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Stropharia, Leratiomyces & Psilocybe  

[ Basidiomycetes > Agaricales > Strophariaceae . . . ]

by Michael Kuo

The mushrooms in Stropharia and Psilocybe have been shifted around so much over the years that there's virtually no keeping up with the names. Maybe we should just create "Psilopharia" and have done with it--except that the name wouldn't reflect any natural grouping, since it turns out that what is now called "Psilocybe" actually represents at least two very different groups of mushrooms, neither of which is as closely related to Stropharia as they are to Hypholoma and Pholiota (see the Strophariaceae page for details) . . . and, we are told in a very recent paper (Bridge and collaborators, 2008), what we have called "Stropharia" must now be split into Stropharia proper and Leratiomyces. Whew!

"Leratiopsilopharias" are saprobes on dung, woody debris, or grass. They have purple-brown to purplish black spore prints, and partial veils. In Stropharia, theoretically, the partial veil is more likely to leave a ring, while species of Psilocybe are more likely to have ring zones--but this idea breaks down pretty quickly as soon as one starts trying to identify the mushrooms.

Some of the species bruise blue, especially near the stem base, and these belong to Psilocybe--or, they used to belong to Psilocybe; now mycologists aren't sure where to put them because their DNA marks them as completely separate from the other, non-bluing species of Psilocybe and Stropharia. Some species of Stropharia are large and brightly colored, but these traits are not unheard of in Psilocybe. Most species of Stropharia feature "chrysocystidia" on their gills (cystidia that stain yellowish in KOH when fresh, or appear filled with amorphous yellowish contents when revived from dried mushrooms), while most species of Psilocybe do not . . .


Stropharia thrausta

Stropharia ambigua

Stropharia ambigua

. . . and so on. I say we should just use the same strategy they recommend for merging onto the Interstate: pick a spot, accelerate, and get on the highway. Call it a Stropharia, a Psilocybe, or a Leratiomyces, but don't sit there on the ramp crying about the traffic, because we've got places to go and mushrooms to see when we get there!

My collecting experience with species of Stropharia leads me to believe that the application of KOH to the cap surface results in some fairly distinctive color reactions. Perhaps this is an area of Stropharia identification that should be explored.

  Key to about 20 North American Stropharia and Leratiomyces Taxa

Note: Mushrooms in the traditional genus Psilocybe are not included here. See the reference list below, which contains citations for several good keys to Psilocybe.

1.Fresh cap scarlet to orange.

1.Fresh cap otherwise colored (brown, tan, yellow, wine red, purplish, white, green, blue).

2.Found in woodchips, landscaping areas, waste places (and so on) in coastal California (perhaps elsewhere?); stem smooth to finely hairy.

2.Found in woods across North America; stem shaggy.

3.Cap with blue or green colors (if stem bruises blue, see Psilocybe).

3.Blue or green colors absent.

4.Gill edges colored like the faces during all stages of development; chryso-cheilocystidia abundant.

4.Gill edges often whitish at maturity, contrasting with the faces; chryso-cheilocystidia absent or very rare.

5.Cap dark green to dark blue when young, often fading to yellowish; ring fairly well developed, at least when young.

5.Cap bluish or greenish when young, but becoming whitish with faint bluish tints; ring poorly developed, even when young.
Stropharia pseudocyanea
= S. albocyanea

6.Mature cap medium sized to large; regularly greater than 5 cm in diameter.

6.Mature cap small; rarely greater than 5 cm in diameter.

7.Cap without scales, typically wine red when young, becoming brownish--but occasionally brownish when young, or in one form white in all stages of development; ring prominent and well developed, with distinctive bent-back scales or "claws" on its underside; growing in woodchips, landscaping areas, mulch, and so on; spores 11-14 x 7-9 µ.

7.Not completely as above.

8.Found in western North America (especially northern California and the Pacific Northwest); tall (mature stem 8-15 cm long); cap slimy and yellow, fringed with drooping white veil remnants on the margin.

