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

Click here for my Pictorial Key to Lyophyllum, etc.


Unfortunately evolution did not make any uniting feature of this family easy to recognize. The one thing that unites many of them is siderophilous granules in the basidia, which means if you heat a section of gill in acetocarmine, parts of the basidia turn black under a microscope. Needless to say, this is not easy to detect, so no key is going to be able to lead you reliably to this page, and the effect is not even found in every species.

Also unfortunately, Lyophyllum has been split into many almost impossible to differentiate genera, and our sequencing is showing that many more genera will have to be created to avoid lumping many things in this family all into Lyophyllum. Some genera are distinctive and fairly easy to recognize, but most of them are not. An argument could be made for lumping them all into Lyophyllum (as has been done with Entoloma).

A great paper on how this family is arranged, by Bellanger et. al., can be found here. Even though more than one gene was sometimes used, this paper doesn't totally clarify things. It notes that clade I (Leucocybe, Atractosporocybe, Hypsizygus, Lyophyllaceae PNW02, and Lyophyllaceae PNW03) are basal and might not be in the Lyophyllaceae. As for many of the new genera and unplaced species on this page (including what I am calling Paralyophyllum and Metalyophyllum), I cannot vouch that they are actually in the Lyophyllaceae either. But since the paper treats them here, until we know for sure, I'm treating them here too.

The microscopic key to the blackening Lyophyllums can be found here.

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.

Summary of Interesting Results

Here are some of the newest, most interesting results of the study:

  • we have a sense of how many species of "fried chicken" Lyophyllum and blackening Lyophyllum species are common in the PNW now, if not what all of their names are.
  • species in Gerhardtia, Myochromella, Tephroderma and Tricholyophyllum are now known from the PNW.
  • Clitocybe albirhiza belongs in Rhizocybe, and a new species, Rhizocybe rhizoides has shown up in the last few years.
  • Clitocybe salmonilamella needs to be moved to Leucocybe.
  • Several species belong to new genera that haven't been named yet.

Lyophyllum - click to expand

Greasy capped, white spored, boring greyish-brown mushrooms in two distinct subgenera - either usually large clustered mushrooms or with flesh blackening in age.

Species mentioned: Lyophyllum decastes, shimeji, loricatum, semitale, anthracophilum

Rhizocybe - click to expand

Spring fruiting, usually funnel shaped "Clitocybes" (strongly decurrent gills and indented caps) with abundant rhizomorphs at the base of the stem.

Species mentioned: Rhizocybe vermicularis subsp. americanus, rhizoides, pruinosa, alba. Clitocybe albirhiza.

Calocybe - click to expand

Colourful Lyophyllums (purple, orange and pink). Most others in the family are boring grey-brown. Attempts to split into Rugosomyces are unnecessary, as all these species are related enough to belong properly in Calocybe.

Species mentioned: Calocybe onychina, fallax, naucoria, carnea, persicolor

Asterophora - click to expand

Small parasitic agarics on Russula and Lactarius, either with no gills (very rudimentary) or with more widely spaced gills than the similar 'Collybia'. They may have powdery caps full of asexual spores.

Species mentioned: Asterophora lycoperdoides, parasitica

Hypsizygus and Ossicaulis - click to expand

Large, wood inhabiting species.

Species mentioned: Hypsizygus tessulatus, Hypsizygus marmoreus, Ossicaulis lignatilis

Atractosporocybe - click to expand

Atractosporocybe are greyish-white Clitocybe lookalikes, but with spores more than twice as long as they are wide.

Species mentioned: Atractosporocybe inornata subsp. occidentalis. Clitocybe sclerotoidea

Gerhardtia - click to expand

Our PNW species has a greasy, hygrophanous cap that starts out deep red-brown and fades to medium brown, and a white stem. It could be mistaken for Rhodocollybia butyracea, but the gills are very crowded and not at all serrated.

Leucocybe - click to expand

Some white Clitocybes (and even one that isn't white when fresh) turned out to be more closely related to Lyophyllum and were moved , but which ones? Unfortunately, there's no good morphological way to tell them apart. You just have to learn them. All have decurrent gills like Clitocybe. Some are chalky white with a removable bloom.

Species mentioned: Leucocybe candicans, Clitocybe tenuissima, Leucocybe connata, Clitocybe dilatata, Leucocybe salmonilamella

Omphaliaster - click to expand

Recognized by round spores with warty nodules, but otherwise a nondescript omphalinoid/clitocyboid with an indented hygrophanous cap that may be striate, somewhat decurrent gills and somewhat farinaceous odor and taste.

Species mentioned: Omphaliaster asterosporus, borealis.

Tephrocybe/Sphagnurus/Sagaranella/Myochromella/Tephroderma/Tricholyophyllum - click to expand

Smaller, hard to identify white spored mushrooms. These smaller mushrooms were separated from Lyophyllum into Tephrocybe, but then they ended up all being in different parts of the tree, so they each ended up in their own genus. As you may have noticed by all the confusing genera on this page, once Lyophyllum was split, it started a chain reaction that makes it tempting to wish that everything on this page would all be lumped back into Lyophyllum.

Species mentioned: Tephrocybe rancida, Sphagnurus paluster, Tephrocybe palustris, Sagaranella tylicolor. Myochromella ozes. Tephroderma fuscopallens. Tricholyophyllum brunneum.

Unnamed Genera - click to expand

These are going to be hard to recognize because these six genera don't even have names yet! I am hoping that a multi-gene study will lump some of these genera together so the Lyophyllaceae won't continue to be split as much as it seems.

Species mentioned: Lyophyllum turcicum, Clitocybe thujana, Clitocybe subditopoda.


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