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Danny’s DNA Discoveries – 'Lepiotaceae'

by Danny Miller

Click here for my Pictorial Key to the 'Lepiotaceae'



Lepiota and allies are known for white spores, free gills, and often scales on the cap that can't be removed (unlike the similarly defined Amanitaceae that have a universal veil that may leave warts, which unlike scales, are removable). Unfortunately, some species violate all three of those generalizations. All species seem to have some sort of obvious partial veil. Species in this family often have a coloured "eye" in the cap disc where the scales are especially dense. Like Amanita, some of them have evolved to produce the deadly Amatoxin and can kill you if you eat them. Others are eaten regularly, especially some Shaggy Parasols (Chlorophyllum) although one species of that can be dangerously poisonous as well. While most Amanita are mycorrhizal, most 'Lepiotaceae' are saprophytic.

The 'Lepiotaceae' are actually a kind of sub-family of the Agaricaceae, not considered a family in its own right because it would be paraphyletic ("inside" Agaricaceae, not "beside" or sister to it). That family is known for dark chocolate spores and free gills. However, the Lepiotaceae mushrooms lost their spore colour and mostly have white spores, something that also happened to Laccaria (that too is in the dark spored clade of agarics).

Not only that, but some genera lost their free gills, meaning that sometimes the gills are attached to the stem. That makes them a bit more difficult to identify as 'Lepiotaceae', but the scaly caps help. However, that's far from foolproof as other scaly genera exist that are similar but totally unrelated, like Tricholoma (which often will have specifically notched gills and seldom have a partial veil, unlike the mushrooms on this page).

To complicate things further, three genera re-evolved coloured spores - Phaeolepiota (pale yellow or orange brown), Chlorophyllum (one has green spores) and Melanophyllum (green or red!).

This family evolved one trufflized gastroid mushroom, Chlorophyllum agaricoides, that will not be recognizable to family, and will also be covered on a page of gastroid mushrooms.

If there are no scales and no warts, you'll have to decide between 'Lepiotaceae' and Amanitaceae. Leucoagaricus leucothites vs. Amanita smithiana/silvicola is an example. The two families have a slightly different look to their "free gills", a slightly different general stature (stocky vs stately), and the presence of a universal veil should be detectable in young Amanitas at least as a slight general shagginess.



Summary of Future Studies Needed


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