Sample Descriptions

Amanita phalloides (Vaill. ex Fr.) Link

Common name: death cap

Cap (35–) 50–150 mm broad, convex to plano-convex, becoming nearly plane in age, the disc sometimes slightly raised or depressed, margin decurved, becoming plane in age, smooth or seldom finely striate; surface subviscid when moist, glabrous, disc olive to olivaceous brown, yellowish green or pale yellowish brown, typically with innate darker streaks, margin paler, colors fading overall in age, occasionally with a thin (1–2 mm) white patch of universal veil tissue; context 2–6 mm thick, white. Gills shallowly adnexed to free, close, moderately broad, white, becoming cream in age. Stipe 50–180 x 10–30 mm, cylindrical above, enlarged downward with a bulbous to pyriform base, solid when young; surface dry, finely striate at the apex, smooth or appressed fibrillose-scaly at the base, white to pale yellowish white; partial veil membranous, forming a fragile, pendulous, superior annulus, white or colored like the cap, the upper surface striate, lower surface pubescent; universal veil membranous, thin (1–2 mm), forming a saccate, white volva, , margin erect, free from the stipe. Odor mild when young, pungent and unpleasant in age; taste indistinct.

Spores (7–) 8–10 (–12) x 6–8 (–10) µm, subglobose to broadly ellipsoid, smooth, hyaline, amyloid.

Habitat. Solitary to gregarious in duff under coast live oak,  occasionally with other oaks; fruiting sporadically during summer in watered areas or from fog drip along the coast; common from fall to mid-winter in coastal oak woodlands, occasional with oaks at lower elevations of the Sierra Nevada.

Edibility. Deadly poisonous; contains both phallotoxins and amanitins. It is the amanitins (cyclic octapeptides that inhibit protein synthesis in cells) that are responsible for poisonings in humans. All human organs are affected, but damage to the liver is most severe and liver failure is the primary cause of death in A. phalloides victims. Symptoms usually appear 8-12 hours after ingestion; death occurs in 7-10 days in 10-15% of patients.

Comments. This stately and beautiful mushroom, common in California’s oak woodlands, has a well-deserved sinister reputation. It accounts for the majority of fatal mushroom poisonings both in California and worldwide, sometimes the result of confusion with the edible coccoli or coccora, Amanita calyptroderma, or other Amanitas. Amanita phalloides should be the first gilled mushroom learned if you are collecting for the table. Important features include: an olivaceous brown to yellowish green or yellowish-brown cap with a non-striate margin, with or without a thin, white universal veil patch; free, white to cream-colored gills; a white, initially solid stipe with a white, pendulous annulus, and a bulbous base with a thin, white, cup-like volva. Amanita calyptroderma has an orangish brown, striate cap, an initially hollow stipe lacking a bulbous base, and a much thicker and persistent universal veil patch on the cap and a thicker volva. A rare white form, A. phalloides var. alba, is nearly indistinguishable from another deadly California species, A. ocreata, that also frequents live oak woodlands. The two taxa are distinguished by chemical reactions: A. phalloides has gills that turn purple in concentrated sulphuric acid and tissues do not react to 3% KOH, whereas A. ocreata gills do not react with concentrated sulphuric acid but its tissues turn bright yellow in 3% KOH.

Amanita phalloides

Boletus edulis var. grandedulis Arora & Simonini

Common names: king bolete, cep, porcini, steinpilz

Cap 70–250 mm broad, hemispherical to convex, expanding to plano-convex, margin incurved to decurved, extending beyond the pores when young; surface viscid when moist, smooth to wrinkled, glabrous, cream to tan, buff-brown or yellowish brown when young, becoming brown to reddish brown in age; context 20–40 mm thick, white, unchanging when exposed or rarely bluing slightly above tube layer. Pores stuffed when young, 0.2–0.5 mm in diameter, angular, white becoming pale olive-yellow then brown to cinnamon brown or reddish brown at maturity, often staining brown where injured, not bruising blue; tubes 10–30 mm long, depressed, white to yellow becoming olive-yellow. Stipe 70–200 (–400) x 30–100 (–150) mm, often bulbous when young, clavate to cylindrical at maturity, solid; surface dry, apex reticulate, base smooth, glabrous, white, developing pale brown shades in age; partial veil absent; context white, unchanging when exposed. Odor and taste indistinct.

