Clitocybe phaeophthalma (Pers.) Kuyper - Chicken Run Funnel

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

Clitocybe phaeopthalma, Chicken Run Funnel

There are several small whitish funnels that not only look like the Chicken Run Funnel but also grow in the same kinds of habitats. Identifying many of them with any certainty requires cereful microscopic study... except for Clitocybe phaeophthalma, which has a unique and very unpleasant smell that is instantly recognisable by anyone who has ever kept chickens.

The Chicken Run Funnel is a woodland mushroom most often encountered under broadleaf trees.

Clitocybe phaeopthalma, Chicken Run Funnel in mixed woodland

Distribution

Found in all kinds of woodland throughout Britain and Ireland but most commonly in the south, these gregarious smelly but otherwise nondescript toadstools are found also in many parts of mainland Europe and in North America.

Taxonomic history

This species was described in 1828 by Christiaan Hendrik Persoon, who gave it the binomial scientific name Agaricus phaeophthalmus. (At that time most gilled fungi were initially placed in a gigantic Agaricus genus, which has since been slimmed down with most of its contents being transferred to other newer genera.)

In a 1981 publication in Persoonia, Dutch mycologist Thomas W Kuyper (b. 1954) redefined this woodland mushroom as Clitocybe phaeophthalma, which is now its generally-accepted scientific name.

Clitocybe phaeopthalma, Chicken Run Funnel in a dense tuft under beech trees

Synonyms of Clitocybe phaeophthalma include Agaricus phaeophthalmus Pers., Agaricus hydrogrammus sensu auct., Clitocybe gallinacea sensu Rea, Clitocybe hydrogramma sensu auct. mult., sensu NCL, and Omphalia hydrogramma sensu auct.

Note: 'sensu' comes from the Latin sensus means 'in the sense of'. You will see 'senso lato' which implies 'in the broadest sense'; 'senso stricto' which means 'in the strict (i.e. narrowest) sense'; 'sensu auct.' is short for sensu auctorum, which indicates a different binomial used by other authors after the original author had applied a binomial scientific name; and 'sensu auct. mult.' is short for 'sensu auctorum multorum' and means 'in the sense of many authors'.

Agaricus fritilliformis Lasch, and Clitocybe fritilliformis (Lasch) Gillet are also synonyms of Clitocybe phaeophthalma.

Etymology

Clitocybe means 'sloping head', while the specific epithet phaeophthalma comes from phae- a prefix of ancient Greek origin (derived from phaeos, meaning dusky), and -opthalma from the Greek noun ophthalmos meaning an eye - the implication being that the cap of this mushroom has a darker central 'eye'.

Clitocybe phaeopthalma, France

Toxicity

Clitocybe phaeophthalma is of unknown edibility, and as some pale funnel mushrooms are known to be deadly poisonous that makes eating Chicken Run Funnel mushrooms very dangerous indeed. The symptoms of poisoning by some of the white-capped Clitocybe species are those associated with muscarine poisoning. Excessive salivation and sweating set in within half an hour of eating these fungi. Depending on the amount consumed, victims may also suffer abdominal pains, sickness and diarrhoea, together with blurred vision and laboured breathing. Deaths of otherwise healthy people from eating these fungi are very rare, but anyone with a weakened heart or with respiratory problems is much more at risk.

Identification guide

Cap of Clitocybe phaeophthalma, Chicken Run Funnel

Cap

2 to 5cm across; convex, flattening and developing a shallow central depression; smooth, usually with a finely striate margin; slightly viscid when wet; pale pinkish buff to greyish buff but darker in the centre; hygrophanous, drying very pale cream..

Hyphae in Pileas of Clitocybe phaeophthalma

Pileus hyphal structure

The cap cuticle contains spherical or broadly fusiform cells (left) 15 to 25μm across.

Gills of Clitocybe phaeophthalma, Chicken Run Funnel

Gills

Decurrent; moderately crowded; white, turning cream with age.

Stem

2 to 4.5cm long and 3 to 7mm diameter but usually tapering towards the base; smooth at the apex, often more silky or even finely downy towards the base; initially creamy white, becoming ochre with age; no stem ring.

Spores of Clitocybe phaeophthalma

Spores

Ellipsoidal to subglobose, smooth, 4.5-6 x 3-4.5μm.

Show larger image

Spore print

White.


Odour/taste

Odour reminiscent of a chicken run or a hen house; taste bitter.

Habitat & Ecological role

Saprobic, usually in tufted groups on leaf litter in broadleaf woodlands, especially under beeches; occasionally on needle litter in coniferous forests.

Season

July to November in Britain and Ireland.

Similar species

Calocybe gambosa, St George's Mushroom, has thicker cap flesh and a mealy odour; it occurs in similar habitats but mainly between late April and early July.

Many other whitish funnel mushrooms (Clitocybe species) look very similar to Clitocybe phaeophthalma, but the strong odour of the Chicken Run Funnel makes it stand out from the crowd.

Reference Sources

Fascinated by Fungi, Pat O'Reilly 2016.

British Mycological Society (2010). English Names for Fungi

Funga Nordica, Henning Knudsen and Jan Vesterholt, 2008.

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.

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