Hygrophorus eburneus (Bull.) Fr. - Ivory Woodwax

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

Hygrophorus eburneus, Algarve, southern England

Fairly common on woodland edges, the Ivory Waxcap is mycorrhizal with Beech trees and with oaks. These woodwax fungi seem to be fairly tolerant of soil disturbance, as they sometimes appear on muddy tree-lined roadside verges.

Hygrophorus eburneus, Wales

Distribution

Hygrophorus eburneus is fairly common throughout Britain and Ireland. On mainland Europe the Ivory Woodwax is found from Scandinavia down to the Mediterranean countries.

Hygrophorus eburneus, France

This woodwax occurs in northern Africa, and it is also reported from many parts of North America where one of its common names is Cowboy's Handkerchief.

The picture above and left were taken in Wales; the picture shown below was taken in southern England and is shown by countesy of David Adamson.

Taxonomic history

The basionym of this species was established when it was described scientifically and named Agaricus eburneus by French biologist Jean Baptiste Francois (Pierre) Bulliard in 1782.

It was the great Swedish mycologist Elias Magnus Fries who, in 1836, renamed this woodwax mushroom Hygrophorus eburneus, which is the scientific name by which most mycologists refer to it today.

Hygrophorus eburneus, England

Synonyms of Hygrophorus eburneus include Agaricus eburneus Bull., Gymnopus eburneus (Bull.) Gray, and Hygrophorus eburneus var. eburneus (Bull.) Fr. (Often in the past this species has been treated as co-specific with Hygrophorus cossus.)

Hygrophorus eburneus is the type species of the genus Hygrophorus.

Etymology

Hygrophorus, the genus name, comes from hygro- meaning moisture, and -phorus meaning bearer. Not only do these fungi contain a lot of water (as do most other mushrooms, of course) but they are also moist and sticky to touch.

The specific epithet eburneus means 'like ivory' - a reference (which is replicated in the English common name) to the off-white colour of these woodwax fungi.

Identification guide

Cap of Hygrophorus eburneus, Ivory Woodwax

Cap

White or ivory; convex, becoming flat; very slimy; 2 to 6cm across.

Gills of Hygrophorus eburneus - the Ivory Woodwax

Gills

White; distant; decurrent.

Stem

White; tapering slightly towards base; usually curved; 3 to 7cm long, 0.5 to 1cm diameter. The stems of mature specimens usually become hollow.

Spores of Hygrophorus eburneus

Spores

Broadly ellipsoidal, 6-8 x 4-5μm.

Show larger image

Spore print

White.

Odour/taste

Said by some authorities to smell like injured larvae of the Goat Moth, Cossus cossus, from which this woodwax’s synonymous name Hygrophorus cossus originated. How anyone comes to be an expert on such odours I must leave to your imagination! Hygrophorus cossus is considered by some authors to be a separate species.

Habitat & Ecological role

Under Beeches and oaks.

Season

June to November in Britain and Ireland.

Similar species

The Snowy Waxcap, Hygrocybe virginea, is a common and gregarious little grassland mushroom with a white or ivory cap.

Hygrophorus eburneus, Algarve region of Portugal

Culinary Notes

This fairly common woodland mushroom is reported to be edible, but because of its relative scarcity (compared with many other edible woodland fungi), its sliminess and its small size, the Ivory Woodwax is not generally gathered for its culinary value. We have no recipes for this species.

Reference Sources

Fascinated by Fungi, Pat O'Reilly 2016.

Funga Nordica: 2nd edition 2012. Edited by Knudsen, H. & Vesterholt, J. ISBN 9788798396130

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 Adamson.

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