Spores 13–17 x 4–6 µm, subfusoid, smooth, olive-brown in deposit; pileipellis a trichodermium of tangled, filamentous, non-incrusted, strongly gelatinous hyphae 4–7 µm in diameter.

Habitat. Solitary to scattered or gregarious in soil under conifers (pines, Sitka spruce, fir), occasionally with live oak and valley oak; common, fruiting from fall through mid-winter, widely distributed.

Edibility. Edible and choice.

Comments. Boletus edulis is one of the best known, highly prized edible fungi, commonly called porcini, cep or king bolete. California populations were recently described as a new variety, Boletus edulis var. grandedulis, because of their larger size and pores that turns cinnamon to reddish brown in age. Distinctive features include a large, buff-brown to yellowish brown cap, white pores that turn olive-yellow then reddish brown in age, a bulbous to clavate white stipe with white apical reticulations, non-bluing context tissues, and growth usually with pine or spruce. The queen bolete, B. regineus, is similar, but has a darker brown to reddish brown cap initially covered with a white bloom, a more extensively reticulate stipe, and growth with hardwoods.

Boletus edulis

Phaeolus schweinitzii (Fr.) Pat.

Common name: dyer's polypore

Fruitbody annual, sessile or stipitate. Cap 70–250 mm broad, single or more commonly compound, composed of several circular to fan-shaped, irregular or lobed overlapping caps; surface tomentose to hirsute, lumpy, color variable, centrally yellowish brown to brown, rusty brown, dark reddish brown or dark brown, margin with zones of cream, yellow, greenish yellow, ochraceous or orangish brown, bruising dark brown to black; context 8–15 mm thick, soft and spongy when young, tough and corky in age, yellowish brown to dark rusty brown, black in 3% KOH. Pores 1–3 per mm, angular, greenish yellow to orangish yellow when fresh, becoming dark rusty brown to dark brown at maturity; tubes decurrent, 5–15 mm long, greenish yellow to rusty brown. Stipe absent or short, 15–50 x 10–40 mm, central to lateral, simple or branched, narrowed downward, often rooting, brown. Odor and taste indistinct.

Spores 7–9 x 2.5–4 µm, ellipsoid, smooth, inamyloid, white in deposit; cystidia cylindrical to subclavate, thin-walled; hyphal system monomitic; hyphae unclamped.

Habitat. Solitary to scattered in soil attached to buried wood or on wood of conifers, often at the base of living or dead standing conifer trees; fruiting in the fall, widely distributed.

Edibility. Possibly poisonous.

Comments. Phaeolus schweinitzii is a commonly encountered, conspicuous polypore that causes a brown cubical butt rot of living conifers, especially pine and Douglas fir in California. Young fruitbodies have a soft and spongy texture, yellow to yellowish green pore surface and cap margin, a fuzzy, rusty brown to reddish brown cap, and rusty brown tissues that stain black in 3% KOH. Old fruitbodies are tough and hard, entirely dark brown, and relatively light in weight. Abhorred by foresters because of their pathogenic nature, they are loved by dye-makers for coloring yarn. The brown tissues with black KOH reaction and unclamped hyphae suggest a relationship with the white-rot genus Phellinus in the Hymenochaetaceae, however, Phaeolus is a brown-rot fungus more closely related to Fomitopsis in the Fomitopsidaceae.

Phaeolus schweinitzii

Ramaria araiospora Marr & D.E. Stuntz

Fruitbody coralloid, 50–120 mm tall x 30–80 mm broad. Branches 2–5 mm broad, parallel to divergent, crowded, with acute axils, tips acute; surface smooth, deep pinkish red to scarlet red, with red or yellow to orange tips. Stipe 20–30 x 5–15 mm, single, sometimes bulbous, white to yellowish white below, pink above; context white, fleshy-fibrous. Odor and taste indistinct.

Spores 8–13 x 3.5–5 µm, subcylindrical, with elongated warts, white to pale yellowish white in deposit; basidia 4-spored; cystidia absent; clamp connections absent.

Habitat. Scattered to gregarious in soil in mixed hardwood-conifer forests, especially with Douglas fir and hemlock; common, fruiting from fall through mid-winter in northern coastal forests.

Edibility. Unknown.

