Conocybe tenera (Schaeff.) Fayod - Common Conecap

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

Conocybe tenera

Conecaps are neat little mushrooms, but some species in this group are poisonous. For this reason small children should not be allowed to play with or near to Conocybe species.

Close-cropped grassland such as lawns, golf courses, parks and dune slacks seems to suit these conecaps well, but they can also appear on leaf litter, sawdust and woodchip mulch as well as on disturbed nutrient-rich soil in parks, orchards and gardens.

Distribution

Conocybe tenera is fairly common and widespread throughout Britain and Ireland as well as on mainland Europe. This grassland mushroom is also found in many parts of North America.

Conocybe tenera on manured grassland

Taxonomic history

The Common Conecapwas described in 1762 by the pioneering German mycologist Jacob Christian Schaeffer, who named it Agaricus tener. At that time most gilled fungi were placed initially in one gigantic Agaricus genus, whose contents have since largely been redistributed to other newer genera.

A delicate grassland and woodland-edge conecap, this species was transferred to its present genus by the Swiss mycologist Victor Fayod (1860 - 1900), at which point its binomial name became Conocybe tenera.

Synonyms of Conocybe tenera include Agaricus tener Schaeff., Galera tenera (Schaeff.) P. Kumm., Galera tenera f. typica Kühner, Galera tenera f. microspora J. E. Lange, and Galera tenera f. tenella J. E. Lange.

Etymology

The generic name Conocybe comes from the Latin Conus meaning a cone, and cybe meaning a head - hence 'with a conical head', or in other words conecap. Less obviously, the specific epithet tenera comes from the Latin tener and means tender or delicate, an appropriate description for this and other members of the genus Conocybe, which are extremely fragile.

Identification guide

Cap of Conocybe tenera

Cap

1 to 3cm in diameter, the caps are conical at first, becoming bell-shaped with very faint marginal striations. The surface is smooth, dry and ochre-brown to cinnamon or rust-brown; hygrophanous, becoming yellowish in prolonged dry weather, eventually turning pale beige, with a weakly-lined margin.

Gills and stem of Conocybe tenera

Gills

This attractive conecap has adnexed gills. Initially very pale ochre, the crowded gills become cinnamon or rust coloured as the spores mature; the gill edges are noticeably paler than the gill faces.

Stem

Slender straight stems of Conocybe tenera are level, 4 to 7mm in diameter and 5 to 9cm long, white flushed with rusty brown and finely granular; becoming hollow and very fragile. There is no stem ring

 

Spores of Conocybe tenera

Spores

Ellipsoidal, smooth, 9-14 x 5-8 μm; thick-walled, with a broad germ pore.

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Spore print

Rust-brown.

Basidia

Four-spored.

Cheilosidia of <em>Conocybe tenera</em>

Cheilostidia (gill-edge cystidia)

The cheilolocystidia are all lecythiform (shaped like bowling pins).

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Odour/taste

Not distinctive.

Habitat & Ecological role

Saprobic, appearing on lawns, in parks and on other close-cropped manured grassland, occasionally on woodchip mulch; also on leaf litter on woodland edges; generally in scattered groups but occasionally solitary.

Season

May to September in Britain and Ireland.

Similar species

Conocybe apala, the Milky Conecap, is a much paler, more sharply conical mushroom that appears briefly on lawns after rain.

Conocybe tenera on dung

Culinary Notes

Some field guides record the Common Conecap as 'inedible', and possibly poisonous. With its small size and thin flesh, this delicate and very fragile mushroom would hardly be worth gathering even if it were a good edible species, and so Conocybe tenera is probably best left for the lawnmower to devour.

Reference Sources

Fascinated by Fungi, 2nd edition, Pat O'Reilly 2016.

Watling, R. (1982). British Fungus Flora: Agarics and Boleti. Vol 3. Bolbitiaceae: Agrocybe, Bolbitius, & Conocybe. Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh, Scotland.

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 photographs kindly contributed by David Kelly.

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