We’re officially declaring this week at Curbstone Valley “Mushroom Week”.  We’ve already seen a couple of interesting mushroom species emerging here in recent weeks, like Psathyrella piluliformis, and the ‘redwood rooter’ mushroom, Caulorhiza umbonata.  This week though, with some careful scouting during an afternoon hike around the perimeter of the property, we found a diverse array of mushroom species lurking here.  For the next few days, before we start planting out the orchard, we’re going to focus on some of the beautiful species that are growing here this winter before they disappear…these are NOT your basic, boring, little brown mushrooms!

A yellow waxy cap, Hygrocybe flavescens

This mushroom is Hygrocybe flavescens, from the Latin flavus meaning yellow, and it belongs to a distinctive group of mushrooms known collectively as ‘waxy caps’.  Waxy caps are a particularly colorful group that easily stand out from the greens and browns of the forest floor.  The vivid, conspicuous, colors of these mushrooms not only make it easy for us to find them, but apparently the local fauna are aware of them as well, as a number of the waxy caps we found appeared to have been nibbled on quite extensively.  It was quite difficult finding intact mature specimens.

Clearly someone else found this specimen before we did

Hygrocybe flavescens, unlike some waxy cap mushrooms, is quite easy to identify in the field.  This species is often found growing under redwoods here on the west coast in early winter, just after the new year.  It gets its name from the vibrant yellow and viscid (waxy) cap.

The viscid cap of Hygrocybe flavescens

The cap is typically 2-8 cm in diameter, broadly convex, and not pointed like its cousin Hygrocybe persistens.  The stipe (stem) is typically a yellow-orange to golden yellow.  The lamellae (gills) under cap are yellow-tinged, and generally quite widely spaced, and in mature specimens they are easily visualized along the everted rim.


The markedly everted cap of Hygrocybe flavescens reveals the gills beneath

It should also be noted that Hygrocybe flavescens has a white spore print.  We were able to obtain a faint spore print from this specimen, but unfortunately it doesn’t photograph well.

Cross section showing the yellow gills of Hygrocybe flavescens

This is just one of three waxy cap species we found growing here during this weekend’s hike around our hillsides.  Tomorrow, before we move on to some stunning coral mushrooms, we’ll show you an even more colorful, and vibrant looking species of waxy cap!