Hypholoma marginatum (Pers.) J. Schröt. - Snakeskin Brownie

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

Hypholoma marginatum - Snakeskin Brownie, Dorset, England

The cap colour of this uncommon mushroom is very variable and therefore not a helpful identification feature; however, that is hardly a problem because the snakeskin patterning on the stem is so distinctive.

This inedible species can be found, often in great numbers, in coniferous forests, where it springs up through the needle litter in autumn. (The Snakeskin Brownie is saprobic on dead, decaying needle litter.)

Distribution

Hypholoma marginatum - Snakeskin Brownie. Hampshire, England

In Britain and Ireland the Snakeskin Brownie is an occasional find, although it is locally common. Hypholoma marginatum occurs also throughout most of mainland Europe and in many other parts of the world including North America.

Taxonomic history

When in 1796 Christiaan Hendrik Persoon described this mushroom scientifically, he gave it the name Agaricus marginatus. (Most gilled mushrooms were initially placed in the genus Agaricus in the early days on fungal taxonomy.) It was German mycologist Joseph Schröter (1837 - 1894) who, in 1889, established the currently accepted scientific name of this species as Hypholoma marginatum when he transferred it to the genus Hypholoma.

Synonyms of Hypholoma marginatum include Agaricus marginatus Pers., Agaricus dispersus Fr., and Hypholoma dispersum (Fr.) Quél.

Hypholoma marginatum - Snakeskin Brownie - Scotland

Etymology

Hypholoma, the genus name, means 'mushrooms with threads'. It may be a reference to thev thread-like partial veil that connects the cap rim to the stem of young fruitbodies, although some authorities suggest that it is a reference to the thread-like rhizomorphs (root-like bundles of mycelial hyphae) that radiate from the stem base.

The specific epithet marginatum means 'with an edge or border'; it is is a reference to the silky-white remnants of the partial veil that usually adhere to the cap margins.

Toxicity

Generally considered inedible, this woodland mushroom is easily confused with other fungi (for example Sulphur Tufts) from the same genus that are also inedible or even poisonous, as well as possibly with Galerina marginata, commonly referred to as the Funeral Bell, which as its common name proclaims is deadly poisonous. If you need a further disincentive the small size and infrequent occurrence of the Snakeskin Brownie surely make it a mushroom that is not worth collecting to eat.

Identification guide

Cap of Hypholoma marginatum

Cap

4 to 9cm across, convex, flattening out at maturity but retaining a shallow umbo; inrolled margin of young caps is covered with silky remnants of the partial veil; colour rather variable but most often brick red in the centre and paler towards the margin.

Gills of Hypholoma marginatum

Gills

Adnate; crowded; cream turning olive then purplish brown as spores mature.

Stem of Hypholoma marginatum showing the snakeskin patterning

Stem

5 to 10cm long and 0.6 to 1.5cm diameter; fibrous; light ochre at apex, darkening progressively to a reddish-brown base; a faint ring zone isusually discernable.

Spores of <em>Hypholoma marginatum</em>

Spores

Ellipsoidal, smooth, 7-9 x 4-5µm; with a small germ pore.

Spore print

Purple-brown.

Show larger image

Odour/taste

No significant odour; the taste can be mild or bitter. Considered inedible by most authorities.

Habitat & Ecological role

Saprobic, usually in trooping groups and often tufted, on soil laden with conifer needles in woods and forests; sometimes seen growing on well-rotted softwood stumps or fallen trunks.

Season

July to October in Britain and Ireland.

Similar species

Hypholoma capnoides, commonly referred to as Conifer Tuft, is paler and grows in groups or small tufts on conifer stumps; in most parts of Britain it is more common than the Snakeskin Brownie.

Hypholoma marginatum - Snakeskin Brownie - pale specimen

Reference Sources

Fascinated by Fungi, Pat O'Reilly 2016.

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.

Acknowledgement

This page includes pictures kindly contributed by David Kelly.

Top of page...


Fascinated by Fungi, 2nd edn, hardback

If you have found this information helpful, we are sure you would also find our book Fascinated by Fungi by Pat O'Reilly very useful. Author-signed hardback copies at a special discount price are available here...

Other nature books from First Nature...