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Danny’s DNA Discoveries – Physalacriaceae of the PNW (Marasmiineae)
by Danny Miller

Click here for my Pictorial Key to the non-pleurotoid white spored wood inhabitors, where Armillaria and Flammulina are found.


The Physalacriaceae family of the  Marasmiinae sub-order contains both large and small white spored species that often grow on wood or pine cones, but rarely pleurotoid (oyster-like) as most have central stems. Armillaria (large) as well as Flammulina and Strobilurus (small) make up most collections, but recently resurrected genera Gloiocephala and Rhizomarasmius are now discovered to belong here as well, although sequences of Rhizomarasmius appear to be inside Gloiocephala, which may be polyphyletic, so many more sequences are going to be needed of both of them and other related genera to sort out the proper names of those species. The family also contains the very rare (in our area) rooting-stemmed Paraxerula as well as the eponymous southern hemisphere tropical genus Physalacria (which doesn't occur here). Many other genera in many other families meet this family's identification criteria as well. Unfortunately, there's not much rhyme nor reason to identifying the vast multitude of miscellaneous white spored mushrooms to family, as many mushrooms in different families and even sub-orders lack distinctive traits, so they have to be learned individually.

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

Summary of Interesting Results

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

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Armillaria - click to expand

Not much else this large (5-10 cm or more) with white spores and a ring grows on wood (but harder to identify when found on the ground from buried wood). Often scaly to boot, and always with a cottony pith inside the stem. Parasitic. They are called honey mushrooms for their typical warm brown uniform colouration. Decades ago, when we used to think our half-dozen species was all one species, it got the nickname "mushroom of a thousand faces" and people were confused why sometimes they could eat it and sometimes it caused them distress (perhaps they are allergic to some species and not others or some are "more edible" than others). Many species have glow in the dark mycelium (bioluminescence).

Species mentioned: Armillaria altimontana, calvescens, cepistipes, gallica, mella, nabsnona, osoyae, solidipes, sinapina, tabescens.

Flammulina - click to expand

This is what Enoki looks like in the wild, and the amazing morphologic change into a all-white, needle-thin, long stemmed mushroom with a pinprick head is an astonishing example of how environmental conditions can change a species. They are on the small side (<5 cm), with a dark velvety stem when mature (and difficult to ID before then). Somewhat viscid orange-brown cap that is not hygrophanous, growing on hardwood. Not uncommon year round. Japanese growers (who are usually heavy consumers) of this mushroom in Nagano were found to have much lower cancer rates than those in other Japanese provinces.

Species mentioned: Flammulina velutipes, filiformis, lupinicola, populicola, rossica.

Strobilurus - click to expand

Tiny (~1 cm) mushrooms on conifer cones or the ground with close gills and two-toned orange stems. (Baeospora myosura is similar with crowded gilled and a pinkish stem on cones. Many other similar Marasmiineae mushrooms have more distant gills and although they may have a two-toned stem, are usually found on the ground or debris other than cones).

Species mentioned: Strobilurus kemptonae, trullisatus, lignitilis, albipilatus, occidentalis, wyomingensis.

Xerula, Gloiocephala, Rhizomarasmius, Owingsia - click to expand

These genera typically have spherical cap cuticles like Marasmius.

Gloiocephala - all white, a few rudimentary vein-like gills, with cap and short stem but only a few mm across growing on sedges.

Rhizomarasmius - small (<1 cm across) mushrooms growing on the ground with adnate to decurrent gills and downy stems that darken towards the base. Resembles many other marasmioids in the Omphalotaceae and Marasmiaceae, but those species either smell of garlic or don't have a cellular cap cuticle nor downy stems. (Sequences of this genus appear to be inside Gloiocephala, which may be polyphyletic, so many more sequences are going to be needed of both of them and other related genera to sort out the proper names of these species).

Owingsia (=Marasmius section epiphyllus) - rudimentary vein-like gills and white cap (like Gloiocephala), long brown two-toned stem (like Rhizomarasmius). Marasmius epiphyllus was known to need its own genus, and now it has one, and its new name is Owingsia umbellifera. This is because Lichenomphalia umbellifera turned out to be this instead of a Lichenomphalia. That Lichenomphalia is now called Lichenomphalia ericetorum (although it still may need a genus change).

Oudemansiella/Xerula/Paraxerula - long rooting stem like Caulorhiza and Rhodocollybia.

Species mentioned: Paraxerula americana. Oudemansiella longipes. Gloiocephala caricis. Marasmius caricicola, epiphyllus. Rhizomarasmius epidryas, undatus.


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