Practical (Traditional) Mushroom Taxonomy



Some WHITE-SPORED mushrooms (Part One)

[Names below are primarily those found in the Audubon Guide]

Pleurotus s.l.

Armillaria s.l.


Lepiota s.l.

Cantharellus s.l.



[Note: s.l. = sensu lato = in the broad sense, the traditional sense of a formerly large genus concept

s.s. = sensu stricto = in the narrow sense, the restricted sense of the genus as it is now recognized]

Preliminary KEY to some WHITE-spored GILLED MUSHROOMS

1 On wood, stem absent, lateral or eccentric….PLEUROTUS s.l.

1 Not as above……………………………………………………………………2

2 On the ground; ring on stem or cup at base or both present3

2 No ring or cup present……………………………………………………..5

3 Gills free………………………………………………………………………….4

3 Gills attached to stem; on wood…………………ARMILLARIA s.l.

4 Cup present or as removable warts on cap…………..AMANITA

4 No cup or removable warts on cap………………….LEPIOTA sl.

5 Gills decurrent & forked………………………..CANTHARELLUS s.l.

5 Not as above……………………………………………………………………6

6 Gills attached and latex present…………….………….LACTARIUS

6 Gills attached and brittle; no latex present……………RUSSULA

6 Not as above (see following KEY (next week)  for Clitocybe., Collybia,

Hygrophorus,. Laccaria, Marasmius., Mycena, and Tricholoma)


PLEUROTUS s.l. [Some segregate genera & look-alikes]

The mushroom could be:

1 Pleurotus s.s.….medium to large, stalkless or lateral

e.g., P. ostreatus

2 Hypsizygus….large mushroom with eccentric stem, high up on elm trees

e.g., H. ulmarius

3 Ossicaulis…..medium mushroom, chalk white, eccentric stem, often found inside hollowed out trees

e.g., O. lignatilis

4 Panellus…..small mushroom, stem stub-like, gills brown on P. stipticus; cap greenish yellow on larger, late fall P. serotinus

e.g., P. stipticus, P. serotinus

5 Panus / Lentinus….tough fleshy eccentric-stalked mushroom, often hairy, some with red to purplish tints

e.g., P. rudis (L. strigosus), P. conchatus, L. levis

6 Lentinellus…stem absent, cap hairy, gills serrated, taste bitter

e.g., L. ursinus

7 Hohenbuehelia….cap with gelatinous layer, mostly on wood

e.g., H. mastrucata

8 Resupinatus…..small mushroom, black with black gills

e.g., R. applicatus

9 Phyllotopsis (pinkish spore print)..stalk absent, orange, fetid

e.g., P. nidulans


ARMILLARIA s.l. [excluding A. tabescens, which is ringless]

1 Armillaria mellea complex…single to clustered at base of stumps or on buried wood, cap with blackish hairs in center

2Tricholoma caligatum….(formerly an Armillaria)…smooth cap, ring on stem, under oaks, sometimes fragrant, bitter

3 Pleurotus dryinus…..white; on wood, veil fragments on cap margin and ring zone on upper stem

4 Cystoderma….some species have a partial veil leaving a ring on the stem or legging-like sleeve about lower stem (maybe resembling a small Lepiota but with attached gils)



There are 6 sections of Amanita:

1 Section Vaginata [cap margin striate, ring present or absent, but sack-like cup about base]

e.g., A. caesarea (jacksonii), A. vaginata

2 Section Amanita [cap margin striate, ring present, cup about base appressed or sock-like, not flaring at top]

e.g., A. muscaria, A. gemmata (crenulata)

3 Section Amidella [cap margin smooth, ring absent, cup about base sack-like]

e.g., A. volvata

4 Section Phalloides [cap margin smooth, ring present, cup sack-like]

e.g., A. phalloides, A. virosa (bisporigera)

5 Section Validae [ cap margin smooth, ring present, cup powdery to swollen but not sack-like]

e.g., A. brunnescens, A. citrina, A. flavoconia, A. rubescens

6 Section Lepidella [cap margin smooth, cap white to gray adorned with pyramidal warts, ring present or as remnants about cap margin, stem base with scales left from universal veil]

e.g., A. cinereopannosa, A. cokeri


LEPIOTA s.l. [Lepiota has been divided into several genera]

1 Chlorophyllum (Green-spored)

e.g., C. molybdites [green-spored]

