What You Should Know
Cuphophyllus pratensis is a species of agaric in the family Hygrophoraceae. The species has a widespread, mainly temperate distribution, occurring in grassland in Europe and woodland elsewhere. The basidiocarps (fruit bodies) are edible and are occasionally collected and sold commercially.
This is one of the largest of the waxcap fungi. It appears from late August until December. It is fairly distinctive: crucial identifying features include the dry, brownish orange to the orangish buff cap, and the cream to orangish, distant gills that begin to run down the stem. The young caps are, in Mycologese, "appressed fibrillose" (covered with tiny, pressed-down fibers; use a hand lens), giving them a whitish sheen.
In some fairly recent field guides, you may find this species listed under one of its many synonyms, which include Hygrocybe pratensis, Camarophyllus pratensis and Hygrophorus pratensis.
Other names: Meadow Waxy Cap, Salmon Waxy Cap, Butter Meadowcap.
Cuphophyllus pratensis Mushroom Identification
Precise ecological role uncertain; growing scattered to gregariously in hardwood or conifer forests; late spring through fall (or overwinter in warmer climates); widely distributed in North America.
2-6 cm; convex when young, becoming broadly convex to nearly flat; dry, or slightly tacky when fresh; covered with very tiny, pressed-down fibers (use a hand lens), at least when young - but often more or less bald by maturity; brownish orange, fading to orangish buff; the margin not lined.
Running slightly down the stem; distant or nearly so; creamy orangish; short-gills frequent; often with cross-veins by maturity.
2.5-4.5 cm long; 0.5-1.5 cm thick; fairly equal; bald; dry; creamy orangish to whitish; white at the base.
Whitish; unchanging when sliced.
Odor and Taste
Taste not distinctive; odor not distinctive, or slightly foul and unpleasant.
KOH negative on cap surface.
Spores 5-6.5 x 4-5 µ; broadly ellipsoid, sublacrymoid, or subglobose; smooth; hyaline in KOH; inamyloid. Basidia 2- and 4-spored; 40-60 µ long. Hymenial cystidia absent. Lamellar trama interwoven. Pileipellis a cutis.
Cuphophyllus pratensis Look-Alikes
Has a pink pointed cap and the cap invariably splits as it expands.
Is very similar, but fruit bodies are white (it has sometimes been considered a variety of H. pratensis).
Is also similar, but is an ectomycorrhizal species, growing in woodland with oaks, and has a distinctly mealy smell.
Cuphophyllus pratensis Taxonomy and Etymology
Although earlier naturalists had described the Meadow Waxcap - for example in 1796 the Shropshire botanist William Withering (1741-1799) described this grassland waxcap and called it Agaricus claviformis - it was Christiaan Hendrik Persoon who, when describing this species in his milestone publication Synopsis Methodicae Fungorum of 1801, created its basionym by naming it Agaricus pratensis.
It was not until 1914 that the famous American mycologist William Alphonso Murrill (1869 - 1957), writing in the journal Mycologia, transferred this waxcap to the genus Hygrocybe, establishing the scientific name as Hygrocybe pratensis. In 1985 this species was transferred to the genus Cuphophyllus by French mycologist Marcel Bon, and the name Cuphophyllus pratensis has since become its generally accepted scientific name.
Two varieties of the Meadow Waxcap occur in Britain. The nominate form Cuphophyllus pratensis var. pratensis has a peach-colored cap and stem, while Cuphophyllus pratensis var. pallida is pure white.
Being a large, conspicuous, attractive, and edible mushroom, Cuphophyllus pratensis has caught the eye of many great mycologists down the ages. As a result, it has acquired several synonyms including Agaricus pratensis (Pers. Gymnopus pratensis (Pers.) Gray, Hygrophorus pratensis (Pers.) Fr., Camarophyllus pratensis (Pers.) P. Kumm., and Hygrocybe pratensis (Pers.) Murrill.
The genus Cuphophyllus was described in 1985 by French mycologist Marcel Bon. The prefix Cupho- means curved, while the suffix -phyllus refers to the leaves (gills) of mushrooms in this genus - so we arrive at 'with curved gills'.
As a specific epithet pratensis is much easier to fathom out provided you have had a basic grounding in Latin. For those who have not, you will nevertheless be unsurprised to know that it translates to 'of meadows'. That's where these chunky waxcaps are most often found.
Photo 1 - Author: Nicolò Oppicelli (Nicolò Oppicelli) (Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported)
Photo 2 - Author: Andreas Kunze (Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported)
Photo 3 - Author: Holger Krisp (Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported)
Photo 4 - Author: GLJIVARSKO DRUSTVO NIS from Serbia (Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic)