Honey Fungus or Boot-lace Fungus Armillaria mellea

Appears in

By Roger Phillips

Published 2006

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Honey Fungus or Boot-lace Fungus Armillaria mellea (Vahl) P. Kumm. (illustrated 35% life size) Cap 3–12cm across, very variable, convex then flattened and centrally depressed or wavy; yellow-ochre or tawny to dark brown, often with an olivaceous tinge; covered in darker, fibrillose scales, especially at the centre. Stem 60–150×5–15mm, often tapering towards the base; yellowish, becoming reddish-brown at the base; initially with a thick, cottony, whitish to yellow ring. Flesh white; taste astringent, smell strong. Gills white then yellowish, becoming pinkish-brown and often darker-spotted with age. Spores 8–9×5–6¼, elliptical. Spore print pale cream. Habitat in dense clusters on or around trunks or stumps of deciduous or coniferous trees, especially hazel; summer to early winter. Very common. Edible when cooked, but should only be eaten in small amounts, as some forms are known to cause stomach upsets. Note the fungus spreads by long, black cords called rhizomorphs, resembling bootlaces. These can be found beneath the bark of infected trees, on roots, or in the soil, where they can travel large distances to infect other trees. This is one of the most dangerous parasites of trees, causing an intensive white rot and ultimately death; there is no cure, and the fungus is responsible for large losses of timber each year.