The Families of Mushrooms and Toadstools Represented in the British Isles


L. Watson and M. J. Dallwitz



Anamorphic forms frequently occurring (involving at least 7 generic names).

Morphology. The fruit-bodies producing asci and ascospores; erect-elongate, unbranched (1–10 cm long); linear, or ligulate to clavate, or capitate (in Cordyceps entomorrhiza); solitary; small to large; (0.5–)3–10 cm high; brightly pigmented, or not brightly pigmented; buff to light brown, or reddish-brown, or orange, or yellow, or blackish; perithecial (superficial or immersed in the stroma, fleshy); comprising a pre-formed stroma bearing perithecia in which asci, spores and paraphyses develop; stromata present (usually brightly coloured). The asci cylindrical, with a prominent apical cap; asci operculate (the pore narrow); with more or less conspicuous apical thickening; thin walled. The walls of the asci not staining blue with iodine. The ascospores filiform (usually fragmenting); pale brown, or hyaline; (multi-) septate; without a mucilaginous sheath.

The hyphae without clamp connections. The hyphal walls lamellate, double layered, with both layers electron dense.

Ecology. Parasitic; on insects (Cordyceps militaris on larvae and pupae of Lepidoptera (usually subterranean), Cordyceps entomorrhiza on beetle larvae), or on other fungi (Cordyceps ophioglossoides and Cordyceps capitata on fruit bodies of Elaphomyces), or on vascular plants (Claviceps purpurea infecting infloresences of grasses, notoriously Rye).

British representation. About 30 species in Britain; Byssostilbe, Claviceps, Cordyceps, Epichloë, Neobarya, Torrubiella.

World representation. 157 species; genera 31. Widespread, but mainly tropical.

Classification. Ascomycota; Ascomycetes; Sordariomycetidae; Hypocreales.

Comments. Ergot deadly poisonous.

Illustrations. • Claviceps purpurea, Cordyceps entomorrhiza, C. capitata, C. militaris, C. ophioglossoides. • Cordyceps entomorrhiza, C. militaris, and Claviceps purpurea (Berkeley).

To view the illustrations with captions giving names in current use, go to the interactive key. This also offers full and partial descriptions, diagnostic descriptions, differences and similarities between taxa, lists of taxa exhibiting or lacking specified attributes, distributions of character states within any set of taxa, source references, and other relevant material.

Cite this publication as: ‘Watson, L., and Dallwitz, M.J. 2008 onwards. The families of mushrooms and toadstools represented in the British Isles. Version: 6th March 2015.’.