The Origins and Meanings of Fungi Genus Names

The information below is a summarized version of one of the appendices in Pat O'Reilly's latest book, 'Fascinated by Fungi'. For full details and sample pages see our Bookshop, where you can order an author-signed copy online... The book also contains a table of origins and meanings of species names, and we have a summarised version here...

Problems with common names given to fungi

Unfortunately some common names refer to as many as a dozen different fungi species, often from different genera. To complicate matters further, some mushrooms species have several common names. Using common names is okay if you don’t mind being misunderstood occasionally, but when getting your message across really matters using common names is far too risky. Scientific names, sometimes referred to as Latin names, refer to one and only one fungus species.

Strictly speaking there is nothing particularly scientific about the ‘scientific’ names of fungi. They arose via botany, and botanical names are based on an archaic language no longer spoken but serving merely as notation. (Arguments about pronunciation do seem rather pointless, therefore.) The advantage, however, is that a botanical name means the same to botanists (and mycologists) throughout the world; it avoids ambiguity. Well, that’s the idea, at least...

A genus name is given to a group of fungi with similar physical characteristics that are confined essentially to that group. The name, usually derived from either medieval or classical Latin or as a latinized version of a Greek word, may be chosen in honour of a person, as a reference to a place or a kind of habitat, or to denote a prominent characteristic of the group of fungi. (There are also a few scientific names that have no real meaning – perhaps as a result of an initial misidentification.) Here are some commonly encountered genus names and their origins/meanings:

Agaricus

of the country

 

Laetiporus

bright/abundant

Agrocybe

field cap/head

 

Leccinum

fungus

Aleuria

wheat flour

 

Lentinus

pliable, or sticky

Amanita

Mount Amanus

 

Lenzites

Harald Othmar Lenz

Armillaria

like a bracelet

 

Leotia

smooth mushroom

Asterophora

star-shaped spores

 

Lepiota

scaly mushroom

Astraeus

star

 

Lepista

wine goblet

Auricularia

ear

 

Leucoagaricus

white Agaricus

Bankera

Howard J Banker

 

Lycoperdon

wolf’s flatulence

Bjerkandera

Clas Bjerkander

 

Lyophyllum

loose or free gills

Bolbitius

cow pat

 

Macrocystidia

large cystidia

Boletus

a clod

 

Macrolepiota

large and scaly

Bulgaria

leather bag

 

Marasmius

withered

Calocera

beautiful horn

 

Melanoleuca

black

Calocybe

beautiful head

 

Meripilus

partitioned cap

Calvatia

bald/hairless

 

Morchella

morel

Camarophyllus

vaulted gills

 

Mutinus

phallic deity

Cantharellus

chalice/cup

 

Mycena

mushroom

Chlorociboria

green-yellow chalice

 

Neobulgaria

new leather bag

Clathrus

iron grid/lattice

 

Nidula

little nest

Clavaria

like a club

 

Omphalina

little navel

Clitocybe

sloping head

 

Otidea

ear

Clitopilus

sloping cap

 

Oudemansiella

Corneille Oudemans    

Collybia

like a small coin

 

Panaeolus

variegated

Coprinus

dung

 

Panellus

ragged

Cordyceps

swollen head

 

Paxillus

small stake/stick/peg

Coriolus

leathery

 

Peziza

stalkless mushroom

Cortinarius

with a curtain

 

Phaelepiota

dusky and smooth

Crepidotus

slipper

 

Phaeolus

dusky

Cystoderma

blistered skin

 

Phallus

phallus

Daedalea

labyrinthine

 

Phellinus

corky

Daldinia

charred wood

 

Pholiota

scaly

Dermocybe

skin-head

 

Piptoporus

detachable pores

Entoloma

(margin) inrolled

 

Pisolithus

pea in stone

Exidia

staining/exuding

 

Pleurotus

sideways (attached)

Fistulina

tube or pipe

 

Polyporus

many pores

Flammulina

flame

 

Psathyrella

brittle/fragile

Fomes

tinder

 

Psilocybe

bare/smooth head

Galerina

helmet

 

Ramaria

branching

Ganoderma

lustrous skin

 

Russula

reddish

Geastrum

earth star

 

Sarcodon

fleshy with teeth

Geoglossum

earth tongue

 

Schizophyllum

split gills

Gomphidius

peg, stake or nail

 

Scleroderma

hard skin

Grifola

braided hair of griffin

 

Serpula

snake

Gymnopilus

naked head

 

Stereum

hard

Hebeloma

blunt

 

Strobilomyces

pine cones

Helvella

aromatic herb

 

Stropharia

belt

Hericium

hedgehog

 

Suillus

swine (pigs)

Heterobasidion

irregular base

 

Thelephora

having nipples

Hydnum

mushroom

 

Trametes

thin

Hygrocybe

moist head

 

Tremella

trembling, like a jelly

Hygrophorus

water carrier

 

Tricholoma

hairy/fibrous

Hypholoma

fringed with tissue

 

Tubaria

trumpet

Inocybe

fibre head

 

Tulostoma

knob on a club

Inonotus

fibrous

 

Tylopilus

lumpy cap

Kuehneromyces

Robert Kühner

 

Volvariella

volva or bag

Laccaria

painted

 

Xerocomus

dry

Lacrymaria

tears (as in crying)

 

Xylaria

woody

Lactarius

milk