Visual Index

Appears in



By Roger Phillips

Published 2006

These pages show the major genera and are a simple visual aid for readers new to mycology, to give them a rough idea as to where to begin searching. In a sense it is a tiny generic book within the book. The genera are displayed in the order that they appear.

Russula The Brittlegills, a large genus of gilled mushrooms. The caps are convex at first, then almost flat. Many are brightly coloured red, purple, yellow, or green. The stems are simple, without ring or volva. The gills have a geometric look and are brittle, hence the common name.

Lactarius The Milkcaps, the most important characteristic of which is that they all exude droplets of milk (lactate) from the gills and flesh when damaged. The colour of the milk and whether it discolours after a time are important in identification. The flesh is granular and will break easily,

Hygrocybe The Waxcaps are small and brightly coloured mushrooms. The caps are often conical in shape, red, yellow, green or white, and normally greasy to slimy. The gills are waxy to the touch and may bruise blackish when damaged. They are found on lawns and grassland.

Mycena The common name is Bonnet, and the generic name comes from the bonnets worn by the Mycenae in ancient Greece. They have small, bell-shaped caps on long, delicate stems. Some exude a juice when the stem is broken. Some species are found on rotting wood, some on leaf-litter.

Clitocybe Now called Funnel, previously known as Funnel Caps. The caps are often funnel-shaped with an umbo. Some have strong, distinctive smells of meal or aniseed. The gills are decurrent (running down the stem), often strongly so.

Melanoleuca The common name is Cavalier. They have broad, flat caps with a central umbo. The stem flesh may be dark and streaky. Some fruit very early in the season, from late spring onwards.

Laccaria The common name is Deceiver, because the cap colours can be variable from wet or fresh to dry and old; thus you may be unsure of your determinations until you are familiar with them. They are found in woods or on heaths, growing on the ground.

Tricholoma The common name is Knight. The stems have no ring, with two exceptions. It is important to note the quality of the cap surface – greasy, dry, scaly, or hairy. Some have strong smells; this may be observed only when the mushroom is cut or crushed. They fruit late in the season.

Marasmius The common name is Parachute, and some resemble tiny umbrellas. Usually small, often tiny, they have tall, thin stems. They are tough and leathery, and if dried out they will revive on wetting. They are found on dead twigs, grass, or leaf-litter.

Collybia Known as the Toughshanks, their most distinctive feature is the tough, fibrous, flexible stems, which lack ring or volva. The gills are often rather crowded, never decurrent. Some have strong smells. They are found on the ground in woodland.

Macrolepiota The colour and type of scales on the cap are important. All have rings on the stem. The gills are normally white and free from the stem. Some have flesh that discolours red when cut or bruised, and smells are important. Lepiota species are much smaller; their common name is Dapperling.

Amanita An important genus, which includes some extremely poisonous species. All have a volva at the stem base, which may be large and floppy or less distinct; the volva also often leaves patches on the cap surface. Some have rings, those without a ring have the common name Grisette.

Lepista Commonly known as Blewits, many are edible and choice. They have a simple stem without a ring. The distinctive character is the pink spores, noticeable as a pink flush on the gills as they mature. Some members of this genus grow in grassland, others in woodland.

Entoloma The common name is Pinkgill. This genus includes many species that in the past were considered in separate genera, such as Nolanea and Leptonia; it follows that species are of very different sizes, habitats, and appearance. Note any very interesting smells.

Pluteus The common name for this genus is Shield. The gills are free, and you will be able to see them turning pink (due to the pink spore deposit) in mature specimens. Nearly all grow on wood or wood debris.

Cortinarius The common name is Webcap, because one of the distinguishing characteristics is the cobweb-like attachment between the cap and the stem (the cortina). The larger species have sticky caps and/or stems; small ones may be hygrophanous. The gills turn rust-red as the spores mature.

Pholiota The common name for these is Scalycap. The caps are mostly yellow to orange, the spore print is rusty brown. They are found growing on stumps or branches of trees, or on wood debris or sawdust, often forming clumps.

