I’m catching up on reporting my mushroom foraging finds, especially from autumn last year, when the abundance of fungi is at it’s peak. I felt the next mushroom was definitely worth a mention. I had run in to so many of these brown beauties more than ever before – but only around oak trees, naturally.
The Oakbug Milkcap (Lactarius quietus) as you’ve probably guessed, is exclusive to Oak woodland. They’re pretty easy to miss (or be stepped on) because of their smallish size and colour, which subtly blends in amongst the fallen leaves and surrounding soil. But when you find one, you suddenly notice more and more pop up in to your field of vision, scattered around the woodland floor.
This particular Milkcap has two distinctive identification characteristics you can look out for:
1. The Smell: From whence it got it’s name. According to many (in the past at least) is that of Bed Bugs (which is like rotting raspberries apparently), and like you maybe, I don’t know what that smell is like either! But other comparisons are those of wet laundry and oil. To me, it’s more like light engine (or general purpose) oil. You’ll know when you give it a good sniff, and;
2. The Cap: The reddish/brown cap grows up to around 8cm maximum but is often smaller, around 5 – 6cm. When younger the cap is rounded but it soon matures into a flatter shape with a distinctive (often shallow) depressed centre, inline with stem. But it’s main feature is that the surface is marked with concentric bands and/or spots. This is often apparent but can be subtle. Another interesting point is that it stays matt dry, even in moist conditions. So no sticky slimy characters there on a rainy day!
Other points: The stem (often hollow) can be up to 6cm high and shares the similar colour with the cap but often darker, sturdy and compact. The gills are adnate / slightly decurrent. The milk is white and very plentiful and has a mild to slightly bitter taste (Note: Only taste a mushroom if you’re sure of it’s identity).
I haven’t indulged in consuming one of these guys yet, but next year I hope to give them a try. They don’t sound like anything special, but you never know until you try…
QUICK ID TABLE: OAKBUG MILKCAP Lactarius quietus
CAP / FLESH
3 – 8cm. Dry. Initially convex, later flat with depressed centre. Red/brown with concentric bands and/or spots.
4 – 9cm x 1 – 1.5cm. Cylindrical. Colour like cap, often darker. Hollow.
GILLS / SPORE PRINT
Adnate/Decurrent. White/brownish, later reddish brown. Milk is white. Mild or slightly bitter. Smells oily.
HABITAT / SEASON
Very common, on the ground near Oak tress. Autumn.
The Genus LACTARIUS (Milkcaps): Characteristics to look out for:
• Gills and flesh exude milk when broken or damaged.