Cortinarius sanguineus (Wulfen) Gray - Bloodred Webcap

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

Cortinarius sanguineus - Bloodred Webcap

The blood-red colour of the cap gills and stem of this beautiful mushroom fully justify the common name of this webcap. It is readily distinguished from the closely-related Cortinarius semisanguineus (the specific epithet means half blood-red because the latter has blood-red gills beneath a pale olive-brown cap - hence its common name the Surprise Webcap.

The Bloodred Webcap is found mainly in coniferous woodland and particularly in dark, damp and mossy forests.

Distribution

Cortinarius sanguineus is a fairly common webcap in many areas, from the New Forest in southern England to the Caledonian Forest in Scotland; it is also found throughout mainland northern Europe.

A group of Cortinarius sanguineus - old specimens

Taxonomic history

This webcap was initially given the name Agaricus sanguineus when, in 1788, it was described scientifically by Austrian mycologist Franz Xavier von Wulfen (1728 - 1805); this was at a time when most gilled fungi were placed in a gigantic Agaricus genus, since largely redistributed to many newer genera.

The currently accepted scientific name Cortinarius sanguineus dates from 1821, when the British mycologist Samuel Frederick Gray (1766 - 1828) transferred this and other species to the genus Cortinarius.

Synonyms of Cortinarius sanguineus include Agaricus sanguineus Wulfen, Dermocybe sanguinea (Wulfen) Ricken, Cortinarius puniceus P. D. Orton, and Dermocybe punicea (P. D. Orton) M.M. Moser.

Young fruitbody of Cortinarius sanguineus showing the cortina

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 rather than a solid membrane. The blood-red colour of young caps, gills and stems is the basis of the specific epithet sanguineus, which comes from Latin and simply means 'blood red'.

Toxicity

This mushroom is reported to contain anthracene compounds and is recorded as 'suspect' in many field guides; therefore it should not be gathered for eating. Some reddish Cortinarius species with which the Bloodred Webcap could be confused contain the toxin orellanine, which if eaten destroys human kidneys and liver.

In the picture above the cobweb-like cortina is just beginning to fall away from the rim of the cap of this young Cortinarius sanguineus fruitbody. At this stage in development suspect or poisonous toadstools such as the Bloodred Webcap are sometimes mistakenly identified as Chanterelles, with disastrous consequences.

Identification guide

Cap of Cortinarius sanguineus

Cap

2 to 5cm across, broadly convex, usually with a broad umbo at maturity, deep blood red; covered in radiating silky fibrils.

Gills of Cortinarius sanguineus

Gills

The adnate gills are moderately spaced and blood red, turning red-brown with age.

Stem

Similar to cap colour, becoming paler towards the base; cylindrical, but slightly swollen towards base; 3 to 8cm long, 7 to 11mm diameter.

spore, Cortinarius sanguineus

Spores

Ellipsoidal, with a rough surface, 7-9 x 4-6µm.

Show larger image

Spore print

Rusty brown.

Odour/taste

Odour not significant. Beware of tasting reddish Cortinarius species, some of which are deadly poisonous.

Habitat & Ecological role

In coniferous woodland.

Season

August to November in Britain and Ireland.

Similar species

Cortinarius semisanguineus, the Surprise Webcap, has blood-red gills but its cap is pale.

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

Group of Bloodred Webcaps, Cortinarius sanguineus

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 David Kelly.

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