Key to Gilled Mushrooms Key
This is a key to gilled mushrooms, that is, mushrooms having a definite cap with a fertile surface consisting of gills. The fruiting body usually also has a stem, although that may be lateral or absent (usually, then, the mushroom is growing from wood). You can use this key to identify mushrooms that you find.
Fruiting body containing fibers (usually in the stalk)
White Spored Suborder
Spore print "light-colored": white or buff, sometimes tinged with pink or tan. Greenish and (except for the Russulales) yellow spore prints also go here
Stalk fibrous, not fracturing like a piece of chalk
- Gills (at least) with a distinct waxy or silky feel, due to unusually long basidia
No annulus, armilla or volva
Cap often slimy
They tend to grow in cold areas, and sometimes fruit at times when it's too cold for other mushrooms
Several have an insulating slimy universal veil. This veil leaves the cap and the stalk slimy, except for the upper stalk where the gills covered it when the mushroom was a button.
- Spores typically nonamyloid; elliptical or, when immature, shaped like corn kernels
I am following Arora (1986) here in dividing the Hygrophoraceae into three genera. Whether or not one believes that everything has been assigned where it should be (or where it will ultimately end up), I find the division a useful one in identifying things, and so am using it.
Since most of the field guides put all of these mushrooms into the genus Hygrophorus, I'm also providing the Hygrophorus synonyms for them all.
The "real" distinctions between the three genera are microscopic, even though they're also fairly well reflected by differences in macroscopic appearance.
I'm including a few species that my older field guides restrict to the Pacific NW and California. They have since been found in New York, however, and described and illustrated in A. E. Bessette (1988) and A. E. Bessette, D. W. Fischer & A. R. Bessette (1997) , so they could turn up in the Mid-West any day, now. I saw a great number of large, slimy Hygrophorus species in my trip to Minnesota in the Fall of 2001.
Narrow down your identification:
- Cap up to 2" across, usually less than 1" across; almost always slimy; often brightly colored
Often in moss
Stem often fragile and hollow
- Cap usually larger than 2" across; often viscid or slimy; usually white or dull colored
Stature usually robust
Stalk fleshy; only rarely hollow