Panaeolus fimicola (Pers.) Gillet - Turf Mottlegill

Phylum: Basidiomycota - Class: Agaricomycetes - Order: Agaricales - Family: Insertae sedis (Not yet assigned)

Panaeolus fimicola - Turf Mottlegill, Wales UK

It is hard to imagine a duller mushroom, but this very dark mottlegill somehow manages to make itself conspicuous on lawns after rain. The dark-brown caps – sometimes almost black – fade with age, covering a range of shades of brown; as a result the Turf Mottlegill is often wrongly recorded as Brown Mottlegill Panaeolina foenisecii, a more common and widespread lawn fungus. (If you have an old field guide, this grassland species is more likely to be recorded under its synonymous name Panaeolus ater.)

Panaeolus fimicola - Turf Mottlegill on a lawn in springtime

Distribution

In Britain and Ireland the Turf Mottlegill is common and widespread in lawns and dung-fertilised short-sward lowland grassland, but it is less plentiful in mountainous areas. This often misidentified toadstool is also found throughout most of mainland Europe, and it occurs in many other parts of the world including North America.

Taxonomic history

In 1788 a British mycologist, James Bolton, who first described this species scientifically and gave it the (invalid) name Agaricus varius (at a time when gilled fungi were generally placed into the genus Agaricus, since largely redistributed across many other newer genera). It was the great Christiaan Hendrik Persoon who established its first valid species name (its basionym) in his milestone publication of 1801, naming it Agaricus fimicola.

Panaeolus fimicola - Turf Mottlegill

Nearly three quarters of a century later, in 1874, the currently accepted scientific name Panaeolus fimicola came about when French mycologist Claude-Casimir Gillet (1806 - 1896) transferred this species to the genus Panaeolus.

Synonyms of Panaeolus fimicola include Agaricus varius Bolton, Agaricus fimicola Pers., Prunulus varius (Bolton) Gray, Panaeolus fimicola var. ater J. E. Lange, Panaeolus obliquoporus Bon, and Panaeolus ater (J. E. Lange) Kühner & Romagn. ex Bon.

There is no concensus about the correct taxonomic position of fungi in the genera Panaeolus and Panaeolina, which some authorities include in the family Strophariaceae and others in the Bolbitiaceae. (I have placed our pictures of this species in with those of other members of the family Bolbitiaceae.)

Etymology

Panaeolus, the genus name of this mushroom, means variegated and is a reference to the mottled or variegated colouring of the gills. The specific epithet fimicola comes from the Latin noun fimum, meaning dung, and the Latin verb colo, to inhabit - hence it means living on dung. These little brown mushrooms do often inhabit dung-enriched grassland, but they can also appear on lawns that have not been dolloped with dung.

Toxicity

This is a slightly toxic toadstool and most definitely not edible. (There can be small amounts of the hallucinogen psilocybin in these fungi, which lack the umbonate pips of Psilocybe semilanceata, the Liberty Cap or Magic Mushroom.)

Identification guide

Cap and stem of Panaeolus fimicola, the Turf Mottlegill

Cap

Caps of Panaeolus fimicola are 1.5 to 4cm across; initially hemispherical or convex, expanding to become broadly convex; hygrophanous, dark reddish-brown, sometimes tinged with purple, drying paler brown; smooth, with a satin surface.

Stem

4 to 8cm long and 3 to 5mm diameter; dusted with a white bloom at apex, the middle and lower stem colour is as the cap; cylindrical; no stem ring.

Gills of Panaeolus fimicola, the Turf Mottlegill

Gills

Gills of the Turf Mottlegill are adnate; grey-brown with white (initially) toothed edges and somewhat mottled, becoming black as the spores mature.

Spores of Panaeolus fimicola

Spores

Ellipsoidal or lemon shaped; smooth, 10.8-14.2 x 6.9-9.5µm.

Show larger image

Spore print

Black.

Odour/taste

Not distinctive.

Habitat & Ecological role

Panaeolus fimicola is saprobic and appears on lawns, roadside verges and other grassy places.

Season

May to November in Britain and Ireland.

Similar species

Stropharia semiglobata, the Dung Roundhead, has a transient ring and leaves a brown spore print.

Panaeolina foenisecii, the Brown Mottlegill, is a paler brown when wet and dries out from the cap centre to become creamy-beige.

Reference Sources

Fascinated by Fungi, Pat O'Reilly 2016.

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

Some of the pictures on this page are shown with the kind permission of David Kelly.

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