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Danny’s DNA Discoveries – Russula

by Danny Miller


Clades Heterophyllidia and Heterophyllidia II


Russula ‘brunneola’

This has white spores, with no real hint of yellow ever appearing in the gills. The cap is a beautifully textured dark brown. It’s hard to find and described from the east coast under spruce and probably other conifers. Here, it is usually, but not always, found with spruce. We need a sequence of a definitive R. brunneola from the east coast to prove that our species is the same, but all of our sequences closely match a sequence of a “not quite proven” specimen from Quebec, with 3 differences in ITS1 and 2 differences in ITS2 between coasts. For now, I’ll keep using the name R. brunneola. There are rumours of green capped white spored species like R. heterophylla or R. virescens that are probably false (perhaps the specimens found did not really have white spores and were species described later in this section). One other mystery is R. smithii, described from the Olympics. Nobody knows which Russula Smith found. Some thought it might be a Heterophyllidia, but I don’t think it is. If you think you found any of these, tell somebody!

One Alaskan collection had green and grey colours mixed in, and a stipe that greyed. All these characters are said to occur uncommonly, but that was the only collection that showed variation.


R. ‘brunneola’ © Ben Woo


Russula sp. Woo 11

This rare species has a cool pinkish brown matte to suede-like capped mushroom and was only found twice in coastal WA and OR, with hemlock but where spruce and true fir were also present in Oregon. It appears to have very pale spores like R. brunneola.

R. sp. Woo 11 © Ben Woo


Russula ‘aeruginea’

This pretty olive green Russula has cream spores (most of the rest of the species on this page have cream spores). It has a shiny cap, unfortunately, so it can be mistaken for unrelated green Russulas, like the darker yellow-orange spored R. graminea (see the Crown clades) and others. It’s the, shall we say, least uncommon mushroom in this entire section. Our collections, like those in Europe, are found near various trees including Doug fir, hemlock, pine and alder (both conifers and hardwoods).

PNW collections from Washington, Oregon and Idaho are very close to the European species with only 2-3 different nucleotides in ITS2 and a perfectly matching ITS1. But European collections, our PNW collections, Alaska collections and Montana/boreal BC collections form 4 different clades all about 3 bp from each other. For now, let's assume that it is a variable species and not that there are a whole bunch of sister species that need to be described individually.



R. ‘aeruginea’ © Ben Woo


Russula sp. Woo 13

This even prettier green Russula has a beautiful matte, not shiny cap, and cream spores. It is one of my favourite mushrooms. It doesn’t have a name yet, just lucky #13. It seems to be found with the usual conifers (probably Doug fir and hemlock). It has probably been mistaken for R. heterophylla, which does not occur here,  by those who did not check that the spore print is not white.

R. sp. Woo 13 © Ben Woo


Russula sp. Woo 15

Another Russula, #15, has a matte cap that can sometimes be green (see the edge of the cap of the smaller stemmed specimen) but most of them might be (or usually show some) brown as well. It has cream spores. It’s also a Doug fir and hemlock species.

R. sp. Woo 15 © Ben Woo


Russula ‘mustelina’

This European mushroom has a dull matte brown cap, usually without any green tones but maybe a pinkish or vinaceous tint. It has cream spores. It is reported to not always poke out of the ground very far and is found under conifers.

It averages about 3 bp differences in ITS2 from the European species but for now I will assume that is the same thing, as European sequences differ by around 4 bp themselves. One local sequence had an extra two pairs of bp reversed from the others. Christine Roberts and Darryl Grund both suspected this species might occur here in their respective dissertations, but it wasn’t proven until the study of Ben’s collections.

R. ‘mustelina’ © Ben Woo


Russula ‘medullata’

Also matte brown, but usually with some olive and greyish tones, unlike R. mustelina. It has cream spores. It is very close to (3-4 base pair differences) and may or may not be the European species. In Europe, it’s found under hardwoods, but here, it’s found under conifers (both Doug fir/hemlock and spruce/pine forests). That may be justification for considering it a separate species, but otherwise, there are slight DNA differences among NA and European specimens such that it isn’t clear that they should be considered separate species from DNA alone.

R. ‘medullata’ © Ben Woo


Other rare, unnamed Russulas

Unfortunately, there are at least 3 other species probably with pale, creamy yellow spores that are brownish (with perhaps a hint of pinkish or violet) like R. Woo 15, R. mustelina and R. aff medullata. They are not as common, but will be easily confused with these species. The Heterophyllidia have the biggest need of future study.


Woo #9 is a dull (matte capped?) brown colour and found once near Gold Bar, WA (trees not noted). It appeared to be staining red then brown, but that seems odd, so more collections matching this DNA will have to be found before anything tangible can be determined. It was not photographed fresh.


Woo #10 is another dull (matte capped?) brown mushroom with reddish violet tones when young. It was found once in the North Cascades, WA under Doug fir, hemlock and cedar. It was not photographed fresh.


Woo 14 is a smooth to shiny capped species that is tan coloured with some green tints (much like sp. #15, but without the matte cap). It was found twice, on the Olympic coast and in Idaho (and also in Alaska). The nearby trees were not noted, and there are 1-2 base pair differences in the DNA between them. The Idaho sequence oddly has a chunk of 8 nucleotides missing that is present in the other two.

R. sp. Woo 14 © Ben Woo


Woo 16 is unusual. It is dark purple with a purple flushed stem, neither of which are characters that are usually found in the Heterophyllidia. The cap is matte and therefore can be mistaken for the Russula murrillii group (see the Crown clades), except those species do not typically have any stem flushing, and are more fragile (not nearly as dense as this one is) with darker yellow spores than this mushroom (which has cream spores). It was found under conifers like fir, Doug fir and hemlock.

Russula sp. Woo 16 © Marty Kranabetter


Other very pretty (and not brown) Russulas in this section that are rumoured to be in the PNW but without evidence are R. vesca, R. parazurea (powdery blue, truly beautiful!), R. ‘atroglauca’ (greyish-green darkening to a truly beautiful almost blackish green) and R. grisea. There’s genetic evidence they may all be in California, so keep an eye out! R. ‘atroglauca’ has also been found in Alaska with spruce, birch and aspen (probably associated with the hardwoods, and in this case, it may or may not be the actual European species found here on the west coast) so it may also be found in the PNW which is between those locations.


Russula malva n.p. – Heterophyllidia II

A famously beautiful, large species with many variegated shades of purple mottled together, with whitish spores, is found in California and southern Oregon, usually with hardwoods like oak. It has gone by the name of R. cyanoxantha, but ours is a new species that may get the new name R. malva soon (n.p. means the name isn’t official yet). It is in a separate clade I call Heterophyllidia II. FeSO4 won’t turn this mushroom’s flesh pink like it will the rest of the mushrooms in this section (and many others).

Russula malva n.p. © Christian Schwarz

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