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Medium to Large Terrestrial Brown-spored Mushrooms

As usual, if they are only associated with hardwood trees, that will be noted.

Pholiota terrestris has a scaly cap and stem and is found on the ground, unlike all its relatives.

One Stropharia (S. albivelata with a yellow-brown cap, a ring and a scaly stem) and Stagnicola (black horny stem) have warm brown spores instead of the usual purple brown spores found on mushrooms on the Stropharia page.



"Rozites" (Cortinarius) caperatus - actually a Cortinarius, but the only one with a normal membranous partial veil instead of a cortina, so you might not think of looking there, although the rusty spores and terrestrial habitat still point to Cortinarius. Not hygrophanous, but sometimes with a hoary sheen to the cap. Mycorrhizal. Resembles many smaller poisonous Inocybe and Hebeloma.

Also recognized by the yellow-brown, dry cap that is wrinkled, sometimes with an uplifted cap margin. Cap from 5-15cm across, one of the largest Cortinarius.


Ripartites - pale brown spores, but in the white spored Tricholoma sub-order! White hairy cap with bearded margin, strongly decurrent gills turning pinkish-brown. A very cool but very rare mushroom here.

Ripartites sp.


Bolbitiaceae - delicate LBMs found in grass, manure, rotting debris or wood with an often viscid, striate, non hygrophanous cap. Gills may be free but are sometimes adnexed. They are very much like Psathyrella and the inky caps, but with lighter brown spores. The spores have a kind of a rusty tint to them like Cortinarius, but these are usually paler. This gives these mushrooms cinnamon coloured gills in maturity.

This family has a cellular cap cuticle (the top layer of cells inflated and round) like Agrocybe, Psathyrella, Panaeolus and the Inky Caps. (And the Russulaceae, but their entire fruitbody is cellular). This sometimes gives them a subtle granular look, but it also makes them susceptible to breaking in any direction, not just radially from the cap to the centre. Put a little bit of pressure on the cap by bending it and see if you can get it to easily break like this:

That might indicate a cellular cap cuticle, although any old rotting mushroom is also likely to break easily in any direction.

Bolbitius - usually a viscid, striate capped, yellow LBM,  but may have olive colours too, or be less colourful or with an interesting reticulated cap. <4cm. (Conocybe is also in this family, but usually smaller and to be found on the LBM page).

B. titubans (vitellinus) - viscid, yellow (sometimes olive), striate. The yellow will fade!

B. aleuriatus - lilac grey cap even when young, some yellow in stem. Viscid.

B. reticulatus - sometimes a net like pattern develops in either colouration, but this may not indicate a separate species.


Phaeolepiota aurea - the name means a dark (referring to the spores) Lepiota, which is what it actually is (related to Lepiota, perhaps sister to Cystoderma). In Phaeolepiota the spores are yellow- to orange-brown. Probably saprophytic.

Looks like it is covered in orange leather. The thick partial veil is "peronate", meaning the veil flares out from below instead of hanging down from above like a skirt. Up to 20cm across or more.


Phaeocollybia - most easily recognized by their often orange colours, conical caps and long, tough, cartilaginous, dark rooting stems, if you have carefully dug the entire thing out. The underground part of the stem may be up to three times longer than the above ground part, and reach down more than a foot! Digging them out can be quite an ordeal. They are mycorrhizal, most are viscid, with somewhat warty spores. None are common, they are only known from a limited number of habitats, often old growth conifer forests, meaning that the PNW is a hotspot with more species and collections than anywhere else in the world. They can be mistaken for Mythicomyces/Stagnicola as well as a few other rooting stemmed dark spored mushrooms on that page.

Yellow-brown? dry capped species that are minutely scaly

P. luteosquamulosa/P. ochraceocana - dry sometimes yellow-brown caps that are minutely scaly under a hand lens. All other species have smooth, viscid caps that are seldom yellow-brown. This photo shows orange-brown caps harder to distinguish from other species. The two are differentiated by spore size.

Colourful - green caps or purple gills

P. fallax group - green cap, purple gills, orange stem. Our most beautiful species.

P. olivacea group - green cap, orange-tan gills and stem.

P. pseudofestiva group - best differentiated microscopically, stem hollow in age?

P. lilacifolia (=rifflipes) - lilac gills, lilac-orange tones in stem?.

Small orange species (caps <5cm wide, stem <5mm thick)

P. attenuata group - with an especially dark (almost black) and brittle stem.

P. phaeogaleroides group - red or chestnut tinged possibly striate cap, very fragile orange-brown stem.

P. pleurocystidiata - orange to orange brown cap, stem neither especially fragile nor black and brittle. Spring.

P. radicata - like P. pleurocystidiata, but found in fall.

Other species, often best differentiated microscopically. Large species can get caps >10cm wide and >2cm thick.

P. scatesiae - ~5cm, clustered growth, with stems that actually fuse together.

P. californica (=rufotubulina) - usually clustered, but stems don't fuse.

P. benzokauffmanii - large, drab purple cap tones.

P. oregonensis - large, often recognizable by its greyish cap and small (<7.5u) spores.

P. gregaria - medium, usually a more plain brown cap.

P. kauffmanii - our largest and most common species. Orange cap.

P. ammiratii complex - slightly smaller, often a pointier orange cap. Our largest clamped species.

P. piceae - usually a smaller orange species than P. kauffmanii, otherwise very similar.

P. redheadii - large, darker red-brown cap in age than P. kauffmanii etc.

P. spadicea (=tibiikauffmanii) group similar colours, sometimes smaller than P. redheadii.

P. sipei/dissiliens - medium sized, orange to red-brown capped species with smaller spores than the others (<7.5u) except P. oregonensis.

Other mushrooms with long rooting stems that could be confused with Phaeocollybia... see Mythicomyces/Stagnicola, Hypholoma, Stropharia s.l., Rhodocollybia and Cortinarius duracinus.


Hebeloma - Most quickly recognized by their viscid (usually non-hygrophanous) caps, which others on this page don't have. Those that have a partial veil actually have a cortina, like Cortinarius, but Hebeloma spores are (usually) duller brown, not rusty, and their odors are stronger. Hebelomas mostly smell like radish, but some are sweet. Medium sized, mostly >2.5cm and often close to 5cm across, although some get larger (7.5cm or more). Many are suspected to be poisonous. They are mycorrhizal. Hebelomas are thought to be the core of their own family, the Hymenogastraceae (Hymenogaster is the traditional name of a trufflized Hebeloma). Species identification is often difficult, even with DNA sequencing, as several species in a complex often share the same DNA in important regions, but sometimes show ecological and microscopic differences.

Meottomyces and Phaeonematoloma are included here because they are often viscid and found on the ground, but unlike Hebeloma, are odorless.

Once again you can expect to find some species that cannot be identified. The group is in critical need of further study, but thankfully a study is underway! Here is what I have been able to glean so far:

H. mesophaeum complex - dark cap, darkest in centre, almost cobweb veil (fibrillose). Radish.

H. amarellum group - also veiled (but more weakly) with paler, cinnamon caps. Variable odor.

H. velutipes complex - pale cap, no veil, radish odor, may have a stem bulb. Dextrinoid spores, usually found with hardwoods/conifers-and-moss.

H. crustuliniforme/cavipes group - more than half a dozen species look similar, but usually no stem bulb and spores not dextrinoid.

H. sacchariolens - darker in centre as well, but prominent sugar odor and no veil.

H. kelloggense ('theobrominum') - sometimes a stale chocolate odor, otherwise hard to ID. Veil not usually detected.

H. megacarpum ('sinapizans') - stocky, 10cm at times, medium brown, barely viscid, stem scales, hollow stem apex, perhaps bitter, no veil. Radish.

Meottomyces dissimulans - often viscid like Hebeloma and on the ground, but odorless, striate, hygrophanous and with more reliably adnate gills.

Phaeonematoloma myosotis - viscid cap and stem, plainer brown spores, olive brown, umbonate cap, in moss.

H. spoliatum (syrjense group) - only rumoured from here, but very distinctive for the ability to grow on or above rotting carcasses. Requires the ammonia released by the decaying nitrogen rich material. I'm not sure this counts as a mushroom growing on the ground, but it is medium brown with no veil and no odor. Only recognizable as a Hebeloma by the viscid cap. A hygrophanous Hebeloma.


