Lacrymaria lacrymabunda (Bull.) Pat. - Weeping Widow

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

Lacrymaria lacrymabunda - Weeping Widow

Commonly referred to as the Weeping Widow, because of the black, watery droplets that appear at the cap rim and on te edges of the gills when they are moist, this large grassland fungus is an occasional species in parkland, open woodland, lawns, fields and roadside verges.

The English name somehow seems particularly poignant when these sombre but gregarious mushrooms pop up to shed their tears beside gravestones in town and country churchyards.

Lacrymaria lacrymabunda, Weeping Widow, in a Dorset parkland setting

Distribution

A fairly frequent find in most parts of Britain and Ireland, Lacrymaria lacrymabunda occurs throughout mainland Europe and is found also in many parts of in North America.

Taxonomic history

French mycologist Jean Baptiste Francois (Pierre) Bulliard described this species in 1785, giving it the binomial name Agaricus lacrymabundus. (In the early days of fungal taxonomy most gilled mushrooms were placed in one gigantic Agaricus grouping, which has since been broken up into many other genera, leaving in the Agaricus genus a relatively small group of the 'true mushrooms', as they are sometimes called.) It was another Frenchman, Narcisse Theophile Patouillard, whon in 1887 transferred the Weeping Widow to its present genus, establishing its currently-accepted scientific name as Lacrymaria lacrymabunda.

Synonyms of Lacrymaria lacrymabunda include Agaricus lacrymabundus Bull., Agaricus velutinus Pers., Agaricus lacrymabundus ß velutinus (Pers.) Fr., Coprinus velutinus (Pers.) Gray, Agaricus areolatus Klotzsch, Hypholoma velutinum (Pers.) P. Kumm., Psathyra lacrymabunda (Bull.) P. Kumm., Hypholoma lacrymabundum (Bull.) Sacc., Psilocybe areolata (Klotzsch) Sacc., Lacrymaria velutina (Pers.) Konrad & Maubl., Psathyrella velutina (Pers.) Singer, and Psathyrella lacrymabunda (Bull.) M.M. Moser ex A.H. Sm. From this it is clear that the Weeping Widow has caused much weeping and gnashing of teeth as mycologists down the ages have struggled to fit this oddball mushroom rationally into their nice tidy taxonomic hierarchies. Taxonomy is a human construct; Nature has the capacity and audacity to straddle any boundaries we care to erect.

Lacrymaria lacrymabunda, Weeping Widow, underside view

Etymology

The generic name Lacrymaria means producing tears (crying), as fungi in this group do. The specific epithet lacrymabunda underlines that trend by indicating that the Weeping Widow produces an abundance of tears.

Identification guide

Cap of Lacrymaria lacrymabunda, Weeping Widow

Cap

Initially bell-shaped and densely hairy with a woolly, in-rolled margin to which pale fragments of the veil remain attached. At maturity, caps become broadly convex, expanding to between 4 and 12cm in diameter and usually retaining a distinct umbo.

The reddish cap surface is radially streaked with yellow and clay brown tinges.

Gills of Lacrymaria lacrymabunda, Weeping Widow

Gills

Adnexed to free; initially yellow-brown with a very pale edge, but soon becoming mottled dark brown and eventually blackened with spores. The gill edges hold black watery droplets when moist.

Stem

5 to 10mm in diameter; 5 to 10cm tall; a paler brown than the cap but more russet towards the base; fibrous, with a ring zone of pale fibres that soon become stained black by falling spores.

Cheilocystidia of <em>Lacrymaria lacrymabunda</em>

Cheilocystidia

These are the cystidia that occur on the gill edges. In Lacrymaria lacrymabunda the cheilocystidia occur in groups; they are clavate with swollen tips and typically 90µm tall and 12µm in diameter.

Show larger image

Spores of <em>Lacrymaria lacrymabunda</em>

Spores

Ellipsoidal to lemon shaped, warty, 8-11 x 5-7μm, with a germ pore.

Show larger image

Spore print

Black.

Odour/taste

Not distinctive.

Habitat & Ecological role

Saprobic, in grassland and on verges beside lanes; occasionally also in woodland clearings.

Season

April to November in Britain and Ireland, but most common between early July and late September.

Similar species

The Weeping Widow could possibly be mistaken for a field mushroom, Agaricus campestris, when young.

Psathyrella candoleana is somewhat similar but smaller and much paler

Culinary Notes

The Weeping Widow Lacrymaria lacrymabunda is reported to be an edible mushroom; however, unless they are cooked and eaten soon after they have been gathered any meal made from these fungi is likely to end up a black soggy mess. A crying shame!

Reference Sources

Fascinated by Fungi, Pat O'Reilly 2016.

Bas, C. (1983). On the application of the name Agaricus lacrymabundus Bull.: Fr. Persoonia 12(1): 103-106.

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 and David Kelly.

Top of page...


Pat O'Reilly

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...