Russula aurea Pers. - Gilded Brittlegill

Phylum: Basidiomycota - Class: Agaricomycetes - Order: Russulales - Family: Russulaceae

Russula aurea - Gilded Brittlegill

Russula aurea (syn. Russula aurata) is an occasional species under broad-leaf trees; it is mainly found occasionally under spruce trees. This attractive brittlegill is a delight when you come across it in perfect condition. Good specimens are rare because slugs just love them.

Russula aurea, mature and young fruitbodies, Portugal

Distribution

An infrequent find in Britain and Ireland, the Gilded Brittlegill is more common on mainland Europe especially in southern countries.

Red or orange brittlegills are difficult to identify with certainty, but Russula aurea has the almost unique characteristic of developing a golden-ochre coloured stem when fully mature.

Taxonomic history

English botanist William Withering (1741 - 1799) described this mushroom in 1801 and named it Agaricus auratus. (Vast numbers of gilled fungi were dumped into the Agaricus genus in the early days of fungal taxonomy; most have since been moved to other genera leaving in the present-day Agaricus genus a much smaller number of the 'true mushrooms'.)

Russula aurea, Hampshire, England

The Gilded Brittlegill was transferred to the Russula genus in 1838 by the great Swedish mycologist Elias Magnus Fries and it took on the name Russula aurata (With.) Fr.; however, the name Russula aurea already existed, having been established in 1796 by Christian Hendrik Persoon, and under the ICBN rules this name must take precedence.

Synonyms of Russula aurea include Agaricus auratus With., and Russula aurata (With.) Fr.

Etymology

Russula, the generic name, means red or reddish, and indeed many of the brittlegills have red caps (but many more are not, and some of those that are usually red can also occur in other colours!). The specific epithet aurea means golden.

Identification guide

Russula aurea - young specimen

Cap

4 to 9cm in diameter, the caps are spherical at first, becoming convex and then flattening and often with slightly depressed centres.

Mixtures of yellow and orange or occasionally blood red, often with a golden tinge especially in the centre, the cap cuticle easily peels 1/2 to the centre.

Gills of Russula aurea

Gills

Adnexed or free, the moderately crowded broad gills are pale ochre, sometimes flushed golden yellow, especially at tthe gill edges; darkening slightly as the fruitbody ages.

Stem

10 to 25mm in diameter and 4 to 9cm tall, the brittle stems are white at first but becoming golden-yellow with age. There is no stem ring.

Spores of Russula aurea

Spores

Globose to slightly ovoid; 7-10 x 8.5-9µm; warts 0.5 to 0.7µm tall linked in a partial reticulum (network).

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Spore print

Deep ochre.

Odour/taste

No significant odour; mild taste.

Habitat & Ecological role

In broadleaf woodland. In common with other members of the Russulaceae, Russula aurea is an ectomycorrhizal mushroom.

Season

August to October in Britain and Ireland; several weeks later in the Mediterannean region.

Similar species

Russula paludosa is a red species that sometimes has an orange tinge to its cap, but the stem remains white or pale pink rather than turning golden yellow.

Culinary Notes

The Gilded Brittlegill is an edible mushroom, but it is unusual to find sufficient in one location to justify collecting them.

Reference Sources

Pat O'Reilly (2016). Fascinated by Fungi, First Nature Publishing

Geoffrey Kibby (2011).The Genus Russula in Great Britain, published by G Kibby.

Roberto Galli (1996). Le Russule. Edinatura, Milan.

Paul M. Kirk, Paul F. Cannon, David W. Minter and J. A. Stalpers. (2008). Dictionary of the Fungi; CABI.

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 authorities on this species

Roger Phillips (UK)

Russulales News (Italy)

Marek Snowarski (Poland)

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