Lactarius pyrogalus (Bull.) Fr. - Fiery Milkcap

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

Lactarius pyrogalus, Fiery  Milkcap, southern England

Lactarius pyrogalus is a pale-capped mushroom found in deciduous woodland, mainly under hazel trees. (In Britain, at least, this milkcap seems to be obligately mycorrhizal with Corylus avellana.)

Distribution

Common but localised in Britain and Ireland, the Fiery Milkcap is found in hazel woodland throughout most of central and northern Europe. This mushroom is also found in some parts of North America.

Lactarius pyrogalus, Fiery  Milkcap, Somerset UK

Taxonomic history

The Fiery Milkcap was described scientifically in 1792 by pioneering French mycologist Jean Baptiste Francois (Pierre) Bulliard, who gave it the binomial scientific name Agaricus pyrogalus. It was the greatSwedish mycologist Elias Magnus Fries who, in 1838, transferred this species to the genus Lactarius, thus establishring its currently-accepted scientific name Lactarius pyrogalus.

Synonyms of Lactarius pyrogalus include Agaricus pyrogalus Bull., and Agaricus lactifluus var. pyrogalus (Bull.) Pers.

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 pyrogalus is a Latin adjective meaning fire milk - a reference to the extremely acrid latex within the flesh of this innocuous-looking milkcap.

Identification guide

Cap of Lactarius pyrogalus, Fiery  Milkcap

Cap

2.5 to 9cm in diameter, convex and then depressed, the cap is cream to pale greyish ochre, not usually zoned but sometimes very faintly zoned; smooth; slightly viscid when wet.

Gills of Lactarius pallidus - Pale Milkcap

Gills

Shortly decurrent and moderately spaced, the gills are creamy buff with a pinkish tinge. This milkcap releases copious amounts of white latex that dries grey with a greenish tinge. It is extremely hot tasting.

Stem

Very variable in diameter from 0.8 to 2cm, and 2.5 to 6,5cm long, the stem is more or less cylindrical or tapering in slightly at the base. The stem surface is smooth and paler than the cap..

Spore, Lactarius pyrogalus

Spores

Broadly ellipsoidal, 7-8 x 5.5-7µm; ornamented with warts and connecting broad ridges to 1µm in height forming a zebra-like network.

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Spore print

Pale ochre.

Odour/taste

Slight fruity smell; the milk (latex) and flesh taste extremely hot.

Habitat & Ecological role

The Fiery Milkcap is a mycorrhizal mushroom found under hazel, often in coppice woodland but occasionally beside hedgerows.

Season

August to October in Britain and Ireland.

Similar species

Lactarius glyciosmus smells of coconut; it has a zoned cap and occurs nearly always under birch trees.

Culinary Notes

The Fiery Milkcap is generally considered to be inedible.

Lactarius pyrogalus, Fiery  Milkcap, Somerset, Wales

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.

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