Pleurocybella porrigens (Pers.) Singer - Angel's Wings

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

Pleurocybella porrigens, Angel's Wings

See them pouring across grassland in great crowds, jostling one another like excited football fans queuing for the Big Match, and you could (almost) forgive the anthropomorphic attribution to these mushrooms of the cry ‘We are the Champignons’.

Distribution

In Britain this species is found mainly in Scotland and northern England, with just occasional records in Wales and Ireland. Angel's Wings fungi also occur in northern mainland Europe, in cool parts of Asia, and in some regions of North America.

Pleurocybella porrigens, Angel's Wings, Scotland

Taxonomic history

This oyster-like mushroom was first described validly in scientific literature in 1805 by Christiaan Hendrik Persoon, who established its basionym when he gave it the binomial name Agaricus porrigens. (Most gilled fungi were initially placed in the Agaricus genus in the early days of fungal taxonomy.) It was German-born American mycologist Rolf Singer who, in transferring it to the genus Pleurocybella in 1947, established its currently-accepted scientific name. Pleurocybella is a very small genus with just five species currently (January 2017) known to exist; it was esrtablished by Rolf Singer in 1947.

Synonyms of Pleurocybella porrigens (Pers.) Singer include Agaricus porrigensPers., Calathinus porrigens (Pers.) Quél., Pleurotellus porrigens (Pers.) Kühner & Romagn., and Pleurotus porrigens (Pers.) P. Kumm. The latter two names reflect the macroscopic similarity of Angel's Wings to Oyster mushrooms Pleurotus ostreatus and relatives.

Etymology

The genus name Pleurocybella comes from the Greek Pleuron, meaniung side by side, and from the diminutive of kýbe meaning head (a reference to the cap) - hence we get 'little sideways cap'.

The specific epithet porrigens is Latin and means extending or stretching out horizontally.

Identification guide

Cap of Marasmius oreades, Fairy Ring Champignon

Cap

2 to 10cm across; white and smooth, sessile (stemless) split-sided incomplete funnel, sometimes shaped like a tongue but often with a lobed margin. Flesh thin, white.

Gills

Ivory white.

Spores

Globose, smooth, 5-6μm diameter; hyaline.

Spore print

White.

Odour/taste

Slight, pleasant.

Habitat & Ecological role

Saprobic, on well-rotted conifer timber, usually moss-covered and lying on the damp shaded forest floor.

Season

August to November in Britain and Ireland.

Similar species

Oyster Mushroom Pleurotus ostreatus is similar but usually has a slightly lilac spore print; it is also distinguished by thicker cap flesh and a short stem; its elongated spores are subcylindrical or slightly kidney shaped.

Culinary notes

Once considered edible, these uncommon mushrooms have been known to cause fatalities in Japan, and so they should be treated as deadly poisonous.

Reference Sources

Fascinated by Fungi, Pat O'Reilly 2016.

British Mycological Society, 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 Shirley Kevern.

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