logo

Lactarius azonites (Bull.) Fr.

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

Lactarius azonites

Lactarius azonites has no generally-accepted common name and looks rather like a pale form of the Sooty Milkcap Lactarius fuliginosus; however, it is immediately distinguished when the stem flesh is cut, because it reddens rapidly. When the spores are examined under a high-powered microscope, the reticulate ornamentation is seen to be extremely pronounced.

Distribution

Only an occasional find but nevertheless quite widespread in southern England, this milkcap is a much rarer find in Wales, northern England and Scotland. Lactarius azonites is recorded in many parts of mainland Europe including Germany, Holland, France and Italy; this milkcap is also reported to occur in some parts of Russia.

Lactarius azonites, southern England

Taxonomic history

This rather drab milkcap was first described scientifically in 1791 by French botanist/mycologist Jean Baptiste Francois (Pierre) Bulliard, who gave it the Agaricus azonites. Initially Elias Magnus Fries gave it the name Lactarius argematus, but in his Epicrisis Systematis Mycologici, completed in 1838, he renamed it, establishing the currently-accepted scientific name Lactarius azonites.

Synonyms of Lactarius azonites include Agaricus azonites Bull., Lactarius argematus (Fr.) Fr., and Lactariella azonites (Bull.) J. Schröt. In the past this milkcap was also considered by some authorities to be just a pale-stemmed variety of Lactarius fuliginosus, the Sooty Milkcap.

Etymology

The generic name Lactarius means producing milk (lactating) - a reference to the milky latex that is exuded from the gills of milkcap fungi when they are cut or torn.

The specific epithet azonites comes from Latin and means not zoned. (Many milkcap have caps with annular zones.)

Identification guide

Cap of Lactarius azonites

Cap

4 to 9cm in diameter, low convex to plane, eventually developing a slightly depressed centre; cap surface is smooth or more often very finely velvety, the margin usually being slightly irregular. The cap colour is variable, ranging from pale ochraceous or olivaceous buff through clay-brown to grey-brown.

Gills of Lactarius azonites

Gills

The moderately-spaced anastomising (forking near the cap margin) cream-ochre to pinkish-buff gills are broadly adnate to shortly decurrent. The abundant latex is white, eventually staining the gills flesh pink; it has a mild taste.

Stem of Lactarius azonites

Stem

3 to 5cm tall and 1 to 1.5mm diameter, cylindrical or slightly fusiform; smooth; white or pale grey, bruising pink. There is no stem ring.

Spores of Lactarius aurantiacus

Spores

Gobose to broadly ellipsoidal, 7.5-9 x 7-8µm; strongly reticulate - ornamented with warts and ridges (up to 1.5µm tall) forming a partial network.

Show larger image

Spore print

Yellow-cream to pinkish buff.

Odour/taste

Faint but pleasant fruity dour; a fairly mild or only slightly bitter to acrid taste.

Habitat & Ecological role

Mycorrhizal, usually in deciduous woodland, particularly under oaks.

Season

July to November in Britain and Ireland.

Similar species

Lactarius fuliginosus usually has a darker cap, a darker stem, and non-forking gills; its spores are ornamented with an almost complete reticulum of warts and ridges up to 1µm tall.

Culinary Notes

Roger Phillips records this species as not edible; however, in Russia, and perhaps elsewhere, these milkcaps are sometimes salted or marinated for winter use. In Britain, they do not occur in quantities that justify collecting them to eat, so I suggest it is wise not to collect them unless required for scientific study.

Reference Sources

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

Jacob Heilmann-Clausen, Annemieke Verbeken, & Jan Vesterholt (1998). The Genus Lactarius (Fungi of Northern Europe—Vol. 2) The Danish Mycological Society.

Funga Nordica, Henning Knudsen and Jan Vesterholt, 2008.

Fungi of Switzerland, volume 6: Russulaceae, Kränzlin, F.

BMS List of English Names for Fungi.

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.

Acknowledgements

This page includes pictures kindly contributed by Simon Harding.

Top of page...


Fascinated by Fungi, 2nd edn, hardback

If you have found this information helpful, we are sure you would also find our book Fascinated by Fungi by Pat O'Reilly very useful. Author-signed hardback copies at a special discount price are available here...

Other nature books from First Nature...