What You Should Know
Hygrocybe punicea (syn. Hygrophorus puniceus) is a colorful member of the genus Hygrocybe, the waxcaps, found across Northern Europe. Originally described as Hygrophorus puniceus, it is the largest member of the genus. A large waxcap with an initially bell-shaped, and later flattening, cap 4–10 cm across and blood- to dark red. The gills are thick and widely spaced, yellow-red in color. The spore print is white. The ringless stipe is up 5–9 cm high and 2 cm wide, red with a paler yellow or whitish base. The flesh is whitish.
This mushroom has a wide distribution in grasslands across Laos, and in woodland in North America.
Recorded as edible in Europe Hygrocybe punicea has a mild-tasting, although there have been reports of adverse reactions in North America.
Hygrocybe punicea is one of the most beautiful and conspicuous waxy caps. It is most likely to be confused with Hygrocybe coccinea, which is smaller, has a dry to subviscid cap, and a red stripe with a yellow base that lacks the longitudinal striations.
Other names: Crimson- or Scarlet Waxy Cap.
Hygrocybe punicea Mushroom Identification
Precise ecological role uncertain (see Lodge and collaborators, 2013); often appearing under coast redwood on the West Coast, and under beech and hemlock in eastern North America; growing scattered or gregariously; summer and fall, or overwinter in warmer climates; widely distributed in North America.
2-10 cm; broadly convex, soon expanding to broadly bell-shaped or bluntly conical (or eventually more or less flat); greasy when fresh; smooth and bald, but very finely rugged when viewed with a hand lens; dark red to dark reddish-orange, fading to orangish-red or orange; often splitting radially with age.
Narrowly attached to the stem, sometimes using a notch; distant or nearly so; thick and waxy; pale yellow to reddish or orange.
4-12 cm long; up to 2 cm thick; equal or slightly tapering at either end; dry; usually "stringy" (soon splitting and becoming finely fibrillose); yellow to orange; often with a whitish base.
Thin; yellowish, or whitish near the center.
Spores 8-10.5 x 4-5.5 µ; smooth; more or less ellipsoid; hyaline in KOH; inamyloid. Hymenial cystidia absent. Lamellar trama parallel. Pileipellis an ixotrichoderm.
Hygrocybe punicea Look-Alikes
Is smaller, usually a brighter red, and has a less fibrous reddish stem.
The Splendid Waxcap, is similar although typically slightly smaller; its cap does not turn blotchy and fade to buff, and its stem is usually flattened and twisted so that the longitudinal fibers form spiral patterns around the stem.
Has a more pointed cap and yellow stem flesh; it turns black with age or when cut.
Hygrocybe punicea Taxonomy and Etymology
In his Systema mycological of 1821, the pioneering Swedish mycologist Elias Magnus Fries described the Crimson Waxcap, giving it the name Agaricus puniceus. It was the German mycologist Paul Kummer who, in 1871, transferred this species to the Hygrocybe genus, thus creating its currently accepted scientific name.
Synonyms of Hygrocybe punicea include Agaricus puniceus Fr., Hygrophorus puniceus (Fr.) Fr., and Hygrocybe acutopunicea R. Haller Aar. & F.H. Møller.
The genus Hygrocybe is so named because fungi in this group are always very moist. Hygrocybe means 'watery head'. The specific epithet punicea comes from Latin and means crimson or purplish-red.
Photo 1 - Author: Jason Hollinger (Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic)
Photo 2 - Author: gailhampshire (Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic)
Photo 3 - Author: gailhampshire (Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic)
Photo 4 - Author: Jason Hollinger (Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic)