What You Should Know
Lactarius vellereus is a large mushroom in the genus Lactifluus. It is one of the two most common milk-caps found with beech trees, with the other being Lactarius subdulcis. The fruit body has crumbly, rather than fibrous, flesh, and when this is broken the fungus exudes a milky latex. The mature caps are white to cream, funnel-shaped. It has firm flesh, and a stipe that is shorter than the fruit body is wide. The gills are fairly distant (quite far apart), decurrent, and narrow, and have brown specks from the drying milk.
Lactifluus bertillonii is closely related and very similar but has hotter milk. Another similar, but phylogenetically distant species is Lactarius controversus, distinguishable mainly by its white gills and lack of rosy markings on the upper cap.
This mushroom is considered inedible but is consumed in Eastern Europe and Russia where they have a liking for hot mushrooms.
Other names: Fleecy Milkcap.
Lactarius vellereus Mushroom Identification
10 to 25 cm (exceptionally more than 30 cm) in diameter. The caps are at first convex but soon flatten and become centrally depressed. White at first, discoloring with yellow and eventually brown areas, the caps are covered in fine fleece-like fibers.
Decurrent and moderately distant, the gills of the Fleecy Milkcap are initially white but soon discolor brown, often in irregular patches. When damaged, the gills exude abundant, mild-tasting white milk (latex).
Colored much the same as the cap, the stem is cylindrical or tapers in slightly towards the base and is 2 to 4cm in diameter and 4 to 7cm long.
Broadly ellipsoidal to subglobose, 7-10 x 5-7.5µm; ornamented with warts connected by an extensive network of ridges.
Odor and Taste
No distinctive odor; the latex is mild but the flesh has an acrid taste.
Habitat & Ecological Role
Mycorrhizal, in broadleaf and mixed woodland.
Lactarius piperatus is smaller and has more densely crowded gills; it has a very hot (peppery) taste.
Lactarius vellereus Taxonomy and Etymology
This mushroom was described in 1821 by the great Swedish mycologist Elias Magnus Fries, who gave it the binomial scientific name Agaricus vellereus. It was Fries himself who, in 1838, transferred this species to the genus Lactarius, thus establishing its currently accepted common name Lactarius vellereus.
Synonyms of Lactarius vellereus include Agaricus vellereus Fr., Lactarius vellereus var. vellereus (Fr.) Fr., Lactarius velutinus Bertill., Lactarius vellereus var. velutinus (Bertill.) Bataille, and Lactarius albivellus Romagn.
Lactarius, the generic name, is Latin and means producing milk (lactating) - a reference to the milky latex that is exuded from the gills of milkcap fungi when they are cut or torn.
The specific epithet vellereus also comes from Latin and means soft and fleecy (with a surface like very fine velvet).
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