The Families of Mushrooms and Toadstools Represented in the British Isles


L. Watson and M. J. Dallwitz


Morphology. The fruit-bodies producing basidia and basidiospores; ephemeral; solitary; angiocarpic, or gymnocarpic (mostly); differentiated into a stipe and pileus with the hymenium underneath the latter, or a globose or tuberiform gasterocarp (the gasteroid taxa posing taxonomic problems, some perhaps being conspecific with agaricoid species of Russula or Lactarius); small, or medium sized to large (mostly), or very large; (1–)3–15(–20) cm across. The mature pileus convex, or more or less flat or somewhat depressed. The fruit-bodies brightly pigmented (commonly), or not brightly pigmented. The top of the pileus white or whitish, or cream or yellowish, or buff, or straw-coloured, or honey-coloured, or yellowish-brown, or reddish-brown, or light brown, or dark brown, or orange, or olive, or yellow, or green, or pink, or purple, or red, or grey, or blackish. The fruit-bodies yielding latex when cut (in Lactarius), or not laticiferous; with a faintly sweetish or pleasant aroma (like coconut-toffee, in Lactarius glyciosmus), or smelling of curry-powder (in L. camphoratus), or coumarin-scented (in L. helvus), or with no particular odour other than an ordinary fungoid one. The stipe with neither ring nor volva. The hymenium of agaricoid forms, borne on gills (but internal in the gastroid forms). The hymenophore adnexed to decurrent. The basidia ‘unmodified’. The basidiospores ballistosporic (mostly), or statismosporic; hyaline, or white; ornamented; amyloid (with an amyloid myxosporium).

The hyphae without clamp connections. The hyphal walls lamellate, with a thin, electron-dense outer layer and a relatively thick, electron-transparent inner layer. The hyphae monomitic. The generative hyphae inflated. Spaerocysts present among the context hyphae, sometimes associated with latex.

Ecology. Saprophytic and mycorrhizal. The fruit-bodies borne on the ground. Found mainly in coniferous woodland, in broad-leaved woodland, and in mixed woodland, or in grassy places, or in heathland.

British representation. About 350 species in Britain (mostly in Lactarius and Russula); Gymnomyces, Lactarius, Russula, Zelleromyces.

World representation. 1259 species (!); genera 7. “Widespread”.

Classification. Basidiomycota; Basidiomycetes; Agaricomycetidae; Russulales.

Comments. Several Russula and Lactarius species are more or less edible (R. cyanoxantha for example being being excellent; but some are bitter or nasty, others are uninspiring, and raw R. emetica is appropriately named). The trama heteromerous - i.e., with nests of sphaerocysts amongst the filamenous hyphae.

Illustrations. • Russula claroflava, R. delica, R. fellea, R. foetens, R. nigricans (LH). • Russula cyanoxantha, R. ochroleuca, R. solaris, R. vessca, R. violeipes (LH). • Russula lepida, R. puellaris, R. sanguinea, R. virescens, R. xerampelina (LH). • Russula aeruginea, R. atropurpurea, R. emetica, R. mairei, R. nitida, R. queletii (LH). • Russula aurata, R. decolorans, R. nauseosa, R. olivacea, R. paludosa (LH). • Lactarius aurantiacus, camphoratus, cyathula, fulvissimus, helvus, rufus, subdulcis, tabidus (LH). • Lactarius azonites, fuliginosus, glyciosmus, piperatus, vellereus, volemus (LH). • Lactarius blennius, deliciosus, repraesentaneus, turpis, uvidus, vietus (LH). • Lactarius pallidus, pyrogalus, quietus, resimus, torminosus (LH). • Lactarius insulsus, L. piperatus, Russula alutacea, R. heterophylla, R. nitida and R. virescens (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.’.