A recent email query regarding this ‘not so often‘ seen mushroom, encouraged me to feature it today, having forgot to do it last year! The mushrooms shown here are from last June.
The Milky Conecap (Conocybe apala) is one of the most common Cone Caps – which I don’t often see! And this is probably due to their short ‘blink and you’ll miss it‘ lifespan. Not long after heavy rain they will appear and after a dose of strong summer sunshine, will quickly dry out and eventually disappear. So it’s understandable that they’re not often reported.
If you do happen to spot them during their brief existence it will be any time from June until October, mainly in short grass on lawns, parks, grassy roadsides etc. They will last no longer than 24 hours (at least in any recognisable state) and this is due to their extremely fragile nature; the flesh can easily break and crumble once handled.
The name Conocybe simply translates from the Latin as ‘Cone Head’. Aptly named you’ll no doubt agree, and ‘apala’ describes this particular species as soft or delicate. The width can be up to 1.8cm and the conical height up to 3cm.
When young, the milky white caps often show soft hues of ochre, most noticeably at the apex. Faintly smooth wrinkles cover the surface and appear more defined at the margin where the flesh often splits. As they age, the caps expand slightly into a subtle bell shape and become more fawny before eventually falling apart.
The stem which is coloured the same (up to 6cm long) is also extremely delicate, and on closer inspection you will notice minute graining near the apex just before the pale gills (which mature rust coloured). These gills are narrowly attached to the stem (adnexed) but can also sometimes be unattached (free).
Most Conocybe’s have unknown edibility or are regarded as suspect. Some have psychoactive properties and at least one is deadly (Conocybe filaris). So it goes without saying that no Conocybe is good for the pot, but it’s always good to know what you’ve found.
Look out for them this summer after a good downpour. Happy hunting.
QUICK ID TABLE: MILKY CONECAP Conocybe apala
CAP / FLESH
0.7-1.8cm x 6cm. Milky white (often with ochre patches). Smooth with fine wrinkles. Very fragile.
0.3cm x 6cm (max). Pale, milky-white. Fragile with fine granular marking at the apex.
GILLS / SPORE PRINT
Adnexed or free. Pale/pale-ochre maturing rust-brown
HABITAT / SEASON
Lawns, parkland, short grass etc (sometimes woodchip) from summer to late autumn. Very common (but short-lived)
Unknown. Suspect – avoid.