Major Groups > Gilled Mushrooms > Pale-Spored > Collybioid


Collybioid Mushrooms  

[ Basidiomycetes > Agaricales > Marasmiaceae . . . ]

by Michael Kuo

"Collybioid" mushrooms are small to medium-sized saprobes, decomposing forest litter and deadwood in a wide variety of woodland ecosystems. They are gilled mushrooms with white spore prints and convex to flat caps. The gills are not waxy and thick, are not conspicuously ragged or serrated (with a few exceptions), do not run down the stem, and are not typically attached by a notch (as in Tricholoma) or a collar (as in some of the tiny species of Marasmius). The stems are not wiry or hair-like, but they are also not super thick and fleshy. Collybioid mushrooms lack partial veils, and their surfaces do not usually bruise appreciably.

Most collybioid mushrooms were placed in the genus Collybia at one time or another, but mycologists over the years have virtually emptied that genus, which now contains only three species--species that may be, ironically, a little bit small to be considered collybioid. Defining the limits of what could be considered "collybioid" can quickly degrade into tiresome nit-picking, but the genera Collybia, Dendrocollybia, Rhodocollybia, and Gymnopus form the core of the group. Other genera that I am treating, at least in part, as "collybioid" include Baeospora, Callistosporium, Calocybe, Caulhoriza, Clitocybula, Connopus, Crinipellis, Flammulina, Megacollybia, Melanoleuca, Mycetinis, Strobilurus, Tricholomopsis, and Xerula--as well as some of the larger marasmioid mushrooms.

Identification of collybioid mushrooms ranges from fairly easy to extremely difficult. You will have better luck with identification if you have a robust collection of many mushrooms, representing the various stages of development--and if you have taken notes on the ecology of your collections (what kind of woods, what kind of forest litter or deadwood, and so on). Almost any of the observable macroscopic features can be important to identification--but gill spacing and the texture of the stem surface can be very important and are worthy of careful attention.

A few collybioid species demonstrate distinctive green or even blue reactions to alkali--potassium hydroxide or ammonia--when a drop is placed on the cap or stem, and these chemical tests can facilitate the identification process. However, it is my experience that a few collybioid species that are not listed in the mycological literature as reacting to alkali do, in fact, react (Gymnopus dichrous is an example), so identifications should not rely completely on chemical reactions.

Under the microscope, the standard set of features observed in a KOH-mounted Roman aqueduct section are usually sufficient, when combined with a Melzer's reagent mount of mature spores. This is not the most thrilling group of mushrooms when it comes to microscopic features; charismatic structures are few and far between. But it's not the most boring group for microscopy, either (Tricholoma comes to mind).

DNA studies over the last decade or so have begun to sort out the collybioid genera (see especially the papers in the references list below by Hughes and collaborators, Mata and collaborators, and Wilson & Desjardin), but the area is quite large and in-depth, species-level investigations are,in great part, still on mycology's "To-Do" list.


Gymnopus dryophilus

Calocybe carnea

Baeospora myosura

Gymnopus alkalivirens

Gymnopus dryophilus

Key to North American Collybioid Mushrooms

1.Stem with a long, root-like projection that extends into the substrate; mature cap usually at least 4 cm across.

1.Stem without a root-like projection; cap variously sized.

2.Growing in eastern North America or in the Rocky Mountains.

2.Growing west of the Rocky Mountains.

3.Cap becoming wrinkled over the center; gills remaining white in age (though one species develops rusty gill edges); spores 10 µ long or longer.

3.Cap smooth; gills becoming flushed pinkish with age; spores 5.5-7 µ long.
Caulorhiza hygrophoroides

4.Stem brown, darkening with age; root-like projection fairly short; young cap convex; odor aromatic; under various conifers.

4.Stem whitish; root-like projection long (up to 30 cm); young cap conical to bell-shaped; only under redwood.

5.Mushroom growing from decayed remains of other mushrooms, and/or arising from a small knot of tissue (a sclerotium); cap small (under 3 cm across), white to grayish or brownish.

5.Mushroom growing from soil, forest litter, wood (sticks, logs, stumps, woodchips), or in grass; cap varying.

6.Stem with numerous side branches that terminate in peg-like tips.

6.Stem without side branches.

7.Mushroom growing in grass.

7.Mushroom growing from wood, woodchips, soil, cones, nut shells, leaf litter, or conifer duff.

8.Cap pink to pinkish brown, 1-3 cm across; stem pink, with white fuzz; spores inamyloid; pileipellis a cutis.

8.Cap and stem not pink; other features varying.