Comments. With its deep pinkish red to scarlet red branches, Ramaria araiospora is a strikingly beautiful and nearly unmistakable coral fungus. Two varieties occur, R. araiospora var. ariospora with yellow to orange branch tips, and R. araiospora var. rubella with red branch tips. Both are common in Mendocino Co. in mixed forests with Douglas fir and hemlock. Old, washed out specimens with salmon-colored branches may be confused with a number of other species (such as R. formosa, R. leptoformosa, R. rubicarnata and others) but they can be differentiated by spore size and ornamentation, and clamp connection presence.

Ramaria araiospora

Tricholomopsis rutilans (Schaeff.) Singer

Synonym: Tricholoma rutilans (Schaeff.) P. Kumm.

Cap 30–80 (–120) mm broad, convex or campanulate, expanding to plano-convex or plane, margin decurved; surface dry, tomentose to squamulose or granulose-scaly, ornamentation dark purplish red to dark red over a yellow to cream ground color; context 5–10 (–20) mm thick, pale yellow. Gills adnate to notched, crowded with 3–4 series of lamellulae, narrow (3–5 mm), pale yellow to yellow. Stipe 30–100 x 10–15 (–25) mm, cylindrical or with a slightly enlarged base, stuffed to hollow; surface dry, fibrillose-squamulose, yellow with red to purplish red fibrils; partial veil absent. Odor indistinct; taste mild or faintly raphanoid.

Spores 5–7 x 3.5–5 µm, ellipsoid, smooth, hyaline, inamyloid, white in deposit; hymenial cystidia abundant, clavate to fusoid-ventricose; pileipellis a cutis of purplish-brown, cylindrical hyphae; clamp connections present.

Habitat. Solitary to clustered on conifer logs and stumps, occasionally on wood chips; fruiting from late fall through mid-winter, widely distributed.

Edibility. Edible, but mediocre.

Comments. With its large size and robust stature, purplish red, squamulose cap and stipe, and contrasting yellow gills, Tricholomopsis rutilans is a handsome mushroom, but it can be  confused with Gymnopilus luteofolius, a look-alike frequently found in wood chips. The latter differs in possessing an annulus, has rusty brown, dextrinoid spores, and sometimes develops greenish spots on the cap. A second Tricholompsis species, T. decora, rare in California, has a cap with grayish brown squamules. Once placed in Tricholoma, these two species were segregated as a distinct genus because of their large hymenial cystidia and lignicolous habit. The phylogenetic affinity of Tricholomopsis is currently unresolved, although they appear to be only distantly related to Tricholoma.

Tricholomopsis rutilans

Tremella aurantia Schwein.

Common name: witch's butter

Misapplied name: Tremella mesenterica Retz.

Fruitbody gelatinous, 20–100 mm broad, composed of clustered, convoluted folds with blunt margins, somewhat brain-like; surface smooth, shiny when wet, otherwise dull, bright yellow to orangish yellow; context rubbery-gelatinous, concolorous with the surface, drying tough and hard but reviving easily. Odor and taste indistinct.

Spores 6–9.5 x 5–7.5 µm, subglobose to broadly ellipsoid, smooth, white in deposit; basidia longitudinally- or obliquely-septate, 2–4-celled, 10–14 µm in diameter.

Habitat. Solitary to gregarious, parasitizing Stereum hirsutum on decaying hardwood branches or logs; common throughout the season in coastal forests and at low elevations in the Sierra Nevada and Cascade ranges.

Edibility. Edible.

Comments. The genus Tremella is characterized by gelatinous, convoluted-folded to brain-like fruitbodies that parasitize other fungi, and produce spores on longitudinally-septate basidia. Our most common species is Tremella aurantia. It forms bright yellow to orangish yellow fruitbodies that grow on the bracket fungus Stereum hirsutum. On occasion, it is difficult to see the Stereum host because it has been completely consumed by the jelly fungus. Tremella aurantia is often confused with T. mesenterica, but the latter parasitizes the crust fungus Peniophora, and forms larger elongate-ellipsoid spores (10–16 x 6–10 µm) on larger basidia (15–20 µm in diameter). A third witch's butter, Dacrymyces chrysospermus, is also common, but it has deeper orange fruitbodies that are saprotrophs on conifer wood, and forms sausage-shaped spores on tuning-fork-type basidia.

Other California Tremella species include: Tremella encephala with clear or pale yellowish tan folds surrounding a white central core, parasitizing Stereum sanguinolentum; and Tremella foliacea with brown fruitbodies, parasitizing Stereum or crust fungi.

Tremella aurantia