This is the first in my posts aimed at the Pluteus genera of mushrooms. Nearly always found on rotting wood including logs, stumps and general wood debris, hence the savvy title. The common name used for this group is ”Shield”, and a very apt name it is too because they always remind me of actual shields – fancy that!
Featured this time is the Willow Shield (Pluteus salicinous). I almost missed several of these on a walk through the woods. The upper canopy had drained quite a lot of the natural light. It was also still dry out there as the recent weather hadn’t delivered much rain – but plenty of sticky warm days!
Perhaps the warmth and dryness had taken the moisture out of these beauties, the wrinkled edges in the photos aren’t usually a common feature of a healthy young specimen.
Imperfections aside, the Willow Shield is a pretty dull mushroom anyway – but on closer inspection really quite distinct. The first thing that struck me was the colour of the cap. Although it appears a mundane grey in these photos (better captured in image below) there is an overall tint of blue (sometimes green) but very subtle, and that really caught my attention. It’s sometimes hard to capture in a photograph, but part of that may be a trick of light and what angle you view it from – or do I need another camera!?
The cap holds further details for inspection. It is noticeably darker at the centre, and after flattening out as it matures it usually leaves a slight umbo (or bump). This central point is very finely velvety to the touch where subtle coloured streaks radiate outwards from it’s centre. The stem itself is a good old ‘uncomplicated’ smooth white (although sometimes with a darker tinge at it’s base).
As with all Pluteus mushrooms, their gills are free from the stem and the spore print will be pink. As this mushroom ages, it’s gills will turn from white to pink as the spores mature.
And last but not least you’ve probably noticed I have categorised this post in ‘What’s your Poison?’ and ‘Tales of Toadstools / The Inedibles!’ because this mushroom is generally classed as inedible. But I have read elsewhere that unlike other Pluteus species, this mushroom (or now should I say toadstool!?) contains small amounts of psilocybin (compound psilocin). This is the same substance found in Magic Mushrooms (or Liberty Caps). So it’s advisable to leave this toadstool alone.
QUICK ID TABLE: WILLOW SHIELD Pluteus salicinous
CAP / FLESH
2-6cm across. Convex the flat with a slight bump (umbo). Bluish or greenish grey. Darker radiating streaks. Darker at centre.
3-5cm x 0.2-0.7cm. White. Tinged with cap colour at base.
GILLS / SPORE PRINT
Free. White then pink
HABITAT / SEASON
On deciduous rotting wood, especially willow. Spring – late autumn.
Not edible. Contains some psilocybin (psilocin). Avoid.
The Genus PLUTEUS (Shield): Characteristics to look out for:
• The majority grow on wood or woodland debris/wood chipings etc.