Hygrocybe cantharellus (Schwein.) Murrill - Goblet Waxcap

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

Hygrocybe cantharellus - Goblet Waxcap

The specific epithet suggests that the caps will be infundibuliform and indeed sometimes they are – hence the common name Goblet Waxcap; however, more often than not the caps remain convex or merely become flat. If you look underneath you will see that the gills are decurrent, giving these waxcaps goblet-like silhouettes (even though there is little or no room for the wine!). Despite their liking for boggy grassland, the caps of Goblet Waxcaps are dry and scaly rather than greasy or viscid.

Hygrocybe cantharellus - Goblet Waxcap, southern England

Distribution

Restricted to unimproved mossy grassland, Hygrocybe cantharellus is an infrequent but far from rare species in Britain and Ireland, and it occurs also in parts of mainland Europe. This tiny waxcap is also recorded in the USA, where it is mainly a woodland mushroom. Occasionally seen singly, more often these neat little mushrooms grow in small clusters.

Taxonomic history

Described scientifically in 1822 by American mycologist Lewis David von Schweinitz (1780 - 1834), who named it Agaricus cantharellus, the Goblet Waxcap was transferred to the genus Hygrocybe in 1911 by another American, William Alphonso Murrill (1869 - 1957), whereupon it acquired its currently accepted scientific name Hygrocybe cantharellus.

Synonyms of Hygrocybe cantharellus include Hygrophorus cantharellus (Schwein.) Fr., Hygrophorus turundus var. lepidus Boud., and Hygrocybe lepida Arnolds.

Etymology

The genus Hygrocybe is so named because fungi in this group are always very moist. Hygrocybe means 'watery head'. Canthar means a drinking cup and the suffix -ellus means diminutive; hence the specific epithet cantharellus means 'like a small drinking cup'. Some specimens do indeed become quite deeply infundibuliform (funnel-shaped) and look rather like chalices or goblets.

Identification guide

Cap of Hygrocybe cantharellus

Cap

1 to 3.5cm across; initially convex, becoming flat-topped and eventually developing a slight depression; shades of red to reddish-orange, scales drying to almost white; incurved margin becomes crenate at maturity and is usually paler than the rest of the cap.

Gills and stem of Hygrocybe cantharellus

Gills

Slightly decurrent (as shown here) to deeply decurrent; initially almost white, becoming yellow.

Stem

3 to 6cm long and 1.5 to 3mm diameter; dry and silkily fibrillose; orange, becoming paler towards base; cylindrical; no stem ring.

Spores of Hygrocybe cantharellus

Spores

Ellipsoidal or ovoid to pear-shaped; 7-9 x 4.5-5.5um; inamyloid.

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Spore print

White.

Basidia

Mainly four-spored.

 

Gill trama of Hygrocybe cantharellus

Gill Trama

Subregular - see photomicrograph, left.

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Odour/taste

Not distinctive.

Habitat & Ecological role

Closely cropped or mown grassland where artificial fertilisers are not spread. (In the USA this species is known to grow sometimes on well-rooted wood.)

Waxcaps have long been considered to be saprobic on the dead roots of grasses and oter grassland plants, but it is now considered likely that there is some kind of mutual relationship between waxcaps and mosses.

Season

September to November in Britain and Ireland.

Similar species

Hygrocybe coccinea has a larger orange-red cap.

Hygrocybe miniata also has a scurfy reddish cap; it is usually a bit smaller that the Goblet Waxcap and its gills are adnately attached to the stem rather than being decurrent.

Hygrocybe cantharellus - Goblet Waxcap, closeup picture of cap, stem and gills

Culinary Notes

Although reported in some field guides to be edible, these tiny waxcaps are so insubstantial that they are surely not worth collecting for the pot. A collector would probably burn up far more calorioes in gathering a dish of Goblet Waxcaps than the meal would contain... so maybe these are 'slimming mushrooms'!

Reference Sources

Fascinated by Fungi, Pat O'Reilly 2016.

Fungi of Northern Europe, Volume 1 - The Genus Hygrocybe, David Boertmann, 2010.

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 pictures kindly contributed by David Kelly.

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