Cortinarius anthracinus Fr.

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

Cortinarius anthracinus

In the difficult Cortinarius group of fungi Cortinarius anthracinus is one of the easier species to identify with reasonable confidence from its macroscopic characters; however, to be quite certain you need to see young and mature specimens and to assess spore size and ornamentation.

Distribution

Cortinarius anthracinus is uncommon but not rare in Britain and Ireland and is recorded also from many parts of mainland Europe.

Cortinarius anthracinus, Cambridgeshire, UK

Taxonomic history

Swedish mycologist Elias Magnus Fries described this little webcap in his Epicrisis Systematis Mycologici of 1838 and gave it the scientific binomial name Cortinarius anthracinus by which it is generally referred to today.

Synonyms of Cortinarius anthracinus include Cortinarius purpureobadius P. Karst., Dermocybe anthracina (Fr.) Ricken, Cortinarius subanthracinus Rob. Henry, and Dermocybe subanthracina (Rob. Henry) M.M. Moser.

The vast genus Cortinarius is subdivided by many authorities into subgenera, and Cortinarius anthracinus belongs to the subgenus Telemonia.

Etymology

The generic name Cortinarius is a reference to the partial veil or cortina (meaning a curtain) that covers the gills when caps are immature. In the genus Cortinarius most species produce partial veils in the form of a fine web of radial fibres connecting the stem to the rim of the cap.

The specific epithet anthracinus comes from the Greek anthrákinos meaning coloured like a ruby gemstone.

Toxicity

This mushroom is recorded by some authorities as 'poisonous'. Because several of the webcaps are known to be deadly poisonous (and some research even suggests that all Cortinarius species may contain at least small amounts of the toxins concerned), in our opinion webcaps should never be gathered for eating.

Identification guide

Mature cap of Cortinarius anthracinus

Cap

The hygrophanous caps of Cortinarius anthracinus range from purplish-brown to almost black. Young caps are convex to conical, becoming flat with a distinct umbo and reaching 1 to 3cm in diameter when fully mature.

Gills of Cortinarius anthracinus

Gills

Adnate or slightly decurrent, moderately spaced; at first pale purple, maturing cinnamon brown.

Stem

The fibrous pale stem is pale purple and silkily fibrillose; in young fruitbodies there is a slight violaceous flush towards the apex; cottony velar remains adhere to the stem most noticeably towards the base; 3-5mm in diameter and 3-5.5cm long.

 

Spores

Broadly ellipsoidal or slightly amygdaloid; minutely to moderately verrucose (with a roughened surface), 8-10 x 5-6µm; dextrinoid.

Spore print

Rust-brown.

Odour/taste

Odour not distinctive. (It is unwise to taste any Cortinarius species, as several of them are deadly poisonous.)

Habitat & Ecological role

Mycorrhizal, in broadleaf and mixed woodland, often with birches.

Season

August to November in Britain and Ireland.

Similar Species

Cortinarius hemitrichus, the Frosty Webcap, is similar in appearance.

Reference Sources

Fascinated by Fungi, Pat O'Reilly 2016.

Funga Nordica, Henning Knudsen and Jan Vesterholt, 2008.

British Mycological Society, English Names for Fungi

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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