Small and Brown! What is it? Winter Edition

I often hear from my friends various stories from their travels in these winter months. They sometimes stumble across ‘small and brown mushrooms’ – “What are they?” they would shout! Without really being there, that was really quite a tough question!

Winter Twiglet Mushroom (Tubaria hiemalis)Small and brown mushrooms usually mean ‘nightmare identification’ to most people. But if it’s a winter mushroom (ie. January/February) I at least have the advantage of elimination.

Apart from the Velevet Shank mushroom, there’s really not much out there this time of year. But there are still quite a few typical ‘mushroom-shaped’ species scattered around (ie. not a bracket fungus).

And recently I myself have come across a certain small brown species, found in mid-january. They were growing in abundance along the side of a grassy woodland path, among the dead leaves and general wood mulch.

Mushrooms!? Ground mushrooms this time of year!? What’s going on? Yes, to be fair, it’s not your typical find and I was keen to fathom out what on earth they were.

As you’ve probably guessed, these mushrooms were new to me, but I always entertain myself in the process of identification (I know I should get out more …but I already was!) Anyway, after much research – both online and churning through my extensive literature – I learned I was dealing with the ‘Tubaria’ group of fungi (in the family of ‘Cortinariaceae’ to be precise!)

Many books out there (even some of the heavyweight ones) do not not include many from the Tubaria group of mushrooms. But luckily, after a lot of cross referencing, I believe I’m dealing with Tubaria hiemalis (Winter Twiglet) – one of the more common species which grows from September to February. And before you ask – No, it’s not edible! Not poisonous, but simply tastes bad. Shame!

Well, there you go. You may see some scattered around the country side or near your home even. Key identification info and characteristics can be seen at the end of this post in the ‘Quick ID notes’.

Winter Twiglet (Tubaria hiemalis)

These older specimens of the Winter Twiglet grow from late autumn through winter to early spring in woodland debris/mulch. The caps of younger specimens appear more uniformly round, and almost balled shaped, sprouting from the ground, when very young.

Winter Twiglet Identification Chart

8 replies
  1. Tree Survey
    Tree Survey says:

    Would be great to hear about your methods for identification and most useful resources – I imagine many people have great difficulty, identification is a fine art.

  2. J C Harris
    J C Harris says:

    Thanks for the comment. Each new discovery of unfamiliar species is a nice challenge. Initially I take note of the following factors. Location (woods, grassland etc.) What it grows on (earth, mulch, dead wood etc)and what time of the year it is. Then I look at the more finer characteristics such as colour, texture, smell, size and other notes on the stem (including the base which can be very useful) and the gills (how they are attached to the stem, are they crowded or spaced etc.) and I see if there is any discolouration on bruising or cutting. Basically the list goes on. But the finer details always help. I then try and discover what family of fungus I’m dealing with and initially search through all my literature on the subject. I have around a dozen different guides, but I feel Roger Phillips Mushroom reference book a great starting point. With new discoveries I always cross reference with these books and online sources.

  3. Matthew Anderson
    Matthew Anderson says:

    I see lots of these each year, thanks for the ID on them :-)

    Only spotted a few shrooms this year so far. My garden becomes a haven for them soon with agarics and boletus as well as mottlegills and others popping up everywhere. Roll on mushroom season :-) A friend of mine had a Morel in her garden last year which was the first time I have seen one in the wild. (if her garden can be called wild!)

    My prise of last year was a huge califlour fungus, i’m hoping it grows in the same spot again :-)

  4. J C Harris
    J C Harris says:

    Thanks for the comment Matthew. I totally agree with you re: ‘Roll on the Mushroom Season’. Thankfully with this rain (after a couple of weeks of good sunshine) we can hopefully find some more Morels and/or St.Georges Mushrooms.

  5. mummyandamind
    mummyandamind says:

    I think we have some of these in our garden, or looks like them, growing round the leg of a plastic garden chair left on the lawn over winter. Considering it snowed last week I think they are doing quite well!

  6. Kim / Paul
    Kim / Paul says:

    Hi, I have been getting them for a couple of months now they look the same when you touch them they break up very easy. I have them in my garden on my child’s play area as it’s wood chipped, and now on the grass. I also have a rabbit and I’m frightened my son and pet will try and eat them. How do I get rid of them please?

    • J C Harris
      J C Harris says:

      Hi Kim/Paul

      It is very difficult to remove the mycelium (the fungus itself) from the wood chip or the ground without digging up huge chunks or removing and replacing the wood chip completely. I would just replace the wood chip if you are really concerned. The mushroom isn’t poisonous and will do no harm. Animals mainly avoid eating them due to the bitter taste.


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