2 Lepiota s.s. (small mushrooms with scaly cap)

e.g., L. .cristata, L. acutesquamosa

3 Leucoagaricus (medium to large, cap smooth to scaly)

e.g., L. naucina (= L. leucothites), L. americana

4 Leucocoprinus (small to medium, often powder-covered)

e.g., L. cepaestipes, L. lutea (birnbaumii)

5 Macrolepiota (tall and slender mushrooms, scaly cap)

e.g., L. procera complex


CANTHARELLUS s.l. (A number of cantharelloid genera)

1 Cantharellus s.s.….small to medium, orange to cinnabar, solid, fragrant, some under oaks, others pine

e.g., C. “cibarus,” C. cinnabarinus, C. minor

2 Craterelllus (in part)…mushroom yellow, hollow stem

e.g., C. tubaeformis

3 Hygrophoropsis (on wood)…at base of conifer stumps

e.g., H. aurantiaca

4 Cantharellula (in moss)….small, gray, in hair-cap moss beds

e.g., C. umbonata

5 Gomphus…..medium to large, vase-shaped, red to orange

e.g., G. floccusus



There are 6 common sections of Lactarius

1Section Deliciosus……latex orange, blue, red

e.g., L. deliciosus, L. indigo

2 Section Volemus…..latex white and abundant, mushrooms orange to yellow-brown

e.g., L. corrugis, L. hygrophoroides, L. volemus

3 Section Lignyotus….latex white but staining flesh pink, cap and stem typically brown

e.g., L. lignyotus, L. gerardii

4 Section Albati…..latex white, mushrooms white

e.g. L. piperatus, L. deceptivus, L. vellereus

5 Section Rufus…..latex white to clear; bitter to mild, often fragrant

e.g., L. rufus, L. camphoratus, L. helvus

6 Section Chrysorheus…..latex white becoming yellow or purple or cap woolly

e.g., L. vinaceorufescens, L. torminosus



There are 4 common sections of Russula

1 Section Compacta…

e.g., R. brevipes, R. compacta, R. nigricans

2 Section Foetens….cap margin striate, smell almond bec. foul

e.g., R. foetens complex, R. laurocerasi, R. fragrantissima

3 Section Mariae…..cap pruinose or opaque, taste mild

e.g.,  R. mariae, R. crustosa, R. xerampelina

4 Section Emetica….cap red, viscid/shiny, flesh hot-acrid

e.g., R. emetica, R. silvicola, R. krombholzii (vinosa)


Practical Taxonomy: GILLED MUSHROOMS

Some WHITE-SPORED mushrooms (Part Two)

[Names below are primarily those found in the Audubon Guide, along with photos & descriptions]










[Note: s.l. = sensu lato = in the broad sense, the traditional sense of a formerly large genus concept.

s.s. = sensu stricto = in the narrow sense, the restricted sense of the genus as it is now recognized.]


Preliminary “KEY” to some WHITE-spored GILLED MUSHROOMS with NO ring on the stem or cup or veil remnants about stem base and gills ATTACHED to the stem. [For Cantharellus s.l., Lactarius, and Russula SEE Part One] –


1 Medium to large mushrooms with cap & stem fleshy, gills decurrent: CLITOCYBE s.l.

2 As above but mostly small mushrooms with attached gills: LACCARIA

3 As above but  with gills attached by a notch: TRICHOLOMA s.l.

4 Small to medium mushrooms with cap and stem fleshy and gills thick-edged and appearing waxy, various attached, some decurrent……HYGROPHORUS s.l.

5 Cap fleshy, flattening out on maturity, but stem cartilaginous: COLLYBIA s.l.

6 Cap fleshy, conical, not flattening out, and stem fragile, mostly on wood: MYCENA s.l.

7 Cap fleshy flattening out, stem flexible, bendable or stiff, hair-like: MARASMIUS s.l.



CLITOCYBE s.l. was traditionally recognized as a medium to large fleshy mushroom with a white spore print and gills that descend or angle down the stem somewhat. The genus has been broken up again and again, so that now we have a large number of genera, each containing a small number of species. Included in our area are:

AMPULLOCLITOCYBE clavipes (the late fall Fat-footed Clitocybe, which used to be called Clitocybe clavipes).

ARMILLARIA tabescens (the Ringless Honey Mushroom, which used to be called Clitocybe monadelpha).

CLITOCYBE s.s. A group of ground-inhabiting decomposers, including:

Clitocybe dealbata complex [the poisonous “sweater” – as in ‘makes you sweat’ mushroom]

Clitocybe gibba (a medium sized tan vase-shaped mushroom with deeply decurrent gills)

Clitocybe odora [the light blue, anise-scented Clitocybe)

Clitocybe robusta….this species or something like it can be parasitized by a small pink-spored gilled mushroom, Volvariella surrecta. (seen in Westchester Cty., fall 2013)

LYOPHYLLUM decastes (the Fried Chicken Mushroom, which used to be called Clitocybe multiceps).