9.Gills distant; cap bell-shaped, becoming flat with a central bump; spores smooth and inamyloid.

9.Gills close or crowded; cap soon planoconvex or flat; spores ornamented and amyloid.

10.Mushroom growing from fallen cones or nut shells.

10.Mushroom growing from wood, woodchips, soil, leaf litter, or conifer duff.

11.Growing from shells of hickory, walnut, and other hardwoods; cap bright yellow, fading to nearly whitish; hymenial cystidia fusiform.

11.Growing from cones; cap whitish to brown; cystidia when present, varying.

12.Growing from cones of magnolia trees.
Strobilurus conigenoides

12.Growing from cones of other trees.

13.Spores tiny (under 5 µ long) and amyloid; pileipellis a cutis; on cones of various conifers across North America.

13.Spores often longer than 5 µ, inamyloid; pileipellis hymeniform; substrate and distribution varying.

14.On cones of spruces in western North America.
Strobilurus occidentalis

14.On cones of pines or Douglas-fir; distribution varying.

15.On cones of Douglas-fir in western North America (or very rarely on western pines); hymenial cystidia with large apical masses that rupture and leave "colarettes"; cap often becoming slightly pinkish.

15.On cones of eastern North American pines, western pines or Douglas-fir; cystidia without large apical masses or colarettes; cap usually not pinkish.

16.Cap medium-sized to large (4-20 cm across when mature), grayish brown to brown or nearly black, radially streaked; stem pure white; stem 1-2 cm thick, base often (but not always) attached to white rhizomorphs; spores inamyloid, ellipsoid.

16.Not completely as above.

17.Cap dry, brownish orange to orangish brown; stem densely but finely fuzzy; growing from and near hardwood debris in late spring and early summer, eastern North America; spores amyloid and smooth.

17.Not completely as above.

18.Cap and stem conspicuously hairy; cap small (usually under 3.5 cm across), whitish to brown; growing from wood (sticks, logs, stumps).

18.Cap and stem not both conspicuously hairy (though cap may be silky, or stem may conspicuously hairy in combination with a bald cap); cap size and color varying; substrate varying.

19.On wood of conifers.

19.On wood of hardwoods.

20.Found on the West Coast; cap convex to planoconvex, whitish to buff or tawny, with a darker center.

20.Found in northern North America; cap usually with a sharp central bump, brown to rusty brown.
Crinipellis campanella

21.Mature cap 1-3.5 cm across, not becoming radially grooved (although hairs may aggregate into radial patterns); KOH red to black on cap surface.

21.Mature cap 0.5-1 cm across, becoming radially grooved; KOH negative on cap surface.

22.Odor and taste strong, reminiscent of garlic or onions.

22.Odor and taste not reminiscent of garlic or onions.

23.Growing in woodchips in eastern North America; mature cap 1-5 cm across, becoming conspicuously lined/pleated.

23.Not growing in woodchips; distribution varying; cap variously sized, not becoming conspicuously lined (but perhaps developing faint lines along the margin).

24.Mature cap 3-7 cm across; gills crowded; growing on leaf litter of hardwoods east of the Rocky Mountains; pileipellis a cutis.

24.Mature cap usually under 3 cm across; gills close, nearly distant, or distant; substrate and distribution varying; pileipellis varying.

25.Stem bald; growing east of the Rocky Mountains.

25.Stem finely hairy to finely velvety, at least near the base; distribution varying.

26.On needle duff of spruces or firs; pileipellis a cutis.

26.Substrate varying; pileipellis hymeniform.

27.Growing in western North America.
Mycetinis copelandii
at MykoWeb as Marasmius copelandii

27.Growing east of the Rocky Mountains.
Mycetinis olidus
at Roger's Mushrooms
as Marasmius olidus

28.Fresh cap purple to lavender.

28.Fresh cap not purple to lavender.

29.Growing on wood.

29.Growing on the ground.

30.Gills crowded and lavender, with edges colored like the faces; fresh cap lavender.
Baeospora myriadophylla
at Roger's Mushrooms

30.Gills close and yellowish to purple, with edges becoming dark purple and contrasting at maturity; fresh cap purple.

31.Under conifers in western North America; gills yellowish; KOH negative on cap surface.

31.Under hardwoods or conifers in southeastern North America (north to Massachusetts and Missouri); gills purplish; KOH green to blue on cap surface.

32.Under conifers across North America; cap whitish, 4-12 cm; gills crowded; cap, gills, and stem developing reddish spots with age; spores nearly round, dextrinoid (at least a few).

