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Conocybe albipes  ("Conocybe lactea")
by Michael Kuo
Often called "Conocybe lactea," this little guy appears in lawns across North America--but is often overlooked. Not only is Conocybe albipes small, but it is so fragile that it often collapses completely by mid-day, after having arisen a few hours before with the morning sun. Distinguishing features include the pale, conical cap; the pale gills that are soon cinnamon brown; and the extremely fragile, skinny stem.
Some field guides refer to species of Conocybe as "cone heads," but anyone who watched Saturday Night Live in the early eighties knows that the true cone heads came from France.
Ecology: Saprobic; growing scattered or gregariously in grassy areas (lawns, meadows, pastures, and so on); summer and fall (especially common in muggy weather); widely distributed in North America.
Cap: 1-3 cm; conical when young, becoming broadly conical with an uplifted marginal edge; dry; finely lined from the margin nearly to the center; whitish or creamy buff, sometimes with a slightly darker center.
Gills: Attached to the stem or nearly free from it; close; pale at first but soon cinnamon brown or pinkish brown.
Stem: 3-11 cm long; only a few millimeters thick; extremely fragile; hollow; more or less equal; whitish; smooth or with tiny hairs on the upper half.
Odor and Taste: Not distinctive.
Spore Print: Cinnamon brown or reddish brown.
Microscopic Features: Spores 10-14 x 7-9 µ; elliptical, with a truncated end; smooth; with a pore. Pleurocystidia absent. Cheilocystidia shaped like bowling pins; to about 25 x 12 µ, with the head 4-5 µ across and the neck up to 5 µ long. Basidia 4-spored. Cuticle hymeniform/cellular. Caulocystidia long and hair-like.
Conocybe lactea is a synonym. In a recent molecular study of European and North American specimens Hallen, Watling & Adams (2003) write: "Until further molecular comparisons can be made between European and North American specimens, we encourage the adoption of C. albipes to refer to North American specimens that have been referred to C. lactea . . . The name 'C. lactea' is problematic . . . and ought not be used." The researchers also determined that Conocybe crispa (originally described on the basis of its poorly formed, collapsing gills, its two-spored basidia, and its upturned mature cap) is apparently not distinct from Conocybe albipes, and may represent environmental influence--and that Gastrocybe lateritia is also closely related (see the linked page for details).
REFERENCES: Hausknecht, 1998. (Smith, Smith & Weber, 1979; Watling, 1982; Weber & Smith, 1985; Arora, 1986; Phillips, 1991/2005; Lincoff, 1992; Metzler & Metzler, 1992; Breitenbach & Kränzlin, 1995; Evenson, 1997; Barron, 1999; Hallen, Watling & Adams, 2003; Roody, 2003; McNeil, 2006; Miller & Miller, 2006.)
Further Online Information:
Cite this page as:
Kuo, M. (2007, December). Conocybe albipes. Retrieved from the MushroomExpert.Com Web site: http://www.mushroomexpert.com/conocybe_albipes.html