Pholiota aurivella (Batsch) P. Kumm. - Golden Scalycap

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

Pholiota aurivella, Golden Scalycap

Pholiota aurivella is an infrequent species in many parts of Britain and Ireland but more common in the south-east of England and of Wales where mature Beech trees are more abundant. Easily confused with other greasy-capped members of the genus Pholiota (the so-called scalycaps), such as Pholiota alnicola which grows on alders and Pholiota gummosa which is often seen growing in grass beside sick or dead deciduous trees, the Golden Scalycap is one of the largest mushrooms in this group.

The splendid array of Golden Scalycaps pictured above is shown courtesy of Nigel P Kent.

Distribution

An uncommon but far from rare species in Britain and Ireland, Pholiota aurivella is also found in northern and central mainland Europe as well as in Asia and parts of North America.

Pholiota aurivella - a fairly dark form

Darker forms of the Golden Scalycap also occur. Shown on the left is a beautiful specimen photographed on a roadside tree near Leeds, in northern England.

Taxonomic history

The Golden Scalycap was described in 1786 by German naturalist August Johann Georg Karl Batsch (1761 - 1802), who gave it the binomial scientific name Agaricus aurivellus. (In the early days of fungal taxonomy most gilled mushrooms were placed in the genus Agaricus, which was later broken up into the many other genera that we use today.) It was another German mycologist, Paul Kummer, who transferred this species to the new genus Pholiota in 1888, thereby establishing its currently-accepted scientific name as Pholiota aurivella.

Synonyms of Pholiota aurivella may include Pholiota cerifera, Pholiota adiposa and Pholiota squarrosa-adiposa; however, note the use of the word 'may' because there is still much debate about just how many species are contained in the grouping that most of us are content to call Golden Scalycaps (although some of these lovely but inedible mushrooms are much too brown to justify being called golden!).

Etymology

The generic name Pholiota means scaly, and the specific epithet aurivella means golden fleece - whenever you see -vell in a scientific name, look for the fleecy characteristic to which this prefix refers.

Identification guide

An unusually dark form of Pholiota aurivella

Cap

5 to 15cm in diameter, bright golden yellow to rusty brown and with a slimy or greasy surface covered in darker-brown scales that sometimes wash off in wet weather.

The lovely specimens shown on the left are particularly dark.

Gills of Pholiota aurivella

Gills

The crowded adnate gills are cream when young, turning reddish-brown as the spores develop.

Stem

6 to 12mm in diameter and 3 to 9cm tall; lemon-yellow becoming browner with age; smooth above a pale cottony ring (persistent fragments of the partial veil) and having darker brown scales below the ring. The stem is solid with fibrous yellowish flesh.

Spores of Pholiota aurivella

Spores

Ellipsoidal, smooth, 6.5-10 x 4-6μm; with a distinct germ pore.

Show larger image

Spore print

Reddish-brown.

Odour/taste

No distinctive odour; taste is rather bitter.

Habitat & Ecological role

On stumps, large fallen branches and dead trunks of deciduous hardwood trees, most commonly Beeches.

Season

September to December in Britain and Ireland.

Similar species

Pholiota alnicola is smaller and rarely has many cap scales.

Pholiota aurivella - young specimens

Above: young fruitbodies of Pholiota aurivella.

Culinary Notes

Despite their attractive appearance, these and other scalycaps (Pholiota species) are definitely not edible mushrooms, although in the past some members of this genus were considered to be so.

Reference Sources

Fascinated by Fungi, Pat O'Reilly 2016.

British Mycological Society (2010). English Names for Fungi

Funga Nordica, Henning Knudsen and Jan Vesterholt, 2008.

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

This page includes pictures kindly contributed by Simon Harding, Anthony Harding, Varsha Patel and John Wilson.

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