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Russula variata

[ Basidiomycetes > Russulales > Russulaceae > Russula . . . ]

by Michael Kuo

Russula variata has a cap that is usually mottled with greens and purplish pinks--though a single color can sometimes dominate completely. It is found under oaks and other hardwoods, primarily in eastern North America, and it features repeatedly forked, soft gills as well as a white spore print. The taste ranges from mild to somewhat acrid. Russula cyanoxantha is very similar, but has gills that fork less frequently and a consistently mild, rather than acrid, taste. The two mushrooms are so similar that some mycologists have considered Russula variata to be merely a variety of Russula cyanoxantha.


Ecology: Mycorrhizal with hardwoods, especially oaks--but occasionally reported (perhaps erroneously) under conifers; growing alone or gregariously; summer and fall; possibly widely distributed, but more frequently encountered in eastern North America.

Cap: 5-15 cm; round to convex when young, becoming broadly convex to flat or shallowly depressed; dry or slightly moist; fairly smooth, or sometimes becoming cracked with age; green to olive green or purplish pink--or with these and other shades mottled; the margin sometimes slightly lined in older specimens; the skin peeling fairly easily, sometimes halfway to the center.

Gills: Attached or slightly running down the stem; close or crowded; forking frequently and conspicuously, near the stem, near the cap margin, and in-between (enlarge the illustration for an example); white; occasionally spotting slightly brownish in age, but not bruising; when young soft, greasy, and flexible (un-Russula-like in this regard).

Stem: 3-10 cm long; 1-3 cm thick; white, occasionally discoloring brownish in places but not actually bruising; brittle; dry; often becoming cavernous; fairly smooth.

Flesh: White; brittle; thick.

Odor and Taste: Odor not distinctive; taste mild or, more frequently, slowly moderately acrid (be sure to include the gills in a taste test), becoming mild with age.

Chemical Reactions: KOH on cap surface negative to orangish. Iron salts on flesh and stem surface negative.

Spore Print: White.

Microscopic Features: Spores 7-11.5 x 6-8 µ; with fairly isolated warts .3-1 µ high; connectors present but not forming reticula. Pileipellis a cutis beneath a turf-like upper level of elements with variously shaped, slender tips; pileocystidia not clearly differentiated, but some hyphal tips and/or pseudocystidia may be positive in sulphovanillin; in KOH all pileipellis elements hyaline.

REFERENCES: Banning, 1881. (Burlingham, 1915; Beardslee, 1918; Kauffman, 1918; Shaffer, 1970; Smith, Smith & Weber, 1979; Kibby & Fatto, 1990; Phillips, 1991/2005; Lincoff, 1992; Metzler & Metzler, 1992; Roody, 2003; McNeil, 2006; Kuo, 2007; Binion et al., 2008.) Herb. Kuo 06239509, 09030201, 06270807.

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


Russula variata

Russula variata

Russula variata

Russula variata

Russula variata

Russula variata

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Kuo, M. (2009, March). Russula variata. Retrieved from the MushroomExpert.Com Web site: