MUSHROOMS WITH BROWN SPORE PRINTS
Spore prints of mushrooms in this group are tan, clay, ochre, brown or rusty brown but not dark brown. Assessment of the colour of spore prints is subjective. It will vary according to the thickness of the deposit and whether the print is fresh or dry. In a number of genera, the spores are distinctly red-brown and the rust-coloured spore print is an important feature for identification. Initially, you an often make a guess on the spore colour by checking the ring on the stalk, or the caps of adjacent mushrooms or plants in the vicinity. A preliminary assessment can be confirmed later by a bona fide spore print on white paper. It always makes sense when in doubt to key your specimen out in both sections of the key i.e. "rusty-spored" and "non rusty-spored".
There are many interesting fungi in this group but in general it is not highly regarded as a source of edible fungi. Pholiota species are fairly common. They are brown-spored with a ring, bright yellow to yellow-brown and are often scaly. For the most part Pholiota species are wood-rotters and are found commonly on logs or stumps but some species fruit on the ground from dead roots, buried wood and the like. Although often found in impressive fruitings, Pholiota species are not generally favoured as edibles. Pholiota squarrosa is enjoyed by some but this same species causes gastrointestinal distress in others. Also, the deadly Galerina autumnalis is very similar to the edible Pholiota mutabilis and mistakes are too easy to make! Rozites caperata is a Pholiota-like species that is considered a good edible. It has a persistent ring and attached gills but the spores are rust-brown and it is solitary or scattered on the ground and never in clumps. Hypholoma fasciculare (Sulphur Tuft) and related species grow in clusters on wood and can be confused with Pholiota by beginners but they have dark, purple-brown spore prints.
Cortinarius is one of the most frequently encountered of the rusty-spored genera and is probably one of the commonest of all the woodland fungi. Instead of a membranous inner veil which forms the ring on the stalk, Cortinarius species have a cobweb-like veil protecting the developing gills. This is seen best in young specimens. As the cap expands, the cobweb veil disappears and, at best, survives as a stain on the stalk so it is easily overlooked. With a little practice it is easy enough to recognize a Cortinarius but identification to species is another matter. There are hundreds of described species in this genus and these are often very similar in appearance. In this book, I have illustrated some Cortinarius species that are common and distinctive so that they can be identified with reasonable confidence. Most of the species of Cortinarius found will be unidentifiable. While some are regarded as edible and good (e.g. C. violaceus) other species are known to contain the deadly toxin orellanine (p 00). So, it is hard to be enthusiastic about recommending any Cortinarius species as edible. Some of the smaller, brightly coloured Cortinarius species have been separated into the genus Dermocybe.
This group contains a large number of little brown mushrooms (LBMs)
belonging to Conocybe, Inocybe, Agrocybe etc. that are known to contain toxins of one type or another. All LBMs should be avoided as edibles.