What You Should Know
Laccaria bicolor is a very common mushroom that can be found in the pacific northwest. It was formerly known as Laccaria laccata. This mushroom may just be edible and some say it's good, I find it’s not very good so I would suggest you just enjoy seeing it and admiring how it has developed an ability to eat springtails, this species is an important mycorrhizal species for forest development.
This mushroom grows under conifers in western North America. Its gills are faintly purplish and this is a fairly easy way to id them, of course, they are pretty distinctive to see. One of the fascinating facts about this mushroom is that it has a relationship with conifer trees, this is a strange relationship, you see most springtails eat mycelium, but the Laccaria bicolor has turned the tables here and they eat springtails. This is a benefit to the forest.
Laccaria bicolor is one of the few fungi to have been completely sequenced; its entire genome was presented in the journal Nature (Martin and collaborators, 2008).
Laccaria bicolor Mushroom Identification
Mycorrhizal with conifers; growing scattered or gregariously, often in moss; summer and fall; western North America and the Great Lakes region (also reported from West Virginia).
1-7 cm; convex, becoming flat and sometimes depressed; the margin not lined; finely hairy to finely scaly or more prominently roughened; orangish brown to pinkish brown or pinkish flesh color.
Attached to the stem; distant or nearly so; light purple when fresh, fading to pinkish flesh color.
3-10 cm long; up to about 1 cm thick; more or less equal, above a slightly swollen base; finely hairy and often longitudinally lined; colored like the cap; with purplish basal mycelium that often fades to whitish.
Flesh: Pale purplish or whitish.
Spore Print: White.
Laccaria bicolor Genome
The completion of the 65 million base-pair genome sequence (about 43 times smaller than the 2.8 billion base-pair human genome) was announced in March, 2008 by Francis Martin and colleagues in a paper in the scientific journal Nature (Nature 452:88-92, 2008, doi:10.1038/nature06556). In celebration of the 2.5-year anniversary of the genome announcement, and because Todd just found out that he’ll be rooming with Tom at the 50th Anniversary NAMA Foray (and chances are good that Tom would ask what became of this long-ago-promised FotM), the time is right to recognize this groundbreaking ectomycorrhizal mushroom with its Fungus of the Month page.
Long before its genome was sequenced, L. bicolor was a favorite species for researchers studying ectomycorrhizal (EM) fungi. Unlike most other EM fungi, L. bicolor can be grown in culture (from basidiospores or tissue samples) and paired with the roots of its mycorrhizal partner trees (pines and other conifers) in the laboratory, allowing studies of its physiology, biochemistry, and interaction with its plant partner to be studied under controlled conditions. Because most EM plants do not grow well, if at all, without EM fungi, L. bicolor has also been widely used in forestry to colonize the roots of conifer trees before outplanting.
Laccaria bicolor Taxonomy and Etymology
This woodland fungus was described in 1937 by the French mycologist René Maire (1878 - 1949) as a variety of the Deceiver and given the scientific name Laccaria laccata var. bicolor. Nearly a quarter of a century elapsed before British mycologist Peter Darbishire Orton (1916 - 2005) raised the status of this mushroom to species level, renaming it Laccaria bicolor.
Synonyms of Laccaria bicolor include Laccaria proxima var. bicolor (Maire) Kühner & Romagn.
All Laccaria species are ectomycorrhizal fungi, forming symbiotic relationships with forest trees. Genetic research into Laccaria bicolor and other members of the little-understood family Hydnangiaceae is throwing new light on the complexities of these root-fungus relationships.
The specific epithet bicolor is Latin and simply means 'being of two colors' - it's a two-tone toadstool.
Laccaria bicolor Cooking Notes
The Bicoloured Deceiver Laccaria bicolor is an edible mushroom. The caps are very good when fried, tasting rather like shop-bought button mushrooms (Agaricus bisporus). Bicolour Deceivers are also fine when used to make mushroom soup. The tough fibrous stems are best discarded.
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