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

Click here for my Pictorial Key to Gymnopilus


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.

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.

'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 © Michael Beug,     G. voitkii © Sandra Ruffner (2 images)


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 luteofolius NY (=G. aeruginosus PN, =G. thiersii CA) - 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. It can also be found on wood and in wood chips. 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, since ENA type area ITS sequences of G. luteofolius and G. aeruginosus closely match each other and west coast type area sequences of G. thiersii.

Gymnopilus dilepis Sri Lanka - a little smaller than G. luteofolius, and only found in wood chips. Unlike G. luteofolius, it doesn't have capitate cheilocystidia. It was assumed that all PNW collections north of California that looked like this were G. luteofolius until G. dilepis was sequenced in OR. We have Indian type area sequences as well as dozens of others from around the world. It probably has a few newer synonyms.

unsequenced Gymnopilus punctifolius © A and O Ceska,     G. luteofolius © Andrew Parker,     G. dilepis © James Conway


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 oregonensis OR (Gymnopilus picreus misapplied?) - 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, I believe 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, but so far G. picreus has not been confirmed from the PNW. We need a type sequence of G. oregonensis to prove this theory. The two photos below do show different amounts of scurfiness on the cap.

Gymnopilus oregonensis © Yi-Min Wang (2 images)


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, G. sapineus DNA has not been found here yet. I suspect that this species can be fibrillose capped. Note that the photo is somewhat atypical, showing it stockier than what I think is normal, and growing on buried wood instead of logs.

Gymnopilus aurantiophyllus OR (=G. subsapineus OR) - this similar weakly veiled 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 and yellowish flesh instead of the supposedly white flesh of G. penetrans. We'll need more study to find out how to reliably differentiate them. This species can also have a fibrillose cap (see photos below, bald cap on the left and fibrillose cap on the right). This leads me to suspect that G. penetrans can too, and that the character is not genetically informative.

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. One WA sequence is 4bp different than the others, we should look for that sequence again.

Gymnopilus flavidellus NY - a sister 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 sometimes has a bald cap and sometimes a fibrillose cap. Our sequences match the unpublished sequence of an original Hesler collection.

Gymnopilus penetrans © Richard Morrison,     G. aurantiophyllus © Richard Morrison and Vail Paterson (showing veil when young)

Gymnopilus flavidellus © Yi-Min Wang (2 images)


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 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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