32.Not completely as above.

33.Growing from wood (sticks, logs, stumps, woodchips, etc.).

33.Growing from soil, leaf litter, or conifer duff.

34.Flesh yellow or yellowish.

34.Flesh white, whitish, brownish, or grayish.

35.Cap reddish to purplish red.

35.Cap yellow, yellowish, olive, or yellowish brown.

36.On wood of conifers; cap covered with reddish to purplish red scruffies over a yellow base color.

36.On wood of hardwoods; cap bald and smooth.

37.Cap with small brownish to blackish scales, especially over the center.

37.Cap bald or nearly so--or if tiny scales are present, scales yellowish to olive.

38.Cap olive yellow to yellowish brown.

38.Cap clear to bright yellow.

39.Found only in the Pacific Northwest; cap margin sometimes fringed; spores 7-9 µ long.
Tricholomopsis flavissima
at Roger's Mushrooms

39.Found in the Pacific Northwest and in eastern North America; cap margin not fringed; spores 5.5-6.5 µ long.

40.Fresh cap sticky; mature stem becoming brown and velvety to finely velvety, from the base upwards.

40.Fresh cap not normally sticky; mature stem bald to hairy or scaly, but not velvety and brown.

41.Cap whitish; found in British Columbia and Alaska.
Flammulina rossica
at Univ. Tenessee

41.Cap more highly colored; variously distributed.

42.Growing at high altitude in Mexico, from buried wood of Senecio cineraroides, a woody plant.
Flammulina mexicana
at Univ. Tenessee

42.Growing elsewhere; substrate not as above.

43.Growing on the wood or buried roots of quaking aspen and other poplars in northern and montane North America; spores 6-7.5 µ long.

43.Growing on the wood of various hardwoods; widely distributed in North America; spores 7-9 µ long.

44.Cap and stem covered with dark brick red scales; cap 5-8 cm across; odor and taste strong and unpleasant.
Tricholomopsis formosa
at Roger's Mushrooms

44.Not completely as above.

45.Fresh cap whitish to buff, pale tan, or pale grayish brown.

45.Fresh cap more highly colored.

46.Usually growing in dense clusters of many mushrooms; caps pale grayish brown, streaked-looking, often with a tiny central depression; spores amyloid.

46.Growing gregariously or in loose clusters of a few mushrooms; caps white to pale tan, not streaked, convex to planoconvex; spores inamyloid.

47.Found in western North America on wood of conifers (often near melting snowbanks); cap whitish; mature stem length about equal to cap width.
Collybia bakerensis
at MykoWeb as Gymnopus bakerensis

47.Found in eastern North America on wood of hardwoods; cap buff to pale tan; mature stem long in proportion to cap.
Marasmius cystidiosus
at Roger's Mushrooms

48.Growing in dense clusters of many mushrooms on the wood of conifers; caps convex, reddish brown, soon fading to pinkish buff and then contrasting starkly with the bald, reddish stems; spores inamyloid.

48.Not completely as above.

49.Spores amyloid; cap often streaked-looking; most species (but not all) growing in dense clusters of many mushrooms.

49.Spores inamyloid or dextrinoid; cap not normally streaked; growing alone, scattered, gregariously, or in loose clusters.

50.Mature cap usually over 5 cm across, dark brown, vase-shaped; gills whitish to very pale gray, running down the stem; stem 6-12 cm tall; found in the Pacific Northwest.
Clitocybula atrialba

50.Mature cap smaller and paler than above, not vase-shaped; gills varying; stem much shorter than above; variously distributed.

51.Mature cap 2-6 cm across, gray to gray-brown; gills distant; growing in loose clusters of a few mushrooms; spores 6-8 µ long.

51.Mature cap smaller and paler than above; gills close; usually growing in dense clusters of many mushrooms; spores 3.5-6.5 µ long.

52.Spores globose, 3.5-4.5 (-5) µ long; cap not usually developing a pronounced central depression (a "belly button"); found east of the Rocky Mountains on the wood of conifers.
Clitocybula familia
at Roger's Mushrooms

52.Spores broadly ellipsoid to subglobose, 4.5-6.5 µ long; cap usually developing a pronounced central depression; ecology and distribution varying.

53.Found only on the wood of hardwoods, east of the Rocky Mountains; stem finely scaly to finely hairy overall; spores 5-6.5 µ long.
Clitocybula oculus

53.Found on the wood of hardwoods or conifers; widely distributed in North America; stem bald or finely silky near the apex; spores 4.5-6 µ long.

