With a common name such as this, it’s understandable to be a little suspicious of this small brown mushroom. In actual fact, it is perfectly safe and edible (although not much to write home about) but can be eaten none the less and they’re a very common site from late summer right through to early winter.
The Deceiver (Laccaria laccata) or Laccies as they’re know in the USA I believe, will often be found in large scattered troops in woodland and heathland. They’re small and well disguised but when you first discover them, the odds are you may have trampled several already. Stopping to observe the surrounding area; they will seem to magically appear around you in their dozens!
The common name ‘Deceiver’ derives from their tendency to have extremely variable cap shapes and colouring, but as I’ll explain, most characteristics remain uniform and after a time you become accustomed to their subtle traits.
So, cap first, this is the variable part. Size, shape and colour can differ dramatically but from an early age they are convex and a rich orange-brown. They eventually flatten out often becoming distorted and wavy, usually developing a central depression. They’re also hygrophanous, meaning their colour (and the straitions at the margin) are affected depending on how hydrated they are. With a loss of moisture the caps become much paler in varying degrees (see images below) and the striations are not so prominent. So as you can understand, the different colours and shapes can cause some confusion in identification.
But the consistent features are their thick and widely spaced gills, quite distinctive for this genus; pinkish in colour, dusted with white spores when mature. The stem is similar in colour to the cap; tough/fibrous and often twisted or compressed. Again, this is a very distinctive and reliable feature. If the stems don’t appear this way, simply look around for more examples – there will plenty about.
There are several other Laccaria species out there, but L.laccata is by far the most common. You may have also come across a close ‘purple’ relative of the Deceiver, namely the Amethyst Deceiver, an exceptionally attractive little mushroom. See my post on it here.
Keep a look out for them this autumn /early winter time and try to avoid stepping on them at the same time, which is not as easy as it sounds!
QUICK ID TABLE: DECEIVER Laccaria laccata
CAP / FLESH
1.5-6cm across. Initially convex / tawny or orange-brown when young. Flattening with age, often wavy edge and depressed centre. Hygrophanous; fading colour as it dries, striations more prominent when hydrated. Flesh is thin, orange-brown.
5-10cm x 0.5-1cm. Similar colour to cap. Tough, fibrous and often compressed or twisted.
GILLS / SPORE PRINT
Pinkish. Relatively thick and widely spaced. Mature specimens show a dusting of white spores on the surface.
HABITAT / SEASON
In woodland and on heaths, in trooping/scattered groups.
Edible. Not really worth it.
The Genus LACCARIA (Deceivers): Characteristics to look out for:
• Small, variable cap colours and shapes (often slightly scurfy).