Lepista flaccida (Sowerby) Pat. - Tawny Funnel

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

Lepista flaccida - Tawny Funnel

Although the common name and its scientific synonym Clitocybe flaccida suggest that this mushroom is a ‘funnel’, in fact it is now - Classed as one of the ‘blewits’ – even though its spores are white or cream whereas the Wood Blewit and the Field Blewit produce pale pink spores. Caps frequently have a spout-like low points, making for a jug-like appearance; this, and the much thinner cap flesh, help in distinguishing the Tawny Funnel from the superficially similar Common Funnel, Clitocybe gibba.

Lepista flaccida - Tawny Funnel, in a mossy conifer forest

Many people have difficulty identifying the Tawny Funnel, and this is hardly surprising because in both shape and colour it is very variable. Many authors have tried to separate it into a number of distinct taxa, either at species or variety level.

Distribution

Found in all kinds of woodlands, the Tawny Funnel is a very common and widespread fungus and it turns up on nearly every autumn forest foray in Britain. This pretty mushroom is also found throughout mainland Europe and in many other parts of the world including North America.

Sometimes found growing on humus-rich soil but mostly occurring in woodland settings, the Tawny Funnel is gregarious and often produces spectacular fairy rings. Part of such a ring is shown in the picture below; the entire ring was nearly 20 metres in diameter.

Lepista flaccida, Tawny Funnel, growing in a fairy ring

Taxonomic history

Described in 1799 by British naturalist James Sowerby (1757 - 1822), who named this species Agaricus flaccidus, the Tawny Funnel acquired its currently accepted scientific name Lepista flaccida in 1887, when the French mycologist Narcisse Theophile Patouillard (1854 - 1926) transferred it to the genus Lepista.

Synonyms of Clitocybe flaccida are many and varied, and they include Agaricus inversus Scop., Agaricus flaccidus Sowerby, Agaricus lobatus Sowerby, Agaricus gilvus Pers., Agaricus splendens Pers., Omphalia gilva (Pers.) Gray, Omphalia lobata (Sowerby) Gray, Agaricus lentiginosus Fr., Clitocybe flaccida (Sowerby) P. Kumm., Clitocybe gilva (Pers.) P. Kumm., Clitocybe inversa (Scop.) Quél., Clitocybe splendens (Pers.) Gillet, Lepista gilva (Pers.) Roze, Lepista inversa (Scop.) Pat., and Clitocybe flaccida var. lobata (Sowerby) Romagn. & Bon.

Etymology

Lepista is derived from Latin and means a wine pitcher or a goblet, and when fully mature the caps of Lepista species do indeed become concave (sometimes referred to as being infundibuliform) like shallow chalices or goblets. Rather as it sounds, the specific epithet flaccida simply means slack or flaccid (as opposed to tough or rigid) and describes the texture of this common woodland mushroom.

Identification guide

Cap of Lepista flaccida, Tawny Funnel

Cap

4 to 9cm across, convex and later usually funnel shaped with a wavy inrolled margin; smooth and matt; tawny or orange-brown. The caps are hygrophanous and turn paler as they gradually dry out, eventually becoming buff.

Tawny Funnels that appear very late in the season (and they fruit sometimes in January) sometimes have convex caps that do not develop central depressions - a cause of confusion until you get to know the habits of these funny funnels!

Gills of the Tawny Funnel, Lepista flaccida

Gills

Deeply decurrent; crowded; white at first, becoming pale tawny when mature.

Stem

3 to 5cm long and 0.5 to 1cm in diameter; slightly fibrillose; downy at base; tawny but paler than cap; no stem ring.

Spores of Lepista flaccida

Spores

Broadly ellipsoidal, to subglobose, 4-5 x 3.5-4µm; spore surface minutely warty; inamyloid.

Show larger image

Spore print

Creamy-white, in contrast with the Wood Blewit and Field Blewit which have pale pink spores.

Odour/taste

Pleasantly sweet odour; no significant taste.

Habitat & Ecological role

In all kinds of woodland; occasionally on damp sawdust and wood chip mulch.

Season

June to November in Britain and Ireland.

Similar species

Lepista multiformis is usually larger and occurs in grassland.

Clitocybe gibba, the Common Funnel, occurs in similar habitats; it is a much paler mushroom and it produces much larger, elongated pip-shaped white spores.

Culinary notes

Although the Tawny Funnel, Lepista flaccida, is generally considered to be edible, its quality is so poor that collecting it is not considered worthwhile. That's rather a shame because these funnels occur in great numbers and are very easy to find because of the flamboyant colouring.

Reference Sources

Pat O'Reilly, Fascinated by Fungi, 2011.

Sowerby, James (3 vols published between 1795 and 1815) Coloured Figures of English Fungi or Mushrooms.

Bigelow, H.E. (1985). North American Species of Clitocybe. Part II. J. Cramer: Berlin, Germany.

Gregory, D. (2007). The genus Clitocybe of California. Masters Thesis. San Francisco State University.

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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