54.Growing from woodchips in introduced settings, usually in clusters; mature cap 4-12 cm across, dark reddish brown fading to tan; stem 0.5-1 cm thick.

54.Growing from sticks, logs, or stumps in woodland settings; cap and stem varying.

55.Cap pale (pale brown to cinnamon buff) when fresh; gills nearly distant; stem about twice as long as the cap is wide, usually grooved and finely velvety; spores narrow (5.5-8 x 2-3 µ) and inamyloid.

55.Fresh cap usually darker than above; gills, stem, and spores varying.

56.Gills usually very crowded; stem bald and pliant; cap moist to greasy when fresh; stem base attached to rhizomorphs; spores inamyloid.

56.Not completely as above.

57.Spores round or nearly so; spores (at least a few) dextrinoid.

57.Spores not round; spores dextrinoid or inamyloid.

58.Found in western North America; gills promptly pink with iron salts.

58.Found in eastern North America; gills faintly pinkish with iron salts after 10 minutes.

59.Fresh cap purple-brown; spores (at least a few) dextrinoid; spores 5.5-7 x 3-4.5 µ.

59.Cap usually not purple-brown; spores inamyloid; spore dimensions varying.

60.Found in western North America.

60.Found in eastern North America.

61.Young gills whitish; cap becoming lined nearly to the center, medium brown when young; stem inconspicuously fuzzy; cheilocystidia to about 80 µ long, often chained, apices usually lacking knoblike projections.

61.Young gills brownish; cap becoming radially wrinkled or somewhat lined about halfway to the center, dark brown when young; stem conspicuously fuzzy when fresh; cheilocystidia up to about 40 µ long, with short, knoblike projections.

62.Stem tough and finely to densely fuzzy; flesh tough; gills with age becoming pinkish and/or developing reddish spots; pileipellis a cutis.

62.Stem pliant and bald; flesh insubstantial; gills remaining whitish to creamy throughout development; pileipellis a hymeniform layer of broom cells.

63.Fresh cap yellow, orangish yellow, or yellowish (but not yellowish brown).

63.Fresh cap not yellow or yellowish.

64.Appearing in spring or early summer in eastern North America under hardwoods; gills crowded and yellow; stem base attached to pinkish rhizomorphs.

64.Appearing in summer and fall; distribution and ecology varying; gills close, whitish to yellowish or yellow; stem base not attached to rhizomorphs.

65.Cap 0.5-3 cm across, yellow to orangish yellow or bright brownish yellow; appearing under conifers in the Rocky Mountains and under alder or conifers in northern North America; spores tiny (3-4 µ long).

65.Cap larger than above--or, if under 3 cm across when mature, yellowish brown; ecology and range varying; spores longer than 4 µ.

66.Under conifers across North America; spores nearly round or ellipsoid, dextrinoid (at least a few); pileipellis a cutis.

66.Under hardwoods in eastern North America; spores ellipsoid to subfusiform, inamyloid; pileipellis varying.

67.Cap 3-7 cm across, yellow when fresh; widely distributed and common under various hardwoods east of the Rocky Mountains; pileipellis hymeniform.

67.Cap 0.5-2.5 cm across, yellowish brown; found under birch in northeastern North America; rare; pileipellis a cutis.

68.Mature stem usually at least twice as long as the width of the cap, covered with fine whitish fuzz; cap soon fading to pale tan or buff; gills crowded; often growing in loose clusters of a few mushrooms.

68.Not completely as above.

69.Mature stem typically 5 mm wide or wider.

69.Mature stem typically under 5 mm wide.

70.Cap pale brown to whitish, with a brown center, 3-11 cm; gills close or nearly distant; growing in eastern North America; pileipellis hymeniform.

70.Not completely as above.

71.Spores (or at least a few of them) dextrinoid.

71.Spores inamyloid.

72.Gills conspicuously serrated in all stages of development (reminiscent of gills in Lentinellus); growing under spruce in eastern North America; stem more or less equal (not swollen toward the base).

72.Not completely as above.

73.Odor heavy and sweet, like almonds or benzadehyde; cap at first dark purplish brown; gills staining reddish with age; stem often rooting somewhat; found on the West Coast.

73.Not completely as above.

74.Spores round or nearly so, 3.5-5 µ; found in the Pacific Northwest and northern California.

74.Spores ellipsoid, 6-10.5 x 3.5-5 µ; widely distributed in North America.

75.Cap pale (pale brown to cinnamon buff) when fresh; gills nearly distant; stem about twice as long as the cap is wide, usually grooved and finely velvety; spores narrow (5.5-8 x 2-3 µ) and inamyloid.

