Lactarius volemus: The Ultimate Mushroom Guide
About The Lactarius volemus Mushroom
This edible mushroom has fawn to reddish-brown milky cap with a central depression and with white to cream-colored close gills. The white latex is plentiful and turns everything that touches it brown. All parts of the mushroom flesh bruise as well as stain brown (your fingers included).
The Tawny Milkcap has several characteristics that facilitate a reliable identification, even though it can be somewhat variable in color and shape according to age and other environmental factors (which is true of most mushrooms).
Common names: Tawny milkcap, Voluminous-latex milky, Weeping milkcap, Apricot milkcap, Fishy milkcap, Bradley.
Lactarius volemus Habitat
It is found growing at the base of both coniferous and broad-leaved trees, although it is more common in deciduous woods. It may also sometimes be found in peat moss beds. The fruit bodies, which appear between summer and autumn, are common. They can be found growing solitarily or in groups, and are more abundant in weather that is warm and humid.
Fruit bodies can be inhabited by species of limoniid flies, such as Discobola marginata or Limonia yakushimensis, as well as several species of fungi-dwelling mites. The flies are hosts for the mites in a symbiotic association known as phoresis, whereby the mites are mechanically carried by its host. Mites are small and unable to migrate the relatively long distances between mushrooms without assistance; the insect hosts, in comparison, are large and can transfer the mites between their preferred feeding habitats.
Lactarius volemus is found in warm temperate regions and as well as some subtropical and tropical regions. The fungus is widely distributed throughout Europe, although it is in decline in some countries, and has become rare enough in the Netherlands (and Flanders) to be considered locally extinct. In the Americas, the northern limit of its distribution reaches southern Canada east of the Great Plains, and the species extends south to the East Coast of the United States and Mexico, and beyond into Central America (Guatemala). It is also known from Asia, including China (Qinling Mountains, Guizhou Province, and Yunnan Province), Japan, India, Korea, Nepal, and Vietnam. Collections have also been made from the Middle East, including Iran and Turkey.
Lactarius volemus Identification
This mushroom quite easy to recognize due to its determining characteristics: the dry and velvety cap, the stem of the same colour, but paler; the abundant milk, tending to dark brown even if isolated and with a typical odour of herring; and, finally, the reaction of the flesh to the greenish when in contact with the ferrous sulphate.
3-13 cm; at first convex with an inrolled margin; becoming flat, with a central depression, shallowly vase-shaped, or (rarely) with a slight bump over the disc, the margin even; smooth or slightly wrinkled, but usually finely velvety to the touch, at least when young; brownish orange, orangish brown, or sometimes lighter - or sometimes darker (approaching deep brownish red); without concentric zones of color, but often darker towards the center.
Attached to the stem or running slightly down it; close; creamy white; discoloring brown where injured; often forking near the margin.
5-10 cm long; 0.5-2.5 cm thick; colored like the cap or paler; equal or tapering to base; smooth; sometimes vaguely "ribbed" longitudinally; solid or becoming hollowing.
White; staining slowly brown when sliced.
White; copious; sometimes becoming brownish on exposure to air; staining tissues brown; staining white paper brown.
Odor and Taste:
Odor rather fishy (like a dead shad, which anglers will tell you is probably the most malodorous freshwater fish); taste mild.
Spore Print: White.
Lactarius volemus Taxonomy & Naming
The first mention of Lactifluus volemus in the scientific literature was in Carl Linnaeus's 1753 Species Plantarum, under the name Agaricus lactifluus.
In 1821, Swedish mycologist Elias Magnus Fries called it Agaricus volemus in his Systema Mycologicum. In this work he proposed a grouping of related species (called a tribus, or tribe) within the genus Agaricus, which he named Galorrheus.
Fries later recognised Lactarius as a distinct genus in his 1838 Epicrisis Systematis Mycologici, citing Galorrheus as a synonym. Although Linnaeus had published the species before Fries, Fries's name is sanctioned and thus has nomenclatural priority.
In 1871 Paul Kummer raised most of Fries's tribes to generic rank, and so renamed the species Galorrheus volemus. The variety L. volemus var. subrugosus was identified by Charles Horton Peck in 1879, but is now classified as a separate species, L. corrugis.
In 1891, Otto Kuntze moved the species into Lactifluus, which was afterwards long considered a synonym of Lactarius but confirmed as a separate genus through molecular phylogenetics in 2008 and subsequent taxonomical rearrangements within the family Russulaceae.
The specific epithet "volemus" is derived from the Latin vola, meaning "the hollow of the hand", suggestive of Fries's reference to the large amount of latex "flowing enough to fill the hand".
Lactarius volemus Edibility
The species is considered good for novice mushroom hunters to eat, and is best prepared by slow cooking to prevent it from becoming too hard; specimens that have been rehydrated after having been dried will require longer cooking times to eliminate the grainy texture. The mushroom has also been suggested for use in casseroles and thick sauces.
Pan-frying is not a recommended cooking technique, due to the large amounts of latex it exudes.
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