Thursday, 7 October 2010

Cortinarius: An Identity Crisis

There are a few species of fungi whose mushrooms drive me up the wall when it comes to identification. There are times when I don't recognise the family at all and that's frustrating enough but when I know the species but still can't identify the mushroom be it Russula, Mycena and especially Inocybe then it's hair pulling time. And I'm bald.
But when it comes to Cortinarius however, I don't feel the same.

Considering that the family resemblances in Cortinarius runs into the hundreds, the chances of a correct identification can be daunting but I never really get bored of trying and even though I know I'll probably be thwarted it doesn't matter, because when one gets it right.... It's very satisfying.

The mushrooms throw up a strange mix of colours which genuinely intrigues me; the purple, lilac and silvery greys combined with orange and brown  in some species is bizarre. The cortina is also interesting. I wonder what it's function is but it's attachment from the stipe to the cap margin is a fantastic piece of engineering.
I've found quite a few Cortinarius in the last few weeks and they vary greatly.

Below is a particular Cortinarius that I haven't seen for a long time. Possibly 4 years. It was in the same area as before under fir and birch trees. The striking thing visually about its appearance is it's odd orange and purple colouring. This combination is common in some parts of this large family. When the fungi is young it's predominately purple, sometimes strongly so.

 The gills are deep purple when young and later become flushed with a tan colour. The purple colour remains on the edges of the gills at the margin.

  As you can see as the mushroom matures its flesh colour changes from purple to whitish but retains an orange tint at the base.

I've never come across the Cortinarius pictured below before. It has a wide tan coloured cap and a distinct grey cortina. The stipe is virtually always bulbous. The cortina remains on the top of the stipe, looking as if it's trickling down the surface. (see second photo below) 

I found this mushroom on Pentre-chywth Road. It was growing in numbers too. Unlike Its stipe is whitish and there is not a hint of purple. The gills are dark orange.


 Below are a selection of other Cortinarius found out and about.

I've been thinking of keeping a different, personal kind of record of the Cortinarius I find on my regular forays. Location and tree types and giving them 'names' and drawings. Just so that I know what I'm collecting locally. That way at least I'll know what I've already found and where. If and when I identify them properly I'll assign them their correct names.

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