Lactarius camphoratus (Bull.) Fr. - Curry Milkcap

Phylum: Basidiomycota - Class: Agaricomycetes - Order: Russulales - Family: Russulaceae

Lactarius camphoratus - Curry Milkcap

When dried, caps of the Curry Milkcap off a strong odour reminiscent of curry – the reason for common name for this pine-forest fungus, which is referred to in North America as the Candy Cap.

Distribution

In Britain and Ireland Lactarius camphoratus is a widespread and fairly common species, occuring usually in groups rather than solitarily.

Lactarius camphoratus - Curry Milkcap in pine woodland

The Curry Milkcap occurs throughout much of mainland Europe and Asia; it is also recorded on the eastern side of North America.

Lactarius camphoratus - Curry Milkcap in Hampshire UK

Taxonomic history

The Curry Milkcap was described in 1792 by the French mycologist Jean Baptiste Francois (Pierre) Bulliard, who gave it the binomial scientific name Agaricus camphoratus. (Vast numbers of gilled fungi were dumped into the Agaricus genus in the early days of fungal taxonomy; most have since been moved to other genera leaving in the present-day Agaricus genus a much smaller number of gilled mushrooms that are sometimes referred to as the 'true mushrooms'.) It was the Swedish mycologist Elias Magnus Fries who in 1838 transferred this milkcap to the genus Lactarius, making its scientific name Lactarius camphoratus, which is still the binomial name by which the Curry Milkcap is generally known today.

Lactarius camphoratus - Curry Milkcap in pine woodland, Wales UK

Synonyms of Lactarius camphoratus include Agaricus camphoratus Bull., Agaricus subdulcis ß camphoratus (Bull.) Fr., Lactarius cimicarius (Batsch) Gillet, Lactarius terreyi Berk. & Broome, and Lactarius camphoratus var. terreyi (Berk. & Broome) Cooke.

Etymology

The generic name Lactarius means producing milk (lactating) - a reference to the milky latex that is exuded from the gills of milkcap fungi when they are cut or torn. The specific epithet camphoratus is a reference to the distinctive smell of this milkcap mushroom, which at the time its basionym was selected was considered to be like camphor - originally made from the sap of camphor trees and in the past used not only as a moth repellent but also in the manufacture of fireworks. (Nowadays most people in Western Europe are probably much more familiar with the smell of curry than of mothballs!)

Identification Guide

Cap of Lactarius camphoratus

Cap

Red-brown, darker towards centre; convex, developing a central depression usually with a slight umbo; surface smooth and matt; margin slightly furrowed; 3 to 6cm across.

Gills of Lactarius camphoratus

Gills

Pinkish cream to ochre, turning red-brown with age; slightly decurrent; crowded; releasing abundant mild-tasting latex.

Stem

Colour as cap margin, darker towards base; cylindrical; 3 to 10cm long, 4 to 8mm diameter.

 

Spores

Subglobose to broadly ellipsoidal, 7.5-8 x 6.5-7.5μm, hyaline; ornamented with mainly isolated warts 0.5 to 1 μm tall and a few connecting ridges not forming a coherent reticulum.

Spore print

Cream.

Odour/taste

No distinctive odour when fresh, but these mushrooms release a strong odour very reminiscent of curry (or some say freshly-mown grass) when being dried. (The odour of drying fruitbodies has also been described as similar to maple syrup.) The taste of this milkcap is mild.

Habitat & Ecological role

Mainly in pine forests, but very occasionally this little milkcap is also found in broadleaf woodland under birches.

Season

August to November in Britain and Ireland.

Similar species

Lactarius subdulcis is a smaller milkcap sometimes of similar coloration; it occurs under beech trees.

Culinary Notes

Lactarius camphoratus is an edible mushroom when cooked thoroughly. In Germany and some European countries dried Curry Milkcaps are crushed and used as a condiment to flavour soups and sauces.

Reference Sources

Pat O'Reilly (2016). Fascinated by Fungi, First Nature Publishing

Jacob Heilmann-Clausen, Annemieke Verbeken, & Jan Vesterholt (1998). The Genus Lactarius (Fungi of Northern Europe—Vol. 2) The Danish Mycological Society.

Funga Nordica, Henning Knudsen and Jan Vesterholt, 2008.

Fungi of Switzerland, volume 6: Russulaceae, Kränzlin, F.

BMS List of English Names for Fungi.

Paul M. Kirk, Paul F. Cannon, David W. Minter and J. A. Stalpers. (2008). Dictionary of the Fungi; CABI.

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.

Other web authorities on this species

Roger Phillips (UK)

Michael Kuo (USA)

Russulales News (Italy)

Marek Snowarski (Poland)

Acknowledgements

This page includes pictures kindly contributed by David Kelly.

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