Pholiota gummosa (Lasch) Singer - Sticky Scalycap

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

Pholiota gummosa - Sticky Scalycap, Wiltshire, England

Some of the Pholiota fungi (generally known as the 'scalycaps') - for example Pholiota squarrosa, the Shaggy Scalycap - grow on the lower trunk areas of living trees, and so they can appear to be acting as parasites (although it is most likely that they are consuming wood that is already dead); others are more clearly saprobic as they occur on rotting stumps or on buried rotten wood. The Sticky Scalycap is one of the latter, a saprophytic fungus that displays little or no appetite for fresh food; often where wood has become buried these pallid scalycaps appear to be growing from soil.

Pholiota gummosa - Sticky Scalycap, in an overlapping group

Distribution

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

Pholiota gummosa, central France

Taxonomic history

This distinctive (for a Pholiota species, that is!) mushroom was described in 1828 by German mycologist Wilhelm Gottfried Lasch (1787 - 1863) who gave it the binomial scientific name Agaricus gummosus. (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 German-born mycologist Rolf Singer who, in 1949, transferred this species to the genus Pholiota, establishing its currently-accepted scientific name as Pholiota gummosa.

Synonyms of Pholiota gummosa include Agaricus gummosus Lasch, Agaricus ochrochlorus Fr., Flammula gummosa (Lasch) P. Kumm., Agaricus cookei Fr., Flammula ochrochlora (Fr.) P. Karst., Dryophila gummosa (Lasch) Quél., Pholiota cookei (Fr.) Sacc., and Pholiota ochrochlora (Fr.) P.D. Orton.

Pholiota gummosa - Sticky Scalycap, in France

Etymology

The generic name Pholiota means scaly, and the specific epithet gummosa is, as it sounds, a reference to the gummy (sticky but not particularly gooey) nature of the cap surface.

Some of the mushrooms in this genus are very slimy in wet weather, but during dry spells they tend to become tacky and eventually take on a varnished appearance; this makes identification rather more of a challenge, particularly Pholiota gummosa, whose cap scales can wash off in rain.

Identification guide

Cap of Pholiota gummosa

Cap

2 to 5cm across; pale cream or beige to light ochre with olive tints; convex, becoming flatter and sometimes retaining a small umbo; covered in large dark ochre adpressed scales spaced well apart; the scales tend to fall off or get washed off old caps..

Gills and stem of Pholiota gummosa

Gills

Adnate; cream becoming rusty brown.

Stem

3 to 8cm tall and 0.5 to 1cm diameter; cream or pale beige, flushed brown towards base; covered in fibrous scales below the ring zone.

Spore, Phoiota gummosa

Spores

Ellipsoidal, smooth, 5.5-8 x 3.5-4.5μm with a germ pore.

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Spore print

Brown.

Odour/taste

Not distinctive.

Habitat & Ecological role

On moss-covered rotting stumps and dead roots.

Season

June to October in Britain and Ireland.

Similar species

Pholiota squarrosa has much larger scales on its cap, and it grows most often on damaged areas of the lower trunks of living trees.

Culinary Notes

Like most other fungi in the family Strophariaceae, despite their attractive appearance Sticky Scalycaps and indeed all other scalycaps (Pholiota species) are definitely not edible mushrooms, although in the past some members of this genus were considered to be so.

Pholiota gummosa - Sticky Scalycap, in southern France

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.

Other web pages about this species

AMINT - Funghi Italiani (Italy)

Leif Goodwin (UK)

Marek Snowarski (Poland)

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