|Major Groups > Gilled Mushrooms > Pale-Spored > Waxy Caps > Hygrocybe virginea|
by Michael Kuo
Hygrocybe virginea is a small to medium-sized, white or pale brownish waxy cap that features a greasy to sticky cap, a dry stem, and gills that begin to run down the stem. As I am treating it, the species is fairly variable, and is the same as Hygrocybe nivea and Hygrophorus borealis--two species formerly separated on the basis of minor characters. The former has been officially placed in synonymy by Boertmann (2000); my arguments for synonymizing the latter can be found below.
Ecology: Saprobic; growing gregariously near hardwoods or conifers; summer and fall (or over winter in warmer climates); probably widely distributed in North America. My collections (in California, Michigan, and Illinois) have all been made in areas that were recently cleared and then allowed to redevelop (park edges, roadbanks, and so on), in thick and untended grass under dense brambles and ground cover; often, when I see Hygrocybe virginea, I wonder how to reach all of those mushrooms without tearing my arms to shreds on thorns and stickers.
Cap: 1-7 cm; convex when young, becoming broadly convex to flat, or with a shallow central depression and an uplifted margin; moist and greasy when fresh; fairly smooth; off-white (ivory), drying out to pure white from the margin inward; the margin sometimes faintly lined.
Gills: Running down the stem or beginning to do so; distant or nearly so; thick and waxy; whitish.
Stem: 2-9 cm long; up to 1 cm or more thick; often tapering to base; dry; smooth or very finely hairy at maturity; whitish.
Flesh: White; unchanging.
Odor and Taste: Not distinctive.
Spore Print: White.
Microscopic Features: Spores 7-10 x 4.5-7 µ; smooth; more or less elliptical. Gill tissue interwoven, with cells 5-15 µ wide. Pileipellis a thin ixocutis.
REFERENCES: (Wulfen, 1781) Orton & Watling, 1969. (Hesler & Smith, 1963; Bird & Grund, 1979; Smith, Smith & Weber, 1979; Largent, 1985; Arora, 1986; Phillips, 1991/2005; Bessette, Miller, Bessette & Miller, 1995; Barron, 1999; Boertmann, 2000; Roody, 2003; McNeil, 2006; Miller & Miller, 2006.) Herb. Kuo 09280303, 01130505.
Boertmann (2000) records several color varieties of Hygrocybe virginea: the brownish var. fuscescens and the pinkish buff var. ochraceopallida. One of these varieties may represent the brownish mushrooms depicted as Hygrophorus borealis in Bessette, Miller, Bessette & Miller (1995). However, "[t]he complex of taxa related to H. virginea," according to Boertmann, "is badly in need of a revision."
Camarophyllus virgineus and Hygrophorus virgineus are synonyms, as are Hygrophorus niveus and Camarophyllus niveus.
I am treating Hygrophorus borealis as another synonym, although the concept of this species is inconsistent among North American authors. I have not seen Peck's original 1874 description, but the description in Saccardo (1887) is based on it, and describes a small white species with a cap 16-24 mm across and a stem 2 mm thick. Saccardo notes that Hygrophorus borealis is "like H. niveo [Hygrocybe nivea] but with a non-viscid pileus" (my translation). Hesler & Smith (1963) studied the type collection and found the spores to measure 8-11 (12) X 4.5-6 µ, and the pileipellis to be composed of "appressed hyphae which are only slightly gelatinous." The combination of Saccardo's description and Hesler & Smith's description of the microcharacters creates a fairly good match for Hygrocybe virginea. Despite studying the type, however, Hesler & Smith's own concept of Hygrophorus borealis appears to represent a different mushroom--one with a non-gelatinized pileipellis and much stockier proportions; to judge from their description and photo, their concept of Hygrophorus borealis may be a better match for Hygrocybe pratensis var. pallida.
At least half a dozen other North American species names, in my opinion, are good candidates for synonymy with Hygrocybe virginea.
Further Online Information:
Hygrophorus virgineus in Hesler & Smith (1963)
Cite this page as:
Kuo, M. (2007, January). Hygrocybe virginea. Retrieved from the MushroomExpert.Com Web site: http://www.mushroomexpert.com/hygrocybe_virginea.html