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The Genera Volvariella and Volvopluteus  

[ Basidiomycota > Agaricales > Pluteaceae . . . ]

by Michael Kuo

The mushrooms in Volvariella and Volvopluteus have pink gills and spore prints and, as the generic names suggest, volvas at the stem base. They are saprobes, decomposing wood or woody debris (including woodchips), or growing in grass or on the forest floor.

Some Amanita species are superficially similar, but have white spore prints and frequently have rings. Since the gills of Volvariella species are whitish at first, you may need to have mature specimens to be sure you have not collected an Amanita species.

Volvariella and Volvopluteus identification ranges from fairly easy to fairly difficult, depending on the mushroom—and depending on how thoroughly you want to address all the species that have been described for North America. The key below is an attempt to strike a balance between treating only "field guide species" and a hyper-taxonomic approach; I have relied primarily on macroscopic features, with occasional reference to microscopic details.

The genus Volvopluteus was recently separated from Volvariella by Justo and collaborators (2011a, 2011b) when it turned out that Volvariella gloiocephala and like species with sticky-when-fresh caps and large spores were actually more closely related to species of Pluteus than to other, dry-capped, smaller-spored species of Volvariella. Complicating matters further, DNA studies have not supported placement of Volvariella within the Pluteaceae family (where Volvopluteus resides), where it has traditionally been placed. However, its precise positioning remains unclear as of this writing.

DNA-based investigation of North American Volvariella and Volvopluteus at the species level has not been undertaken—and there will likely be a taxonomic piper to pay once such a study is performed, since the species described for North America are an eclectic mix of broad, field-guide species with European names and little-known species described once, many decades ago, from a single collection. All of this will have to be sorted out based on thorough sampling of many well-documented, contemporary collections from across the continent, along with study of the type collections of previously known species.


Volvariella sp.

Volvariella pusilla

Volvariella hypopithys
Spore print

Key to 20+ Volvariella and Volvopluteus Species in North America

1.Growing on other mushrooms (species of Clitocybe).
Volvariella surrecta

1.Not growing on other mushrooms.

2.Growing directly from wood (stumps, logs, trees).

2.Growing terrestrially, or in compost or woodchips.

3.Mature cap less than 4 cm wide.

3.Mature cap 4 cm wide or wider.

4.Cap velvety, brownish black over the center with radial brownish black fibers elsewhere; margin not lined; stem light gray; recorded from Florida (by a more trustable source than the state's elections board).
Volvariella lepiotospora

4.Cap not velvety, gray to bluish gray with dark radial fibers; margin lined; stem white; recorded from North Carolina. (Imperfectly described species; type collection lost.)
"Volvariella cinerea"

5.Cap surface bald (not granular, silky, or hairy) and slimy; margin lined; recorded from New York.
Volvariella peckii

5.Cap surface granular, silky, or hairy, dry; margin lined or not; variously distributed.

6.Margin lined; cap surface "granular"; recorded from the Caribbean.
Volvariella jamaicensis

6.Margin not lined; cap surface silky or hairy; variously distributed.

7.Cap white or whitish.

7.Cap more highly colored.

8.Cap sooty to dark coffee-colored; recorded from Mexico, Cuba, and Puerto Rico.
Volvariella bakeri

8.Not as above. Various wood-loving Volvariellas with non-white caps may key out here. Whether or not these mushrooms represent undescribed species or mere color forms of Volvariella bombycina remains to be determined.
Volvariella spp.?

9.Mature cap medium sized to large—usually 5 cm wide or wider.

9.Mature cap small to medium-sized—usually under 5 cm.

10.Cap white or nearly so.

10.Cap more highly colored.

11.Stem with grooves; cap dry; recorded from Florida.
Volvariella canalipes

11.Stem without grooves; cap sticky to slimy when fresh; widely distributed.

12.Cap drab to grayish, gray, or brownish—but not dark brown.

12.Cap dark brown.

13.Cap sticky when fresh (ixocutis present).

13.Cap dry when fresh.

14.Spores 10.5–13.5 µm long; known with certainty from a single collection, on sawdust in Michigan, but possibly often identified as Volvopluteus gloiocephalus.
Volvopluteus michiganensis

14.Spores 13–20 µm long; widely distributed in North America.

15.Stem often with a "ring" (resulting from the collapsing of the volva); cap drab with brownish scales; spores 9–12 µm long; reported from Washington D.C. and possibly Michigan. (Imperfectly described species; type collection lost.)
"Volvariella avellanea"

15.Stem not as above; cap gray to brown, smooth to silky; spores 7–10.5 µm long; fairly common and "widely distributed" but typically reported from woodchips, greenhouses, botanical gardens, compost piles, and so on.

16.Cap bald; odor not distinctive; spores 15–20 µm long; recorded from Alabama.
Volvariella alabamensis

16.Cap with dark radiating fibrils; odor at least sometimes strong and unpleasant; spores 6–8.5 µm long; recorded from Cuba and South America.
Volvariella cubensis

17.Volva white and conspicuously hairy; cap grayish, 2.5–3.5 cm across, finely hairy; spores 6–7 µm long; found east of the Rocky Mountains.
Volvariella villosavolva

17.Volva not conspicuously hairy, white to gray or brown; cap varying; spores varying; variously distributed.

18.At least the center area of cap white (the rest of the cap variously colored).

18.Center of cap not white.

19.Cap sticky when fresh, relatively bald; spores longer than 10 µm long; cheilocystidia primarily rostrate.
Volvopluteus earlei

19.Cap dry when fresh, appressed-fibrillose or finely hairy; spores 9 µm long or shorter; cheilocystidia not usually rostrate.

20.Cap 0.5–1.5 cm across when mature; recorded from Michigan.
Volvariella pellucida

20.Cap larger than above when mature; variously distributed.

21.Stem bald; cap margin lined at maturity; primarily found east of the Rocky Mountains.

21.Stem fuzzy to hairy; cap margin not lined;widely distributed in North America.

22.Cap gray to brown, evenly colored (not markedly darker over the center portion); margin not lined; found east of the Rocky Mountains.

22.Cap grayish to brownish or whitish, with a notably darker center; margin lined or not; variously distributed.

23.Cap whitish overall with a pinkish center; margin not lined; recorded from the Pacific Northwest.
Volvariella smithii

23.Not as above.

24.Cap whitish overall with a black center; margin not lined; spores 7–8.5 µm long; recorded from Florida.
Volvariella alachuana

24.Cap grayish overall with a dark brown to blackish center; margin or nearly the entire cap lined or deeply grooved; spores 5–7 µm long; possibly widely distributed east of the Great Plains.


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Weber, R. & Webster, J. (1996). Volvariella surrecta: An uncommon mycoparasite. Mycologist 10: 160.

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Kuo, M. (2018, December). The genera Volvariella and Volvopluteus. Retrieved from the MushroomExpert.Com Web site:

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