Deadly Webcap

Cortinarius (Cortinarius) rubellus

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By Roger Phillips

Published 2006

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Deadly Webcap Cortinarius (Cortinarius) rubellus Cooke syn. C. speciosissimus Kühner & Romagn. (illustrated 45% life size) Cap 2.5–8cm across, convex to conico-convex then expanded and umbonate; tawny to tawny-date, margin paler; covered in fine, adpressed, fibrous scales, disc soon smooth. Stem 50–110×5–15mm, 20mm wide at slightly thickened or bulbous base; concolorous with cap or paler, lower part covered in yellow patches of velar remnants; silky fibrous. Flesh pale yellowish, tinged tawny below cap cuticle and towards stem base; taste not distinctive, smell slight, faintly of radish. Gills adnate; pale ochre at first, becoming tawny to deep rust. Spores 9–12×6.5–8.5¼, broadly elliptical to subglobose, rough. Spore print rust. Habitat in damp coniferous woods, often in moss; autumn. Rare. Deadly poisonous. Note in 1979 three people camping in the north of Scotland consumed C. rubellus, mistaking it for the edible Chanterelle. Nearly two weeks later they were admitted to hospital with severe renal failure caused by the orellanin complex of toxins present in C. rubellus. As is common in cases of orellanin poisoning, one of the three recovered while the others suffered irreparable damage to their kidneys and had to be kept on dialysis until kidney donors were found. In recent years C. speciosissimus has been responsible for many deaths in Central Europe.