Hygrocybe aurantiosplendens R. Haller Aar. - Orange Waxcap

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

Hygrocybe aurantiosplendens

Up to 5cm in diameter, the Orange Waxcap gets its name from its colour. This gregarious waxcap fruits from late summer to early winter, usually in small groups rather than singly.

Orange Waxcap Hygrocybe urantiosplendens, southern England


Hygrocybe aurantiosplendens is a widespread but rare or at best only an occasional find in Britain and Ireland, where it occurs mainly in unimproved grassland. On mainland Europe this waxcaap is most abundant in Scandinavia, becoming less common further south. A waxcap by the same name is also recorded in parts of North America, but it is uncertain whether the American and European forms are truly cospecific.

Hygrocybe aurantiosplendens, Scotland

Taxonomic history

The Orange Waxcap was first described in 1954 by Swedish mycologist R. Haller Aar. (does Aar. mean junior?), who gave it what is still its generally accepted scientific name Hygrocybe aurantiosplendens.

Synonyms of Hygrocybe aurantiosplendens include Hygrophorus aurantiosplendens (R. Haller Aar.) P.D. Orton.

Hygrocybe aurantiosplendens with pinkish caps


The genus Hygrocybe is so named because fungi in this group are nearly always very moist. Hygrocybe means 'watery head'.

The specific epithet aurantiosplendens refers to the vibrany yellow-orange colour of the cap and stem of this lovely waxcap.

Identification guide

Cap and stem of Hygrocybe aurantiosplendens


2 to 5cm in diameter, the cap is conical, eventually becoming convex with a broad umbo. When wet, the slightly hygrophanous cap colour is bright orange-yellow to orange-red, darker towards the centre, and at maturity the margin becomes translucently striate. The cap surface is viscid and very slippery.

Gills of Hygrocybe aurantiosplendens


Narrowly adnate, sometimes with a small decurrent tooth, the gills are paler than the cap surface.


Yellow on the surface and often yellow within the stem flesh but a little paler or occasionally whitish. Dry, smooth or with fine longitudinal fibres; slightly pruinose towards the apex. Cylindrical, sometimes slightly clavate at the base; with no stem ring; 0.8 to 1.5cm in diameter and 3 to 9cm tall.

Hygrocybe aurantiosplendens spores


Oblong to cylindrical, many slightly constricted; smooth, 7.5-9 x 4-5 μm; inamyloid.

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Spore print



Not distinctive.

Habitat & Ecological role

In unimproved grassland, including upland meadows, old lawns and churchyards; also occasinally in deciduous woodlands.


August to December in Britain and Ireland.

Similar species

Hygrocybe chlorophana is yellow and has a viscid stem.

Hygrocybe reidii occasionally occurs in an orange-yellow form. When crushed its gills smell like honey.

Faded specimens of Hygrocybe punicea could be confused with Hygrocybe aurantiosplendens but they are distinguished by somewhat larger spores and more coarsely fibrous stems.

Culinary Notes

On a Europe-wide scale waxcap fungi are now quite rare, and so although in western Britain many of the acid-soil species are still plentiful most mycologists deplore the suggestion of these lovely fungi being gathered to eat. In any case the edibility of the Orange Waxcap is uncertain.

Hygrocybe aurantiosplendens, Ceredigion Wales UK

Reference Sources

Fascinated by Fungi, 2nd Edition, Pat O'Reilly 2016, reprinted by Coch-y-bonddu Books in 2022.

Fungi of Northern Europe, Volume 1 - The Genus Hygrocybe, David Boertmann, 2010.

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.


This page includes pictures kindly contributed by David Adamson, Simon Harding and Tony Raw.

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