When: 2009-01-19

Collection location: Mariposa Co., California, USA [Click for map]

Who: Brian (chilcottb)

Specimen available

OK, friends, I am new to mycology. Though a trained biologist, forgive me if my mysteries are sometimes grossly obvious to you seasoned veterans. I have been studying and attempting to identify the wonderful flora of the Sierra Nevada, as I now live in the western foothills.

This large lavender colored mushroom has me utterly mystified. I have collected four fruiting bodies and none have produced spore prints, though the gills otherwise seem mature. The gills are decurrent, white, tinted pink along the margins, and the flesh surface is also lavender / pink. The interior flesh is white. The stalk is fibrous, features darker purplish-brown scales, and in at least one specimen was somewhat hollow. When washed, they turn yellow and as they dry, return to lavender. When cooked, they turn permanently yellow. The caps exceed 10cm and seem to key out to Lepista. They were all growing in a group under a canyon live oak in the company of various Tricholoma sp., Lactaria sp., and Hebeloma crustuliniforme.

While the photos were taken in my kitchen and I did indeed cook the small cap, I dared not taste this mystery mushroom (though it smells pleasantly mild, both fresh and cooked).

I would be delighted if anyone can help me with this identification.

[admin – Sat Aug 14 02:02:41 +0000 2010]: Changed location name from ‘Mariposa Co. California, 2000’ el.’ to ‘Mariposa Co., California, USA’


Fresh specimens with lavender coloration
Observe yellow margin of washed specimen
Observe yellow cap of cooked specimen

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yellowing of cap another nice confirmation of H. russula.
By: Debbie Viess (amanitarita)
2009-01-25 21:06:44 IST (+0530)

Altho I have never seen it myself, or heard tell of it from others, Arora does indeed mention yellowing of the cap in this species of purplish Hygrophorus.
Nice splash upon our Mushroom Observer scene, Brian! Sometimes it takes an “untrained” eye to see something new, and teach us old dogs new tricks…

Interesting yellowing
By: Christian (Christian Schwarz)
2009-01-25 14:27:19 IST (+0530)


Nice photos! Good job recording the important features of your fungal find (including habitat and especially the fungi it was growing with – I love that kind of data). The color change upon washing/cooking is interesting – most people I know have not washed or cooked this species.

If you used Mushrooms Demystified, my best guess is that your wrong turn happened at couplet #9 of Arora’s key to the Agaricales (on page 59 of the second edition). The key reads:

9. Gills soft and clean, with a waxy appearance or texture, cap often brightly colored…etc.
9. Not as above, gills not normally waxy…

Your specimen is a great species to use in developing a feel for “waxiness” of the gills; an admittedly subjective character. H. russula shows this feature quite well when you run a finger along the gills. The gills of many Russula will break when you do this, and non- Hygrophorus agaricales tend to feel thinner and more watery, less like paper coated in candle wax.

Once you select the first choice in the couplet, you get to the Hygrophoraceae, and from there you can reach H. russula quite easily (I just ran through the key using pretty much only your notes).

Note that habitat is important here! The somewhat similar H. purpurascens grows with conifers.
Hope to see more good pictures and notes on fungal partners-in-fruiting.