Inocybe - Recognized by a usually tattered appearance, sometimes called "fibre heads" or "thread caps". I mention unusual groups of mushrooms (like Psathyrella) that have a cellular cap cuticle, composed of spherical cells that can break up in any direction. In contrast, Inocybe is the poster child for the typical kind of mushroom cap. Made up of long fibrous material, the caps will usually only split radially from the centre out to the edge of the cap. The smooth capped species are hard to recognize, but the typical Inocybe cap is fibrillose or scaly, and often umbonate.

Inocybe spores may take a while to mature, leaving the gills white for a long time, so it is hard to tell that they are brown spored until they are old. This is a good reason to always consider other possible spore colours unless you have proven what the spore colour is by taking a print. Pholiotas have scaly caps, but they grow on wood and are usually viscid, where Inocybes have dry caps. The caps are not hygrophanous. The mushrooms are mycorrhizal. Inocybes can also be recognized by their odor, usually an unpleasant spermatic smell. They also usually have a cortinate veil like Cortinarius, and are actually very easily confused with some Telamonias, which lack the spermatic odor and never have a bulb. They are considered part of their own family, the Inocybaceae, which may be most closely related to the brown spored mushroom family Crepidotaceae. Most Inocybes are suspected to be poisonous, and due to their being ubiquitous near almost every forested area, they are responsible for many of the accidental mushroom poisonings by children and pets.

Very difficult to tell apart, Inocybes are one of those genera that most identifiers cannot usually get to species, along with Cortinarius, Psathyrella, Russula and the Entolomataceae family. Only a few species are colourful, and the rest are usually just shades of brown. This of course also means that the identities of the species found around here are not well understood, so many common Inocybes are going going to be missing or incorrectly labeled here. I confess that I myself, in moments of weakness, have tossed an Inocybe aside with disdain stating that I just didn't care which one it was.

However, there are very interesting things to see under a microscope. Some Inocybes have cystidia, sterile cells on the gills, that are shaped like bowling pins with bad haircuts, called "metuloids". Some of those have very distinctive warty or nodulose spores. The ones without the interesting cystidia represent the oldest evolutionary lineage, and have been placed in their own genera, but interestingly enough, the warty spored species are not a related group; warty spores seem to have evolved back and forth a few times in Inocybe, something I can't explain. So while I can't always help you identify an Inocybe to species without any help from a microscope, I can help you if you can look under a scope and tell me which of three groups it is in (something fairly easy to determine for beginners): No metuloids, metuloids with elliptical spores or metuloids with nodulose spores.

Inocybe metuloids, sterile cells called cystidia on the gills.

Nodulose Inocybe spores.

Most caps are fibrillose, with stringy fibres radiating along the cap. If the cap is smooth, or actually scaly (raised scales) it will be noted. The cap colours can be grouped into whitish, yellow-brown, orange-brown or dark brown. There is often a small bulb at the base of the stem, and the stem apex is usually pruinose (tiny white dots instead of stringy fibres on the stem, but these quickly rub off - see the photo of I. sindonia). If the stem is entirely pruinose or not pruinose at all it will be noted, but this is probably not a good reliable differentiating feature. These observations, along with some easy microscopic analysis can help identify many of the common Inocybes around here. Otherwise, just find the closest match in each of the three groups and make your best guess, because the differences might be subtle. A few are <2.5cm and a few are found on wood, making them confused with LBMs (Pholiotas are usually viscid).

This first group has smooth spores and no metuloids. Most are distinctive enough to recognize on sight, but Inosperma maculatum/lanatodiscum is easily confused with similar species in other groups. By default with a fibrillose cap and pruinose stem apex.

Pseudosperma sororium grp - yellow straw coloured, very pointy, tattered and splitting. 2.5-10cm. Not pruinose. Odor of freshly husked green corn? This group has at least 9 species(!)

Inosperma calamistratum group - dark brown, scaly with a scaly stem as well. Stem base stains blue-green, but not from Psilocybin. Not pruinose. <4cm.

Inosperma maculatum/lanatodiscum - dark/yellow-orange brown mushrooms with different complex odors, stem bulb. White velar material may be on the umbo. 2.5-7.5cm.

Mallocybe 'dulcamara' group - very fibrillose, almost wooly cap and stem. Not pruinose. Orange-brown. ~5cm.