75.Fresh cap usually darker than above; gills, stem, and spores varying.

76.Gills usually very crowded; stem bald and pliant; mature cap up to 7.5 cm across; stem base attached to rhizomorphs; widely distributed in North America; spores 5-6.5 x 2.5-3.5 µ.

76.Gills close or nearly distant; stem whitish-fuzzy to velvety near the base; mature cap to 3.5 cm across; rhizomorphs lacking; known from Connecticut and Massachusetts; spores 8.5-10 x 3.5-4.5 µ.

77.Young gills pale to dark brown.

77.Young gills not brown.

78.Cap turning green with ammonia or KOH; stem brown, bald except for a fuzzy base; spores 5-8 x 2.5-4 µ.

78.Cap not turning green with ammonia or KOH; stem brown or whitish, finely to densely fuzzy; spores varying.

79.Spores 6-8.5 x 3.5-4 µ; cheilocystidia cylindric to clavate, with short knoblike projections; stem brownish overall; known from California.

79.Spores 9-10 x 3.5-4 µ; cheilocystidia absent; stem whitish overall; known from the Pacific Northwest and Michigan.

80.Gills conspicuously serrated in all stages of development (reminiscent of gills in Lentinellus); growing under spruce in eastern North America; spores (at least a few of them) dextrinoid.

80.Not completely as above.

81.Cap pale (pale brown to cinnamon buff) when fresh; gills nearly distant; stem about twice as long as the cap is wide, usually grooved and finely velvety; spores narrow (5.5-8 x 2-3 µ) and inamyloid.

81.Not completely as above.

82.Stem fuzzy or minutely hairy over the lower third or more.

82.Stem bald, or with only a fuzzy base and/or minute pubescence near the apex.

83.Known from California; cap 1.5-4 cm, lined nearly to the center; cheilocystidia to about 80 µ long, often chained, apices usually lacking projections; spores 8-10 x 4-5 µ`;.

83.Growing in eastern North America; cap, cheilocystidia, and spores varying.

84.Cap at first brown to reddish brown or orangish brown, but soon fading to pale tan or buff, contrasting with the darker, reddish brown stem; KOH on cap and stem surfaces strongly olive to green or black.

84.Cap brown to reddish brown or orangish brown, fading (if at all) to cinnamon or tan; KOH negative to dull olive on cap and stem surfaces.

85.Appearing in spring and early summer; stem fuzzy only over roughly the lower 1/3; gills nearly distant; hyphae of the stem encrusted with dark brown material in a water mount.

85.Appearing in late summer and fall; stem fuzzy nearly to the apex; gills close; hyphae of the stem not encrusted with dark brown material in a water mount.

86.Usually growing directly from soil; spores under 9 µ long; cheilocystidia present.

86.Usually growing from hardwood leaf litter; spores 8.5-11 µ long; cheilocystidia present or absent.

87.Known from Connecticut and Massachusetts; cheilocystidia absent; pileipellis elements mostly smooth, or inconspicuously encrusted.

87.Widely distributed and common east of the Great Plains; cheilocystidia present; pileipellis elements frequently encrusted with conspicuous brown pigment.

88.Known from California; cap brown, becoming lined and upturned, often darker in the center and lighter at the margin; odor foul, like rotting cabbage; lower stem dark brown to black; cheilocystidia absent; pileipellis a cutis with brown-encrusted elements.

88.Not completely as above.

89.Spores round or nearly so; spores (at least a few) dextrinoid.

89.Spores not round; spores dextrinoid or inamyloid.

90.Found in western North America; gills promptly pink with iron salts.

90.Found in eastern North America; gills faintly pinkish with iron salts after 10 minutes.

91.Appearing in spring and early summer in eastern North America (and reported, perhaps erroneously, from California); gills and stem pale yellow; cap very dark brown becoming reddish brown; stem attached to orangish to reddish brown rhizomorphs; pileipellis a cutis.

91.Not completely as above.

92.Pileipellis hymeniform.
Marasmioid mushrooms
(see especially the commonly collected
M. cohaerens and M. delectans)

92.Pileipellis a cutis or layer of tangled branching hyphae.

93.Found on leaf litter of birch in the northeastern United States; gills close or nearly distant; cap and stem yellowish brown; stem base without rhizomorphs; spores 9.5-11 µ long.

93.Widely distributed and common across North America; found in diverse ecosystems; gills usually very crowded; cap and stem various shades of brown; stem base attached to whitish rhizomorphs; spores 5-6.5 µ long.


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