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Danny’s DNA Discoveries – Tubaria, Flammulaster and Phaeomarasmius of the PNW
by Danny Miller

Click here for my Pictorial Key to Tubaria and Flammulaster and Phaeomarasmius


These three related genera definitely qualify as LBMs. They are usually little (<2.5 cm across), brown spored and usually brown overall, except for some striking red Tubarias.

Tubaria - hopefully recognized by slightly decurrent gills, and by being the most hygrophanous mushrooms I've ever seen, with a striking colour change from dark when wet to very pale when dry (check out the photo at the top left for the extreme range of colours). Otherwise they can be hard to recognize without learning them all, especially when they get >2.5 cm across and aren't as little as you expect an LBM to be. Some are abundantly common. A couple of bright red Tubarias are the most easily recognized.

Flammulaster/Phaeomarasmius - stand out from most other LBMs by usually being granular or floccose scaly over the entire fruitbody. They are rare enough that we had not noticed any reports of Flammulaster from the PNW until I found one at a Key Council meeting in 2012, and we started looking into it further. The ones found on wood are probably most easily confused with the scaly Pholiota, especially the small, pale capped Pholiota scamba, but most others are usually larger and those all have viscid caps (everything in this family is dry capped).

However, there does not appear to be a real genetic distinction between Flammulaster and Phaeomarasmius and in order to avoid making a bunch of new, tiny, obscure genera, it may be best to think of both of them as Phaeomarasmius, the older genus. The famous Moncalvo paper "117 Clades of Agarics" only had one Flammulaster and one Phaeomarasmius sequence, so they couldn't tell that those two genera weren't distinct. More recent papers like Matheny's "Taxonomy of Displaced Species of Tubaria" had more sequences and showed that the Flammulaster and Phaeomarasmius sequences intermingle, and we're not sure how many total clades there will be. Indeed, although they clearly separate from Tubaria, it may be necessary in the future to consider all three of them as Tubaria to avoid needing new genera to avoid making a combined Phaeomarasmius paraphyletic - we'll have to see. But for now, let's consider them as two genetic groups - Tubaria without true scales, and Phaeomarasmius/Flammulaster with scales all over (granular or squarrose).

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:

  • Tubaria furfuracea and hiemalis may be distinct but can hybridize easily, so maybe not.
  • Our local species of Tubaria conspersa and Tubaria confragosa may need new names.
  • Phaeomarasmius and Flammulaster are not distinct genera, and they may need to all be combined into Phaeomarasmius or split into several additional genera.
  • We have more than a half dozen undescribed Phaeomarasmius/Flammulaster in the PNW.

Phaeomarasmius/Flammulaster - click to expand

Granular or floccose scales all over, with dry caps. Although genetically it may be best to think of them all as Phaeomarasmius for now, I will talk about them using the name they were first given. Traditionally, Phaeomarasmius was separated by having tougher fruitbodies that don't decay as easily as Flammulaster, and by a bark habitat and lack of a germ pore on the spores. Also, Flammulaster needn't be found directly on wood. But none of these differences may be genetically relevant.

Species mentioned: Phaeomarasmius erinaceus, erinaceellus, proximans. Flammulaster carpophilus, rhombosporus, muricatus, granulosus, limulatus.

Tubaria - click to expand

No granular nor floccose scales all over. Often decurrent gills. Dry caps that are often extremely hygrophanous.

Species mentioned: Tubaria furfuracea, hiemalis, tenuis, abramsii, conspersa, confragosa, punicea, vinicolor.


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