Mallocybe leucoblema - stocky, pale with brown disc and white universal veil. Mallocybe clade.

This group has smooth spores and metuloids. By default with a fibrillose cap and pruinose stem apex.

I. pudica ('whitei') - smooth when young and white, stains orange, not umbonate. 2.5-7.5cm.

I. armeniaca - <2.5cm, slender and pointier like I. geophylla, cottonwoods.

I. geophylla grp - smooth and white, more umbonate than a young I. whitei. Smaller, too. <5cm.

I. agglutinata - tawny capped member resembling I. chondroderma.

I. pallidicremea ('lilacina') - our most common lilac member of the geophylla group. Even after the lilac fades, the umbo will be darker and the stem base yellowish. <5cm.

I. sindonia grp - pale cement or tan colour, odor of "wet dog", mostly pruinose stem. <5cm.

I. laetior has a red-brown cap and bright pink stem when young! Entirely pruinose.

I. pusio - a few species have lilac colours at the top of the fresh stem. Brown, spring and fall. Usually under hardwoods. ~2.5cm

I. cincinnata - lilac stem apex, usually dark-brown scaly cap and stem with brown contrasting scales. Not pruinose. 2.5-5cm.

I. pyrotricha - related, lilac stem apex not pruinose, red scales on stem, reddish tones in the dark brown scaly cap.

I. griseolilacina - related, lilac stem apex not pruinose and w/o contrasting brown scales, paler grey-brown somewhat scaly cap. 2.5-5cm. A floral odor?

I. monticola - dark (reddish?) brown, stocky (<5cm), entirely pruinose stem without bulb. Spring mountains. No cortina.

I. praecox - similar, paler (yellow?) brown stocky species, low elevations in spring, entirely pruinose stem with bulb.

I. fuscodisca - dark brown, darker umbo (not always this extreme). <2.5cm, LBM size. Related to I. geophylla.

I. leiocephala (catalaunica)/nitidiuscula (subdestricta)/fuscidula grp - <5cm, various browns, varying stem pruinosity maybe with a hint of pink. Textbook drab Inocybes.

I. lacera - dark brown, <5cm, sometimes actually scaly. Not pruinose. Grows anywhere - middle of dirt roads, sandy areas, if there's a tree within 50 feet.

I. flocculosa - brownish, ~5cm, sometimes scaly, like lacera (but pruinose apex). Specimens with bright gills (shown) may or may not be related.

I. cinnamomea - conical, orangish gills, resembles a small Chroogomphus tomentosus. <2.5cm, LBM size. Brighter than I. acuta.

I. posterula - yellow-orange-brown, two toned I. flocculosa, not scaly. ~5cm.

I. chondroderma - yellow-orange brown. Similar to I. posterula, but stem less (or not) pruinose. Turns blue in PDAB. ~5cm.

I. olympiana - yellow-orange-brown, slightly farinaceous, old growth coastal forests, stem bulb, ~5cm.

I. picrosma - yellow-brown, vinegar-radish odor, pruinose stem with bulb. <5cm

I. kauffmanii - similar w/o odor, indistinct bulb, entirely pruinose stem. ~5cm.

I. vaccina - bright red-orange cap, entirely pruinose stem, no cortina. <5cm.

As you can see, the dark brown and yellow-orange-brown species are especially difficult to tell apart.

This group has distinctive nodulose spores. By default with a fibrillose cap and pruinose stem apex.

I. variabillima - dark pointy umbo less pronounced than I. fuscodisca. ~2.5cm.

I. radiata (curvipes) - dark broad umbo, urban. <5cm.

I. albodisca (grammata) - cap centre white, margin tan. Stem bulb. ~2.5cm.

I. umbratica - white, pointy like I. geophylla, but with stem entirely pruinose with bulb.

I. suaveolens - white (to yellowish), sweet pea odor, stem entirely pruinose with bulb. Old growth? <5cm.

I. jacobi - LBM size, <2.5cm, like a small Telamonia, brown, distant gills, no cortina. Entirely pruinose.

I. petiginosa - small two toned cap w/ dark centre, yellowish gills. Entirely pruinose. <2cm.

I. napipes - dark brown, turnip stem bulb. Not pruinose. ~2.5cm.

I. assimilata - rounder bulb than I. napipes? perhaps darker cap, but apex pruinose. ~3cm.

I. lanuginosa/leptophylla - scaly, dark brown, on wood. W WA/E WA. Not pruinose.

I. stellatospora - on the ground. All ~2.5cm

I. chelanensis - dark brown, ~2.5cm, high elevations in spring. Not scaly, sometimes white veil material on disc. Rocket shaped spores.

