Hygrocybe fornicata (Fr.) Singer - Earthy Waxcap

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

Hygrocybe fornicata in mossy grassland

One of the less common waxcap fungi, Hygrocybe fornicata is recognisable by its grey-brown colouring and almost invariably umbonate cap, usually with a darker central area.

Waxcaps are generally difficult to separate on macroscopic characters alone, and so it is a great help when a species has one or more features shared with few or no other waxcaps. There are very few grey or brownish waxcap species, thus making the Earthy Waxcap fairly distinctive.

Hygrocybe fornicata


Hygrocybe fornicata is a relatively uncommon find but widely distributed across most parts of Britain and Ireland apart from the driest regions of south-east England. This species is recorded also in many mainland European countries.

Hygrocybe fornicata, Llangurig, Wales UK

Taxonomic history

Hygrocybe fornicata is a waxcap whose basionym dates from 1838 when, in his Systema Mycologicum, Elias Magnus Fries described this species and gave it the scientific name Hygrophorus fornicatus. The currently accepted scientific name Hygrocybe fornicata dates from a 1949 paper (publication date 1951) by Rolf Singer. As other varieties have been described the autonomous variety is formally named Hygrocybe fornicata var. fornicata (Fr.) Singer.

Synonyms of Hygrocybe fornicata var. fornicata  (Fr.) Singer include Hygrophorus fornicatus Fr., Hygrophorus streptopus Fr., Camarophyllus fornicatus (Fr.) P. Karst., Hygrophorus clivalis (Fr.) Sacc., Hygrocybe clivalis (Fr.) P.D. Orton & Watling, Hygrocybe streptopus (Fr.) Bon, and Hygrocybe fornicata var. streptopus (Fr.) Arnolds.

Hygrocybe fornicata, Scotland


The genus Hygrocybe is so named because fungi in this group are always very moist. Hygrocybe means 'watery head'. The specific epithet fornicata means arched and refers to the umbonate shape of the cap.

Identification guide

Cap of Hygrocybe helobia


Grey at the margin but a darker brownish grey near the centre, the cap surface is initially slightly sticky but becomes fairly dry (except in wet weather) at maturity. Broadly campanulate or conical when young, then flattening but retaining a small umbo, caps range from 2 to 8cm across, sometimes splitting radially; radially finely fibrillose and sometimes slightly scaly at the centre.

Gills and stem of Hygrocybe fornicata


Adnexed, adnate or emarginate, the thin gills are white or very pale grey and moderately spaced.


White or very pale grey, often with rusty spots near the base, the dry stems are smooth or very finely fibrillose, mainly at the base, and of more or less constant diameter (typically 6 to 12mm in diameter) and 2 to 7cm long with no stem ring.

Spores of Hygrocybe fornicata


Ellipsoidal, smooth; with some drops; 6-9 x 4-6μm; hyaline; inamyloid.

Show larger image

Spore print



Not distinctive.

Habitat & Ecological role

Mainly in unimproved grassland such as old lawns and churchyards but occasionally in deciduous woodland clearings; sometimes found on heathland.

Waxcaps have long been considered to be saprobic on the dead roots of grasses and other grassland plants, but it is now considered likely that there is some kind of mutual relationship between waxcaps and mosses.


September to November in Britain and Ireland.

Similar species

Gliophorus irrigatus is brownish but much more slimy.

Culinary Notes

Hygrocybe fornicata is not generally considered to be a culinary collectible.

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.

Top of page...

Fascinated by Fungi, 2nd edn, hardback

Fascinated by Fungi. Back by popular demand, Pat O'Reilly's best-selling 450-page hardback book is available now. The latest second edition was republished with a sparkling new cover design in September 2022 by Coch-y-Bonddu Books. Full details and copies are available from the publisher's online bookshop...

© 1995 - 2024 First Nature: a not-for-profit volunteer-run resource

Please help to keep this free resource online...

Terms of use - Privacy policy - Disable cookies - Links policy