Hebeloma The common name is Poisonpie. The caps are cream or brownish, often viscid or slimy. The stems are fibrous, often with a granular surface. The smells may only be apparent on cutting or bruising. The gills turn dull fawn-coloured as the pinkish-brown spores mature.

Inocybe The common name is Fibrecap. They are small, dull-coloured mushrooms with conical or umbonate caps. Note whether there is a bulb at the stem base. Many have interesting smells. Most cannot be determined without microscopic examination of the tobacco-brown spores. The whole genus contains toxins.

Hypholoma The common name for larger species growing on wood is Tuft, while smaller species are called Brownie. The spore print is dark brown. Most grow in clusters on dead wood. Some, like the prolific Sulphur Tuft, are very common.

Agaricus The common name is simply Mushroom. Many species discolour yellowish, pinkish, or red when bruised or cut. Some have interesting smells. The young gills are pink or white. The spores are dark brown to blackish-purple. Most are edible, but beware those bruising bright yellow.

Psathyrella The common name is Brittlestem. Many of the species in this large genus are difficult to determine. The stems usually have a mottled silvery appearance; all parts of the fungus are very brittle. The spore print is dark blackish-brown to violaceous-black.

Coprinus The common name is Inkcap. The crowded, parallel-sided gills deliquesce to allow the shedding of mature black spores, which results in the dripping black, inky fluid from which the genus gets its name. They grow on wood, dung, and the ground.

Panaeolus The common name is Mottlegill. The caps are normally conical; the black spores tend to mature rather unevenly, giving mottled blackish tones to the gills. They are found on grassland, especially well-manured grassland.

Pleurotus The common name is Oyster, from the shell-like cap. They grow on wood in layers, with short and usually lateral stems. The gills are normally distinctly decurrent. The spore print varies in colour from white to pale lilac. Some are very good to eat.

Gomphidius The common name for this group is Spike. They are related more closely to the Boletes, which have pores, than to other gilled fungi. The caps are normally very glutinous. They are found in conifer woods.

Cantharellus The Chanterelles are an important group of edible mushrooms, distinguished by the primitive gills, which are often no more than folds on the lower surface of the cap. Harvests have declined in recent years, possibly due to acid rain; for this reason care should be taken not to over-collect.

Boletus The Boletes are mushrooms with pores and tubes instead of gills. The tubes are easily separated from the cap, which helps to distinguish these from the stemmed polypores. Many are edible and good. Closely related are Leccinum, with tall stems, and Suillus, with glutinous caps.

Polyporus One of the main genera of Polypores or Bracket fungi. All brackets grow on old trees, but contrary to general opinion rarely do harm to their hosts. They have pores and tubes rather than gills. Note the tree species they are found, on as many species are tree specific.

Hydnum One of the Hedgehog fungi, which have spines rather than gills. There are a few allied genera, normally with very short stems growing close to the ground. There are also rather rare species that grow on trees.

Lycoperdon A member of the Puffballs and their allies, known colloquially as the stomach fungi. The spore material is contained within the body of the fungus, and is released when the case splits open or is broken. Many of the species are edible if the inner material is white and immature.

Clavaria One of the Coral or Spindle fungi, a large group of fungi often resembling ocean corals. The spores form on the surface and fall when mature. Closely allied is Ramaria, which grows in much larger clumps. They grow on the ground in woods, on heaths, or in grass.

Morchella Morels are our first genus from the Ascomycetes group of fungi. They have long been considered one of the most important edible fungi, second only to truffles. All morels need to be cooked before serving; if eaten raw, they may cause stomach upsets.

Peziza A member of the Cup fungi. If you puff warm breath on to a fresh, mature specimen a cloud of spores will be expelled. They grow on the ground or on wood, from spring to autumn.

Tuber The Truffles. This genus has many species in Europe, mostly small and insignificant, but it includes the much-sought-after edible truffles. In Britain the main species is Tuber aestivum, the Summer Truffle. All are found just below the soil surface in association with trees.