8.Not completely as above.

9.Stem conspicuously scaly, especially when young.

9.Stem smooth, fibrillose, or slightly shaggy when young, but lacking conspicuous scales.

10.Cap yellow and dry, innately scaly ("scales" not merely veil remnants; not easily rubbed off); spores not longer than 8 µ.

10.Not completely as above.

11.Young cap purple brown to reddish brown; stem 1-2 cm thick; chrysocystidia present on gill faces.

11.Young cap yellow to orangish brown; stem .5-1 cm thick; chrysocystidia absent.
Leratiomyces squamosus

12.Found in hardwood forests in eastern North America; cap dull brownish yellow; ring thin but persistent and membranous; spores 6-7 µ long.

12.Found in western North America under aspens, cottonwoods, and alders (especially in riparian ecosystems); cap yellowish to whitish; ring fragile, soon disappearing or remaining only as a zone of fibrils; spores 13-16 µ long.
"Stropharia riparia"
see Leratiomyces percevalii

13.Young cap wine red; reported from piles of hardwood debris in flooded lowlands in Illinois and Indiana.

13.Cap otherwise colored; distribution and ecology various.

14.Stem shaggy-scaly; cap slimy, dull yellow to orangish; found in woods; spores 12-14 µ long; chrysocystidia absent.
Leratiomyces squamosus

14.Not completely as above.

15.Growing in woods.

15.Growing in grass, on dung, in woodchips, in gardens, and so on.

16.Found in western North America under aspens, cottonwoods, and alders (especially in riparian ecosystems); mature cap 3-5 cm across; spores 11-15 µ long; chrysocystidia apparently absent.
"Stropharia riparia"
see Leratiomyces percevalii

16.Not completely as above.

17.Cap whitish (sometimes with a yellowish center); fresh stem dry; reported from Michigan and California.
Stropharia albonitens

17.Cap honey yellow; fresh stem with a slimy sheath; reported near Seattle "among leaves in woods" and from Oregon "on humus under spruce."
Stropharia semigloboides

18.Ring fairly persistent, usually remaining throughout development.

18.Ring ephemeral, usually disappearing with maturity or persisting merely as a zone of fibrils.

19.Fresh, young cap whitish; spores 10-13 µ long.

19.Fresh, young cap yellow to yellowish; spores 7-11 µ long or 13-16 µ long.

20.Growing in grassy areas across North America; spores 7-11 x 4.5-5.5 µ.
Stropharia coronilla
~ = S. bilamellata

20.Growing in wood chips and in waste places on the West Coast; spores 13-16 x 7-9 µ.
"Leratiomyces magnivelaris"
see Leratiomyces percevalii

21.Fresh stem with a slimy sheath; cap convex to nearly round, but not bell-shaped; spores 15-19 µ long.

21.Not completely as above.

22.Growing in wood chips in western North America; cap 3-5 cm across, yellow becoming whitish; spores 11-15 long.

22.Not completely as above.

23.Cap 1-2.5 cm across, bell-shaped, yellowish brown with a darker center; spores 17-19 µ long.
Stropharia umbonatescens

23.Cap slightly larger than above, convex to planoconvex, paler than above; spores shorter.

24.Stem about 2 mm thick; widely distributed in North America.
Stropharia siccipes

24.Stem about 5-10 mm thick; apparently eastern in distribution.


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Bridge, P. D., B. M. Spooner, R. E. Beever & D. -C. Park (2008). Taxonomy of the fungus commonly known as Stropharia aurantiaca, with new combinations in Leratiomyces. Mycotaxon 103: 109-121.

Guzmán, G. (1980). Three new sections in the genus Naematoloma and a description of a new tropical species. Mycotaxon 12: 235-240.

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Kuo, M. (2007, October). Stropharia, Leratiomyces & Psilocybe. Retrieved from the MushroomExpert.Com Web site:

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