Major Groups > Gilled Mushrooms > Pale-Spored > Lactarius > Lactarius croceus


Lactarius croceus

[ Basidiomycota > Russulales > Russulaceae > Lactarius . . . ]

by Michael Kuo

The original author of this species, Gertrude Burlingham (1908), thought its "distinguishing fieldmarks" were "[t]he beautiful orange-cadmium color of the viscid pileus and stem, and the paler, rather distant gills, which become yellow-cadmium where wounded."

There are, however, many orange species of Lactarius—and the yellowing milk and yellow stains can be very slow to develop--so emphasis should also be placed on the association of Lactarius croceus with hardwoods in eastern North America (the similar Lactarius thyinos associates with conifers), the moderately acrid taste, the lack of green staining (eliminating the Lactarius deliciosus-like species), and the lack of potholes on the stem (similar species in the zonarius group, like Lactarius psammicola, feature potholes).

Burlingham used the Latin word for saffron (croceus) to name the species, which she first collected in Virginia. Perhaps she had saffron threads in mind, rather than the golden yellow color (Hex FBAB60) that usually results from cooking with them (think of paella, for example)—or maybe she had a "deep saffron" color (Hex FF9933) in mind, like the orange on the flag of India (which was not created until half a century later), a much better match for the mushroom.

Thanks to Walt Sturgeon for collecting, documenting, and preserving Lactarius croceus for study; his collection is deposited in The Herbarium of Michael Kuo.


Ecology: Mycorrhizal with oaks and other hardwoods; growing alone or gregariously; summer and fall; fairly widely distributed in eastern North America, but more common in the Appalachian Mountains. The illustrated and described collections are from Ohio and West Virginia.

Cap: 6–11 cm; convex with an inrolled margin when young; becoming centrally depressed, with an uplifted margin, or shallowly vase-shaped; sticky to tacky when fresh; bald, but finely rugged; pale to dark orange or brownish orange; with or without faint to moderate concentric zones of color.

Gills: Broadly attached to the stem or just beginning to run down it; close; short-gills frequent; orangish cream when young, becoming orangish with maturity; when fresh staining orangish yellow where damaged, then slowly brownish.

Stem: 3–5 cm long; 1–2 cm thick; more or less equal; bald; without potholes; dry; orangish cream to orange.

Flesh: Whitish; fairly firm; when fresh staining very slowly yellow to pale orange when sliced.

Milk: Scant; whitish; staining surfaces slowly yellow to pale orange; staining white paper yellow overnight.

Odor and Taste: Odor sharp and fragrant; taste quickly moderately acrid.

Chemical Reactions: KOH dull olive on cap surface.

Spore Print: Reported as yellowish by Hesler & Smith (1979).

Microscopic Features: Spores 7–10 x 5–7 µm; ellipsoid; ornamentation consisting of amyloid warts and ridges extending about 0.5 µm high, forming partially reticulated areas; apiculus long and inamyloid. Conspicuous hymenial macrocystidia not found. Pileipellis a thick ixocutis; hyaline in KOH; elements cylindric, 2.5–5 µm wide.

REFERENCES: Burlingham, 1908. (Hesler & Smith, 1979; Smith, Smith & Weber, 1979; Weber & Smith, 1985; Phillips, 1991/2005; Metzler & Metzler, 1992; Roody, 2003; Binion et al., 2008.) Herb. Kuo 07291201, 07171503.

This site contains no information about the edibility or toxicity of mushrooms.


Lactarius croceus

Lactarius croceus

Lactarius croceus

Lactarius croceus

Lactarius croceus

Lactarius croceus
Spores (fine focus rolled to show ornamentation height)

© MushroomExpert.Com

Cite this page as:

Kuo, M. (2016, December). Lactarius croceus. Retrieved from the MushroomExpert.Com Web site: