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Hygrophorus nemoreus (Pers.) Fr. - Oak Woodwax

Phylum: Basidiomycota - Class: Agaricomycetes - Order: Agaricales - Family: Hygrophoraceae

Hygrophorus nemoreus, southern England

The Oak Woodwax is easily mistaken for the Meadow Waxcap Cuphophyllus pratensis, and caution is necessary: the growing habitat is not sufficient to confirm identification because Meadow Waxcaps do occur occasionally in woodlands.

Hygrophorus nemoreus, Wales

Distribution

Hygrophorus nemoreus occurs throughout Britain and Ireland, but it is a rare find. On mainland Europe the Oak Woodwax is found from Finland down to the Mediterranean countries and the Iberian Peninsula, but it is uncommon to rare in most countries (and red-listed in Norway and Sweden). The substantial risk of confusion with Cuphophyllus pratensis must inject a degree of uncertainty into distribution data for Hygrophorus nemoreus.

Hygrophorus nemoreus, France

Taxonomic history

The basionym of this species was established when it was described scientifically and named Agaricus nemoreus by Christiaan Hendrik Persoon in 1801. It was the great Swedish mycologist Elias Magnus Fries who, in 1838, renamed this woodwax mushroom Hygrophorus nemoreus, which is the scientific name by which mycologists refer to it today.

Synonyms of Hygrophorus nemoreus include Agaricus nemoreus Pers., Camarophyllus nemoreus (Pers.) P. Kumm., and Hygrophorus pratensis var. nemoreus (Pers.) Quel.

Etymology

Hygrophorus, the genus name, comes from hygro- meaning moisture, and -phorus meaning bearer. Not only do these fungi contain a lot of water (as do most other mushrooms, of course) but they are also moist and sticky to touch.

The specific epithet nemoreus means 'of the wood' or 'of the glade' - a reference to the habitat of these woodwax fungi.

Identification guide

Cap of Hygrophorus nemoreus, Oak Woodwax

Cap

Reddish ochre to apricot coloured, often slightly darker in the centre, covered with fine dense radial fibrils; convex, becoming flat or slightly depressed with a broad umbo; dry; 4 to 7cm (exceptionally to 10cm) across; margin of young specimens markedly involute.

Pileus of Hygrophorus nemoreus

Pileipellis

A cutis, in places a trichoderm, comprising short elements of hyphae 2 - 7μm in diameter, constricted at septa. Some terminal elements, typically 25 - 75 x 4-8μm, emerge erect at the surface; clamps present.

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Gills of Hygrophorus nemoreus - the Oak Woodwax

Gills

Cream, developing a pinkish ochre tinge with age; thick; fairly distant; decurrent.

Stem

Whitish at the base, the apex either whitish or concolorous with the gills; finely pruinose, especially towards apex; often curved; cylindrical, tapering sharpy towards base; 5 to 9cm long, 0.8 to 1.5cm diameter; covered in fine longitudinal fibrils. The stem flesh is whitish.

Basidia of Hygrophorus nemoreus

Basidia

The subcylindrical or slightly clavate basidia are typically 40 x 7μm and mainly four spored with occasionally a few being monosporic. Basal clamps are present.

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Spores of Hygrophorus nemoreus

Spores

Broadly ellipsoidal to lacrimose, 6-8 x 4-5μm. Q = 1.4 - 1.8.

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Spore print

White.

Odour/taste

The faint mealy (floury) taste and smell of this woodwax is a helpful distinguishing feature.

Habitat & Ecological role

In broadleaf woodland, more often on alkaline soils; favouring oaks (Quercus spp.) but also found with Beech (Fagus), Hornbeam (Carpinus), Hazel (Corylus) and birches (Betula).

Season

Autumn and early winter.

Similar species

The Meadow Waxcap Cuphophyllus pratensis is a common and widespread (nearly always grassland) mushroom with a smoother cap; its somewhat shorter spores with a Q value of 1.1 - 1.4.

Culinary Notes

This is a rare mushroom throughout its range and should not be gathered except when necessary for research purposes.

Hygrophorus nemoreus, deciduous woodland, southern England

Reference Sources

Fascinated by Fungi, Pat O'Reilly 2016.

Dictionary of the Fungi; Paul M. Kirk, Paul F. Cannon, David W. Minter and J. A. Stalpers; CABI, 2008

Taxonomic history and synonym information on these pages is drawn from many sources but in particular from the British Mycological Society's GB Checklist of Fungi and (for basidiomycetes) on Kew's Checklist of the British & Irish Basidiomycota.

Acknowledgements

This page includes pictures kindly contributed by Simon Harding.

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