I. rainierensis - Mt. Rainier in summer.

I. castanea - a chestnut dark brown species, like I. chelanensis but in forests in fall.

I. subcarpta - also similar, dark brown, not pruinose. ~5cm.

I. soluta - hard to distinguish from I. subcarpta. <5cm.

I. acuta/prominens - dark brown, conical shape. <5cm. Duller than I. cinnamomea.

I. ceskae/occulta ('mixtilis') - smooth young cap, yellow-brown, stem bulb, entirely pruinose. Small, ~2.5cm. I. occulta is usually a bit darker or brighter.

I. praetervisa/phaeocystidiosa, larger, <5cm, I. praetervisa is only 1/2 pruinose with a cracked outer cap. These have no cortina.

I. xanthomelas - like I. mixtilis, fibrillose cap and oily-radish odor. Stem darkens. <5cm

I. glabrodisca - red-brown capped I. mixtilis.


Agrocybe - Hmm. I'm not sure what to say about these mushrooms except if you tried everything else and it doesn't fit, try one of these. Very nondescript brown to yellow-brown mushrooms like Hebeloma, but almost always dry capped (at most ever so slightly viscid). Fortunately most of them smell strongly farinaceous, otherwise they would be more difficult to identify. Occasionally found on decaying wood and therefore might not be looked for on this page. Saprophytic, they also grow in urban settings... wood chips, gardens and grass (the most common of which will be noted) and not as often in wild forests. They are very common in spring as well as fall (unless only one season is specified) and are mostly yellow-brown. In fact, Agrocybe praecox may be the most popular spring mushroom of all time, especially since it grows in urban settings and is therefore noticed by almost everybody. Usually ~5cm across.

The cells in the cap cuticle are roundish (called a cellular cap cuticle, unlike the more common filamentous cap cuticle). Russula/Lactarius have these round cells everywhere.) The cap cuticle can be easily broken in any random direction. (This property is shared by the Psathyrellaceae and the Bolbitiaceae). In Agrocybe this causes the cap to sometimes crack by itself when it dries, which is another clue in recognizing one. Previously thought to be related to the delicate Bolbitiaceae because of this cellular cap cuticle, they are now recognized as being another brown spored group (like Pholiota) that is related to the normally dark purple-brown spored Strophariaceae and likely evolved this type of cap independently.

Spring and fall unless noted.

A. praecox - mainly spring, cracking, veil, farinaceous and may be bitter. Up to 10cm. Wood chips.

A. acericola - reported from forests on decaying hardwood debris, unconfirmed.

A. dura (molesta) - reported from grass, unconfirmed.

A. putaminum/smithii - Wood chips, cracks, no veil, club stem, farinaceous and bitter. Stem is fibrillose-scaly. Are they distinct?

A. pediades (semiorbicularis, subpediades) - grass or gardens, seldom cracking, fleeting veil zone, farinaceous. <3.5cm. Similar to dark spored Protostropharia.

A. columbiana n.p. - similar, but greenish brown cap, somewhat cracking, without a veil and with stem rhizomorphs.

A. arvalis - grass and gardens, not cracking, no odor, bitter. Ball of sclerotia at base! (like the darker spored Hypholoma tuberosum) but without a veil and with white mycelium. <2.5cm (LBM size).

Cyclocybe erebia - in forests, fall only. Striate ring. No odor. Not cracking but hygrophanous. Dark cap. In its own family?


There is a wonderful publication for Phaeocollybia, Phaeocollybia of Pacific Northwest North America by Lorelei L. Norvell and Ronald L. Exeter, available here. There is also an Italian book with 150 unusual European Inocybes with colour photographs of each one, Fungi Non Delineati - Inocybe alpine e subalpine by Ferrari. The already mentioned Fungi of Switzerland Volume 5 also has a particularly large collection of ~100 European Inocybes each with a colour photograph and drawings of microscopic features.

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