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

Click here for my Pictorial Key to Melanoleuca


Melanoleuca may best be recognized by often having an elegant Amanita/Pluteus-like stature (they are in fact in the Pluteaceae but never developed their free gills nor pink spores) - they usually have a wide flat cap, close to crowded gills and a narrow straight stem. The gill attachment is never reliably the same, so unfortunately, they might be notched, adnate or slightly decurrent (the latter of which would make them easily confused with clitocyboid mushrooms). The caps are not usually viscid but perhaps slightly greasy or hygrophanous. There is no partial veil. They only come in boring shades of white, grey or brown. Even knowing all that, they are still often hard to recognize until you get used to that elegant Melanoleuca gestalt. Normally they are 5-10cm, except for the larger, stockier ones, which do not quite have the elegant Melanoleuca "look" and are easily confused with Lyophyllum, another tricky genus.

Fortunately they are much more distinctive under a microscope than they are to the naked eye - they have spores with amyloid warts (that turn dark in iodine) and often have cystidia of the "stinging hair" type - narrow and encrusted. They have never been thoroughly studied in North America (nor much elsewhere) so there's still a lot we don't know about this genus 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.

Melanoleuca spores and some species' cystidia © First Nature and Lucas Large

Summary of Interesting Results

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

  • Melanoleuca exscissa, eccentrica and griseobrunnea have been discovered in the PNW as well as some that appear to be so far unnamed.

Melanoleuca (without stinging cystidia) - click to expand

Species mentioned: Melanoleuca melaleuca, angelesiana, graminicola, stridula, microspora. Hebeloma oregonense.

Melanoleuca (with stinging cystidia) - click to expand

Species mentioned: Melanoleuca verrucipes, cognata, evenosa, strictipes, eccentrica, exscissa, brevipes, griseobrunnea, humilis, communis, subcinereiforma, subcinereiformis, polioleuca, friesii.


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