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Pluteus cervinus: The Deer Mushroom

[ Basidiomycetes > Agaricales > Pluteaceae > Pluteus . . . ]

by Michael Kuo

The deer mushroom is widely distributed and common in North America. It is fairly easily recognized by its growth on wood, its free gills that begin whitish but soon become pink, its brownish cap, and its medium size. It is not picky about what kind of wood it grows on--nor is it very picky about when it will fruit, appearing from spring to fall and even in winter in warmer climates.

The deer mushroom's common name is a rough translation of its Latin species name, cervinus. However, the reference is not to its brown colors or woodland habitat, nor a suggestion that it is a favored munchy for Bambi; instead, it is a recognition that the mushroom has antlers! Okay, so you need a microscope to see them--but the cystidia (special cells on the gills) are "horned," with two or more projections at the tip (see the illustration). Observing this feature is probably not required to identify the mushroom successfully, but it is required if you want to brag about how many "points" were on the "buck" you bagged.


Ecology: Saprobic on the wood of hardwoods and conifers; growing alone, scattered, or gregariously; spring through fall; common and widely distributed in North America.

Cap: 3-15 cm; convex becoming broadly convex to flat; pale to dark brown; smooth and glossy to streaked with fibers; slightly sticky when wet.

Gills: Free from the stem; white, soon becoming pink and finally deep flesh color; crowded or close.

Stem: 5-13 cm long; .5-2.5 cm thick; more or less equal; sometimes enlarging slightly to base; white; sometimes streaked with brownish fibers.

Flesh: Soft and white throughout.

Odor and Taste: Taste mild or, more frequently, radishlike; odor not distinctive or radishlike.

Spore Print: Pink to pinkish brown.

Microscopic Features: Spores 5-8 x 4-6 µ; elliptical; smooth. Cystidia with thick walls and apical projections ("horns").

Pluteus atricapillus is a synonym.

REFERENCES: (Schaeffer, 1774) Kummer, 1871. (Saccardo, 1887; Kauffman, 1918; Smith, 1949; Singer, 1956; Smith, Smith & Weber, 1979; Weber & Smith, 1985; Arora, 1986; Phillips, 1991/2005; Lincoff, 1992; Metzler & Metzler, 1992; Horn, Kay & Abel, 1993; Evenson, 1997; Barron, 1999; Roody, 2003; McNeil, 2006; Miller & Miller, 2006; Kuo, 2007; Binion et al., 2008.) Herb. Kuo 04289501, 06160204, 04290301, 05010304, 09280505, 05020603, 04200701.

Further Online Information:

Pluteus cervinus at Tom Volk's Fungi
Pluteus cervinus at MykoWeb
Pluteus cervinus at Roger's Mushrooms


Pluteus cervinus

Pluteus cervinus

Pluteus cervinus

Pluteus cervinus

Pluteus cervinus

Pluteus cervinus

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Cite this page as:

Kuo, M. (2004, December). Pluteus cervinus: The deer mushroom. Retrieved from the MushroomExpert.Com Web site: