Laccaria proxima (Boud.) Pat. - Scurfy Deceiver

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

Laccaria proxima - Scurfy Deceiver

Laccaria proxima is distinguished from the more common Deceiver Laccaria laccata by its stem, which has a lilac-coloured base and a tawny upper section.

Distribution

Although widely distributed across Britain and Ireland, the Scurfy Deceiver is most common in areas where the soil is acidic, in broadleaf and coniferous woodland and on heathland.

All Laccaria species are ectomycorrhizal fungi, forming symbiotic relationships with forest trees or ericaceous plants. Genetic research into members of the little-understood family Hydnangiaceae is throwing new light on the complexities of these root-fungus relationships.

Laccaria proxima - Scurfy Deceiver group

Taxonomic history

Described scientifically in 1881 by French mycologist Jean Louis Emile Boudier (1828 - 1920), the Scurfy Deceiver was placed in the genus Clitocybe and given the name Clitocybe proxima. Six years later another Frenchman, Narcisse Theophile Patouillard (1854 - 1926), transferred this species to its present genus, and so its accepted scientific name became Laccaria proxima.

Synonyms of Laccaria proxima include Clitocybe proxima Boud., Laccaria laccata var. proxima (Boud.) Maire, and Laccaria proximella Singer.

Etymology

The specific epithet proxima means nearest or next to, and in appearance Laccaria proxima is the nearest thing to the type species of this genus, Laccaria laccata.

Identification guide

Cap of Laccaria proxima

Cap

2 to 8cm in diameter, the caps are initially convex and become flat-topped at maturity, often with a depressed centre and a down-turned rim; the cap surface is very distinctly scurfy (scaly), particularly so towards the centre.

During wet weather young caps of Laccaria proxima are deep tan or reddish-brown, but during dry spells the caps become much paler buff and eventually almost white.

Gills of Laccaria proxima

Gills

The deep, broad pinkish-lilac (when young) gills are widely spaced and interspersed with shorter gills; they are adnexed, adnate or very slightly decurrent. In normal autumn weather, before the caps fade the tan gills begin losing their colour and become clay-lilac and then buff. This is because they get covered in white spores.

Stem

6 to 10mm in diameter and 6 to 12cm tall, the tough fibrous stems are increasingly more 'hairy' towards the base and the same colour as the caps.

Spores of Laccaria proxima - Scurfy Deceiver

Spores

Ellipsoidal, 8-11 x 7-9μm; ornamented with spines typically 0.5 to 1μm tall.

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Spore print

White.

Odour/taste

Mild but not distinctive.

Habitat & Ecological role

Mycorrhizal, among leaf litter in all kinds of mixed woodland and on heaths, particularly on acidic soil.

Season

June to November in Britain and Ireland.

Similar species

Laccaria laccata is a slightly less robust species with on average a paler cap; however, to separate the two species with confidence requires microscopic examination of the spores.

Laccaria amethystina is a violet coloured member of the same genus; once it has dried out it becomes pale buff and virtually indistinguishable from Laccaria laccata; however, its cap is less scurfy than that of Laccaria proxima and so the latter can be separated quite easily from L. amethystina even in dry weather.

Laccaria bicolor is distinguished by its stem, which has a lilac base and a tawny upper section.

Laccaria tortilis is a tiny deceiver with a contorted cap. It has just two spores per basidium, whereas the other Laccaria species found in Britain and Ireland have four.

Culinary Notes

Scurfy Deceivers are edible, although like their relatives the Deceivers and the Amethyst Deceivers it takes rather a lot of them to make a good meal. The stems of all Laccaria fungi are tough and inedible, and so only the caps are worth gathering for food. Although perhaps not one of Mother Nature's finest offerings the caps are very good when fried, tasting rather like shop-bought button mushrooms (Agaricus bisporus). Scurfy Deceivers are also fine when used to make mushroom soup.

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.

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