Posts

February Forage – Tawny Funnel

It may seem a little strange to feature this mushroom in February when it’s actually an autumn species. Well, mainly! 


Lepista flaccida

But year after year I often come across the Tawny Funnel (Lepista flaccida) in January or early February, as in this case. At first I thought I had an unfamiliar species to identify – but I have read (and heard) from fellow foragers and field mycologists that this is not so uncommon.

After all, the Tawny Funnel is usually one of late fruiting autumn species. Maybe it has unfinished business -waits until milder times at the start of the year to carry on. Who knows?

When young, the cap is flattish and convex but soon develops its distinctive ‘funnel’ shape which causes some confusion, as you would think that you’re dealing with a true Funnel mushroom – i.e. a Clitocybe species. In fact this mushroom has been formally known C. flaccida and some mycologists have named it C.inversa, or consider it to be a different species entirely. One reason it has been moved to this genus is because of its warty spores and moveable gills, features the same as the other common Lepistas (or Blewits) such as the Wood Blewit and Field Blewit.

The real confusion starts when you compare it to the Common Funnel (Clitocybe gibba) which looks like its identical twin! However it is only situated in broad-leaved woods and heaths, whereas L.flaccida appears in both deciduous and coniferous woodland, especially nutrient rich soil.

I’ve been experimenting over the years to see if I can recognise any macro features while out in the field to distinguish between the two. I’m still not 100% sure if you can, and I think true ID will be from looking at the microscopic spores. However, not everyone has access to a microscope so I’ll go on to mention what to look out for. Here goes…

This mushroom is often found in clustered groups and full or partial fairy rings in the soil and leaf litter. Average cap sizes of mature specimens are around 5 to 9cm across.

There are many changes throughout its life cycle, so expect to see variable colour variations of this mushroom. The young flattened-convex cap is pale ochre and is strongly hygrophanous (unlike C.gibba) and you will see pale/darker areas depending on the moisture in the cap. Also look out for water marks around the edge of the cap. With age, it becomes darker orange-brown (shades vary) as the distinctive funnel becomes more apparent. There may also be several darker spotted areas scattered across the surface.

The whitish-yellow gills are crowded (more so than the Common Funnel) and heavily integrated with the stem (decurrent) which is paler in colour than the cap. It is often curved slightly towards the white woolly base.

Take a whiff!

Smell is also an important factor here, as the Common Funnel and Tawny Funnel differ. The Common Funnel has a faintish odour of almonds (also described as new-mown hay!) whereas the Tawny Funnel is more or less non descriptive, but there may be a faint spicy odour.

This mushroom is a great challenge, so good luck in identification and your spring forages in general. Enjoy.

Tawny Funnel images

Notice the varied shades from light ochre to tawny and the very crowded decurrent gills.

QUICK ID TABLE: TAWNY FUNNEL Lepista flaccida

CAP / FLESH

2-9cm across. Initially flattish to convex then funnel shaped. Pale ochre, darkening tawny brown with age. Often darker spots. Thin flesh, pale to tan.

STEM

3-5cm x 0.5-1cm. Paler than cap. Becomes hollow. White woolly base.

GILLS / SPORE PRINT

Very decurrent, narrow & crowded. Whitish to yellowish.
Spore Print: Creamy white (see how to take a spore print here).

HABITAT / SEASON

On soil and in leaf litter of coniferous & broadleaved woods. Autumn. Sometimes in January & February.

EDIBILITY

Edible, but flesh is too thin & has an unpleasant taste.

The Genus LEPISTA (Blewits): Characteristics to look out for:

• Small to medium size. Pale to brownish caps. Some feature lilac/purple colouring on cap and stem.
• Pale pink spore print (see how to take a spore print here).

Tawny Funnel Diagram

Spring Madness – Blewits in May!?

After a recent enquiry to the website asking the same question I was asking myself, I was spurred on to feature this post and it’s very ‘out-of-season’ theme!

Lepista nuda - out of seasonThe Wood Blewit (Clitocybe nuda / Lepista nuda) was in good supply during it’s normal season in late autumn/winter. Scattered in Woods, gardens and hedgerows, there was always a chance to spy a few and take them home for your tea.

But during April and this early May time, the weather has been very wet and weird, and at times unseasonably cold.

I’m not sure, but this could be one factor in explaining why myself and others have been finding delicious Wood Blewits out of season. My first discovery was in April – 3 weeks ago and just recently this weekend in May.

It’s all very strange and I’m not sure if I should be happy or alarmed! And I don’t especially want to get into that global warming argument either. But mushrooms are often unpredictable and can waver in and out of season now and again – but I have to be honest, these critters are extraordinarily pushing the limits!

I did notice with my recent discoveries that they were both extremely close to rotting wood. They do feed on dead organic matter (saprotroph) but this is usually hidden underground. The picture (shown above) were of two Blewits actually on the edge a decaying stump, but the substrate they were in was a fine mixture of rotten wood and rich soil. The others were found in a similar scenario, hugging a fallen tree trunk, again in a very ‘peaty’ like soil. I can only guess again that this could be a contributing factor. The soil must have been very rich in nutrients ideal for our little Lepista!

Anyway, keep your eyes peeled, you might see some yourself this May. Who knows?

PS. For further information on Wood Blewits in my posts and further identification notes, see my other two posts here: ‘Blue Legs for Winter – The Wood Blewit’ and ‘Snow patrol – Wood Blewit’.

Wood Blewits

Late in the season – Wood Blewits found in April and May.