OMPHALOTUS illudens (the Jack O’lantern mushroom, which used to be called Clitocybe illudens, then Omphalotus olearius).


COLLYBIA s.l. was traditionally recognized as a medium to small mushroom with a white spore print and a fleshy cap and cartilaginous stem (snaps like a chicken bone). Only a few species are still recognized in this genus now, while the great majority have been assigned to other genera, including:

COLLYBIA s.s. is a genus that includes just a couple of species, including two in our area that are tiny, white mushrooms that grow out of tuber-like sclerotia that grow out of old, blackened polypores: C. cookei and C. tuberosa.

CRINIPELLIS is a small segregate genus that includes species with caps adorned with hairs in noteable patterns

CYPTOTRAMA asparata (formerly Cyptotrama chrysopeplum and Collybia lacunosa).

FLAMMULINA velutipes (formerly Collybia velutipes)

GYMNOPUS now contains the lion’s share of species formerly assigned to Collybia.

HYMENOPELLIS furfuracea (formerly Xerula, Oudemansiella, and Collybia radicata)

MEGACOLLYBIA rodmani (formerly Tricholomopsis platyphylla and Collybia platyphylla)

MELANOLEUCA alboflavida (formerly a Collybia because of its fleshy cap and cartilaginous stem).

RHODOCOLLYBIA butyracea and R. maculata (formerly species of Collybia) have a cream-pink spore print and dextrinoid spores.


CUPHOPHYLLUS is a segregate genus that includes C. pratensis and C. virgineus.

HUMIDICUTIS is the segregate genus that includes H. marginata

HYGROCYBE is the major segregate genus of brightly colored, mostly small or slender species, including H. conica, H. flavescens, and H. miniata.

HYGROPHORUS s.s. is now restricted to mycorrhizal species, mostly large, fleshy, often dull colored, including H. hypothejus, H. olivaceoalbus, and H. russula.


LACCARIA is a relatively small genus of mycorrhizal species, at one time included in a really broad concept of Clitocybe. The species in our area include: L. amethystina (the small, purple Laccaria), L. laccata complex (which includes several really small orange-brown species), L. ochropurpurea, the largest species in the genus, the one with the white cap and stem and purple gills (looking to some like a Cortinarius wannabe), and L. trullisata, the one that grows along sandy beaches.



MARASMIUS s.s. is a genus of ground or wood-inhabiting decomposers, still a genus of small mushrooms with stems that are flexible, that is, bendable. M. oreades, the Fairy-ring Mushroom of lawns, is one type in the genus, but some occur on wood, have almost hair-thin stems, and tiny caps.

TETRAPYRGOS nigripes used to be Marasmius nigripes, then Marasmiellus nigripes. It’s found every year in our area, and is recognized by its appearance on wood and its blackish stem. Its name comes from its spores, which are 4-sided.

MYCENA s.l. (including species of Omphalia s.l.): all decomposers…

CHROMOSERA cyanophylla used to be Omphalia lilacifolia, then a Mycena.

GERRONEMA strombodes used to be an Omphalia, then a Clitocybe. A slight, slender-stemmed yellow mushroom with deeply decurrent gills.

MYCENA s.s. is still a large genus of mostly small mushrooms that occur on wood, with a few exceptions, that have conical caps and slender, fragile stems.

OMPHALINA epichysium used to be a Clitocybe but is Mycena-like, occurs on wood, is small, pale brown cap and has white decurrent gills.

RICKENELLA fibula (formerly Omphalia fibula, then a Mycena).

XEROMPHALINA campanella (formerly Omphalia campanella).



CLITOCYBE NUDA used to be considered a species of Tricholoma (T. personatum or T. nudum) because the gills are not decurrent, like a Clitocybe, but attached and notched, as is typical of Tricholoma. Species around C. nuda were transferred for a while to the genus Lepista, but DNA sequencing has shown species in the genus Lepista are nicely nested within the Clitocybe clade.

TRICHOLOMA s.s.  A genus restricted now to only mycorrhizal species. This usually fall to late fall genus has species that are white spored mushrooms with fleshy caps and stems and gills that are notched at the stem (that is, not decurrent, but attached to the stem by dipping down towards it, then up to where it attaches to the stem).

Other genera are not found in our area or are uncommon or rare here.