Agrocybe cylindracea

Tree loving – The Poplar Fieldcap

To be honest, I don’t really see many Fieldcaps, scientifically known as Agrocybes (Agro meaning Field and cybe meaning cap/head). Many have a fruiting season from late spring through to autumn, hence they are very conspicuous when seen during the summer months, when there is little about. And to add as an update/note (May 2017): This species is now classified as Cyclocybe cylindracea)

Agrocybe speciesThis is my second find in the same month of two different species of Agrocybe, but I’ll focus on the latter example here. Although its common name suggests its habitat, the Poplar Fieldcap (Agrocybe cylindracea or Cyclocybe cylindracea) only grows in association with trees, namely Poplar and Willow – just like our native Black Poplar as in this case. (More info on identifying the Black Poplar here). It’s really not that common but has an ‘all year round’ season, and rather than being seen with trees, it can also be found out of its natural surroundings such as on rotting wood mulch and garden chippings.

I found this small collective at a local park that seemed to be growing in the grass, near a Poplar tree. As I always say, check out the environment, because at first glance some things can be deceptive. On closer inspection, the stem bases were actually attached to the gnarly roots just hiding beneath the grass, embedded slightly deeper in the soil. This fact alone helped as a great clue to its identity.

I caught them a little late though. When younger (as you will see in some of the pictures below) the whitish/pale buff caps are rounded and smooth and range from 4cm to 6cm across. After a short time the caps expand (up to 10cm approximately) and often dry out to leave a ‘crazed’ surface pattern and the margin often becomes wavy and split. Initially the adnate (or slightly decurrent) gills are pale but soon mature to dark tobacco-brown as the spores mature. These mature spores will fall onto the persistent ring beneath, leaving a dirty brown stain on the upper side.

Although edible I don’t hear much about what people think about them. I simply assumed they were just not held in any high regard. But after sampling a couple of the younger, more fleshy samples, I was pleasantly surprised. The smell and taste is typically ‘mushroomy’ but much milder with a ‘nutty’ hint. Very nice indeed. I would definitely recommend them.

So, for a species that isn’t terribly common I was lucky to find these… Well, actually I was told about them by a friend. It’s pays off when you ask all your friends and family to keep a look out. All those extra pairs of eyes are very useful. Happy hunting.

Polar Fieldcap images

Top: Notice the spores that have dropped onto one of the younger caps, leaving a dark brown stain. A.cylindracea often grow in tight overlapping groups. The cap flattens out with age and splits at the margin. As it loses moisture and dries out, it develops a ‘crazed’ surface pattern.

QUICK ID TABLE: POPLAR FIELDCAP Agrocybe cylindracea / Cyclocybe cylindracea

CAP / FLESH

4-10cm across. Pale. Whitish with yellow-brown centre. Darker with age or brown from spore deposits of other mushrooms. Rounded at first, maturing flat and often cracking.

STEM

5-10cm x 1-1.5cm. Creamy white. Darkening with age. Persistent ring often coloured brown on the upper side by falling spores.

GILLS / SPORE PRINT

Adnate or slightly decurrent. Initially cream, maturing to tobacco brown colour.
Spore Print: Tobacco brown (see how to take a spore print here).

HABITAT / SEASON

In groups, sometimes overlapping, growing with Poplar and Willow. All year.

EDIBILITY

Edible. Mild and slightly nutty flavour.

Poplar Fieldcap Sketch

8 replies
  1. Francois MAGUIN
    Francois MAGUIN says:

    Hello Mr Harris,

    I have just found your blog and read your splendidly illustrated post on the poplar fieldcap, or champignon de peuplier (or pholiote du peuplier) as we say in French.
    They are indeed a prime eater and are highly prized in southern France, as well as Italy and Spain.
    We consider them to be the equals of ceps or morilles. Simply delicious sautéed in a mixture of melted butter and olive oil (with finely chopped garlic and parsley added into the pan or wok two minutes before they’re ready, i.e. golden brown, the colour of good toast).

    Thank you so much for sharing your photos and hunting diary. This was a most enjoyable find this morning.

    Regards,
    FM

    Reply
  2. Francois MAGUIN
    Francois MAGUIN says:

    I hasten to add a culinary footnote to my previous comment, if I may :
    Be sure to quickly rinse the fieldcaps (without soaking them) in water, and then sweat them for 7 to 8 minutes in the pan to let them give off all their water, before sautéing in the manner I suggested. They are best prepared and eaten on the same day or within a day of picking.

    All the best,
    FM

    Reply
    • J C Harris
      J C Harris says:

      Hello Francois

      I’m glad you’re enjoying the article. I was actually going to add the French name in the text but I didn’t know how many French visitors there would be, but then again there are so many common names from all over Europe.

      And thank you so much for the culinary tips. I’m not surprised they are popular in S.France and Spain. It was the first time I had tried them and I really enjoyed the flavour. Next time I shall prepare them as you say.

      Many thanks for taking the time to include on the blog
      All the best
      John

      Reply
  3. Peter
    Peter says:

    Hi, these look great and similar to some I saw on the field the other day, actually in a clearing in the wood, in mid-October, could they be the same, or at least edible, ie. do the type you have posted here have similar looking nasty varieties, and what’s their character in relation to these ones.

    I’m just starting out and won’t dare to touch any unless 100% certain, and my teacher is away now for a week, so curious to get your take on it, many thanks. For a recipe treat, soups are very delicious too, even with the seasonal sweet chestnuts thrown in, pre-boiled and peeled obviously, enjoy.

    Reply
    • J C Harris
      J C Harris says:

      Hi Peter
      It’s difficult to say without seeing. These Fieldcaps are often in open situations with Poplar and Willow, so it’s best to ID the tree if you can. If I was to choose a potential poisonous lookalike it would be the Fool’s Funnel (Clitocybe rivulosa) – they grow in grassland as well as wasteland/scrub in deciduous woodland. They initially look very similar sometimes and they are very poisonous.
      PS. Thanks for the cooking tip.
      All the best
      John

      Reply
  4. Peter Smith
    Peter Smith says:

    I was reading some articles about this magic truffles and shrooms before engaging my self for the first time. Like this one from https://www.trufflemagic.com/blog/can-magic-mushrooms-treat-depression
    They say that it has a very potent effect on the brain and hallucination. Unlike marijuana, does it have any medical use? In one article that I’ve read magic truffles or shrooms are use on reducing the symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder and anxiety. It can also help people to quit smoking and alcohol addiction. Some studies also suggest the property of magic shrooms/truffles can be useful for cancer patients. I would really want to hear other insights regarding this new possible alternative meds. Thanks

    Reply
    • J C Harris
      J C Harris says:

      Hi Peter
      You’ve certainly picked up on a huge yet little known subject there. I have read many articles on the same thing. Fungi uses in medicine, as you may know, already exist and I believe are still ‘slowly but surely’ being researched, trialed and implemented in many other areas of medicine. It’s a massive subject – of which I am mostly ignorant of. However, coincidentally, I have just had a new follower on my Twitter account (who I follow too) – Neil Gow is a medical mycologist. I suggest you go and take a look to discover more. Here’s his Twitter homepage: https://twitter.com/neil_gow

      All the best
      John

      Reply

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