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Hygrocybe punicea

[ Basidiomycetes > Agaricales > Tricholomataceae > Hygrocybe . . . ]

Taxonomy in Transition: Hygrophoroid/Omphalinoid > Hygrophoraceae Group

by Michael Kuo

Hygrocybe punicea is probably the largest common species of Hygrocybe in North America, and this fact alone will help to separate it from the many smaller red and orange species. Additional distinguishing features include the dark red, greasy cap; the narrowly attached gills; and the stringy stem. The cap may be more or less convex when young, but it soon expands to broadly bell-shaped or bluntly conical. The stem is stringy enough that it soon begins to split.

If you'd like to spend many hours examining the thickness of your specimen's pileipellis and the dimensions of its spores, assessing whether its stem base is white or yellow, and figuring out the precise extent to which its gills are attached to the stem, I invite you to consider other species names for your big red waxy cap--including Hygrocybe coccinea, Hygrocybe splendissima, and Hygrocybe aurantiosplendens. I'm sure you're chomping at the bit, but before we open the gates let me mention that this race track takes a sharp turn and heads for the Outdated Morphospecies Glue Factory. You will be much happier munching Hygrocybe punicea in a nice, quiet meadow somewhere while mycologists await ecology- and DNA-based studies.


Ecology: Saprobic under hardwoods or conifers; frequently under Redwood on the West Coast; growing scattered or gregariously; spring through fall, or in winter in warmer climates; probably widely distributed in North America (I have used the name Hygrocybe punicea for collections under redwood in California, under Beech and Hemlock in Kentucky, and in a hemlock bog in northern Michigan).

Cap: 3-15 cm; broadly convex, soon expanding to broadly bell-shaped or bluntly conical (or eventually more or less flat); greasy or thinly slimy when fresh; very finely rugged or even veined when viewed with a hand lens; dark red, fading to brownish red, orangish red, or buff.

Gills: Narrowly attached to the stem; distant or nearly so; thick and waxy; buff to reddish or orangish; often with yellowish edges.

Stem: 3-15 cm long; up to 1.5 cm thick; equal or slightly tapering at either end; dry; stringy; usually soon splitting and becoming finely hairy; a mixture of orange, yellow, and/or red; usually paler than the cap; often with a whitish base.

Flesh: Thin; yellowish, or whitish near the center.

Odor and Taste: Not distinctive.

Spore Print: White.

Microscopic Features: Spores 7-11 x 4.5-5.5 µ; smooth; more or less elliptical. Cystidia absent. Gill tissue parallel, with somewhat inflated elements. Pileipellis an ixotrichoderm and/or an ixocutis.

REFERENCES: (Fries, 1821) Kummer, 1871. (Hesler and Smith, 1963; Bird & Grund, 1979; Largent, 1985; Arora, 1986; Barron, 1999; Boertmann, 2000; Roody, 2003; McNeil, 2006.) Herb. Kuo 01130504, 01160501, 10150500.

Hygrophorus puniceus is a synonym.

Further Online Information:

Hygrophorus puniceus in Hesler & Smith (1963)
Hygrocybe punicea at MykoWeb
Hygrocybe punicea at Roger's Mushrooms


Hygrocybe punicea

Hygrocybe punicea

Hygrocybe punicea

Hygrocybe punicea

Hygrocybe punicea

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Kuo, M. (2007, January). Hygrocybe punicea. Retrieved from the MushroomExpert.Com Web site: