, but it's the best we know for now. We also have a CA collection with a matching sequence with a full microscopic workup.

Gymnopilus cf fulgens © Connor Dooley


Little known species -described or reported from the PNW, without any genetic information yet. Please be on the lookout for anything that isn't an exact microscopic match to one of the above and might match one of these.

Gymnopilus arenicola WA -
Gymnopilus croceoluteus MI (+ID) -
Gymnopilus echinulisporus OR -
Gymnopilus flavidellus NY (+WA,OR) -
Gymnopilus humicola MI (+WA,ID) -
Gymnopilus liquiritiae EU (+OR,ID)
- thought by some to be a possible synonym of G. penetrans.
Gymnopilus rufobrunneus ID -
Gymnopilus viridans WA
- very similar to G. luteofolius, so it should be investigated if it is the same.

Gymnopilus terrestris WA - turned out to be a Cortinarius, a junior synonym for Cortinarius renidens EU.

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