Lepiota felina (Pers.) P. Karst. - Cat Dapperling

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

Lepiota felina

No dapperling is more dapper than this dark-scaled little mushroom of dense coniferous forests. Leopard-like in its spots, and with an almost black central eye stark against a white background, the cap is not difficult to find.

Often in small groups, these attractive mushrooms are fairly common in acid areas where conifer plantations are sited. It looks good and doesn’t even smell bad, but like other small dapperlings Lepiota felina is suspect and may be poisonous.

Distribution

Lepiota felina, West Wales

Widespread and fairly common in acidic areas of Britain and Ireland, mainly in conifer forests, Lepiota felina occurs throughout most of mainland Europe and is found also in many other parts of the world including North America.

Taxonomic history

This mushroom was described in 1801 by Christiaan Hendrik Persoon, who gave it the binomial scientific name Agaricus felinus. (In the early days of fungal taxonomy, most of the gilled mushrooms were included initially in a huge genus Agaricus; later many new genera were erected into which the majority of species were transferred, so that nowadays the genus Agaricus is rather more manageable!) It was Finnish mycologist Petter Adolf Karsten (1834 - 1917) who in 1879 transferred this species to the genus Lepiota, thereby establishing its currently-accepted scientific name Lepiota felina.

Synonyms of Lepiota felina include Agaricus felinus Pers., Agaricus clypeolarius var. felinus (Pers.) Fr., and Lepiota clypeolaria var. felina (Pers.) Gillet.

Etymology

Lepiota, the genus name, comes from Greek words Lepis-, meaning scale, and -ot, meaning ear. Scaly ear fungus is an interpretation, therefore. Scales on a convex (vaguely ear-shaped) cap are characteristic of fungi in this genus, as also are free gills and a stem ring.

The specific epithet felina means cat-like. The type of cat that immediately comes to mind when I look at these dapperlings is the leopard, Panthera pardus, a member of the family Felidae!

Identification guide

Cap of Lepiota felina

Cap

Initially hemispherical, becoming convex and sometimes almost flat with a slight umbo; white with a dark brown or black centre surrounded by concentric rings of relatively large (compared with other dapperlings of similar cap size) dark-brown scales.

Cap diameter at maturity ranges from 1.5 to 3cm.

Side view of Lepiota felina

Gills

The free, crowded gills are white or cream, darkening with age.

Stem

Creamy white; base slightly swollen; the persistent ring is creamy white on top and brown beneath. 2.5 to 4cm long and 2 to 4mm diameter.

Spores of Lepiota felina

Spores

Ellipsoidal to ovoid, smooth, 6.5-8 x 3.5-4μm; dextrinoid.

Show larger image

Spore print

White.

Odour/taste

Odour earthy; taste not significant (and tasting dapperlings is inadvisable).

Habitat & Ecological role

Saprobic, solitary or in small groups in coniferous forests and plantations.

Season

July to October in Britain and Ireland.

Similar species

Lepiota ignivolvata has a bright orange or red-brown ring low down on the stem.

Lepiota cristata is typically larger with paler scales and has an unpleasant odour.

Toxicity

In my opinion there are no dapperlings worth collecting to eat, particularly because confident identification in the field is very difficult and several of them are seriously toxic toadstools. For example, Lepiota cristata the Stinking Dapperling is poisonous and could be mistaken for a small edible Parasol Mushroom Macrolepiota procera. If what you believe to be Parasols are smaller than 10cm in cap diameter then check very carefully, because it is possible that they are actually poisonous Lepiota species.

Lepiota felina seen from above

Reference Sources

Fascinated by Fungi, Pat O'Reilly 2016.

Funga Nordica: 2nd edition 2012. Edited by Knudsen, H. & Vesterholt, J. ISBN 9788798396130

British Mycological Society. English Names for Fungi

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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