Russula chloroides (Krombh.) Bres. - Blue Band Brittlegill

Russula chloroides - Blue Band Brittlegill

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

Russula chloroides, the Blue Band   Brittlegill, is a large mushroom that emerges from the earth pushing up twigs and leaf litter; hence, the large off-white cap is often badly marked. Its favoured habitat is with oak trees on neutral to alkaline soils, although it is sometimes seen under other broadleaf trees.

Some authorities consider this to be merely a variety of the Milk White Brittlegill, Russula delica. (Russula chloroides is on average rather smaller than Russula delica.)

Russula chloroides - Blue Band Brittlegill, in mixed pine and cork oak woodland

Distribution

Common and widespread in Britain and Ireland, mainly in woodland that contains broadleaf trees, particularly oaks, but also found occasionally in mixed woodland, Russula chloroides occurs also on mainland western Europe, from northern Scandinavia right down to the southernmost parts of the Mediterranean region.

Taxonomic history

The Blue Band Brittlegill was described in 1843 by the German mycologist Julius Vincenz von Krombholz, who gave it the binomial scientific name Agaricus chloroides. (Most gilled fungi were initially placed in a giant Agaricus genus, now largely redistributed to many other genera.) It was Italian mycologist Giacopo Bresadola (1847 - 1929) who in 1900 transferred this species to the genus Russula, establishing its currently-accepted scientific name Russula chloroides.

The relatively few synonyms of Russula chloroides include Agaricus chloroides Krombh., and Russula delica var. chloroides (Krombh.) Killerm.

Russula chloroides - Blue Band Brittlegill, in mixed pine and oak woodland

Etymology

Russula, the generic name, means red or reddish, and indeed many of the brittlegills have red caps (but many more are not, and several of those that are usually red can also occur in a range of other colours!). The specific epithet chloroides comes from the Greek words khlorós meaning green, and eîdos meaning a resemblance - a reference to the greenish-blue band where the gills join the stem.

Identification guide

Cap of Russula delica

Cap

5 to 13cm in diameter, this fairly common mushroom resembles a milkcap in its development and general form. The cap is quite substantially expanded by the time that it emerges from the earth, and it often pushes up soil and leaf litter that often marks the cap. Convex, with a slightly inrolled margin, the cap eventually becomes funnel-shaped.

The dirty-white cap surface becomes pale yellowish-brown with age. Beneath the surface the flesh is white and does not change colour when cut.

Blue band on stem of Russula chloroides

Gills

Narrow and moderately spaced or only slightly crowded, the brittle decurrent gills are whit , sometimes with a noticeable bluish tinge. When damaged they release no milk - hence this species is - Classified as a Russula rather than Lactarius species.

Stem

2 to 4cm in diameter and cylindrical, the short white stem is smooth and has no stem ring, but there is a distinct blue area around the top of the stem where the gills are attached.

Spore of Russula chloroides

Spores

Ellipsoidal, 8-11 x 6.5-8.5µm, ornamented with warts to 0.75µm tall joined by many connecting lines forming an incomplete reticulum.

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Spore print

White or very pale cream.

Odour/taste

Usually a faintly fruity-pelargonium odour, sometimes unpleasant; oily, very bitter and hot tasting in the gills but fairly mild in the stem flesh.

Habitat & Ecological role

Mixed broadleaf woodland, notably with oaks, on neutral or alkaline soil. In common with other members of the Russulaceae, Russula chloroides is an ectomycorrhizal mushroom.

Season

August to October in Britain and Ireland.

Similar species

Russula delica has less crowded gills and lacks the bluish-green band around the top of the stem.

Lactarius piperatus is similar in appearance but its very crowded gills release a white latex when they are damaged.

Culinary Notes

The Blue Band Brittlegill is an edible mushroom, but it must be thoroughly cooked. As Russula fungi are difficult to identify with accuracy and a small number of species in this genus are known to be toxic toadstools, it is very important to gather for food only those specimens that you can identify to species level with complete certainty. If in doubt, leave it out.

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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