What You Should Know
Cortinarius flexipes is a small brown mushroom. This species is found in Europe and North America. It is hygrophanous, and belongs to the Telamonia group, being thin-fleshed and having a dry cap and stipe.
This mushroom is recorded in many field guides as 'suspect'. Because several of the webcaps are known to be deadly poisonous (and some research even suggests that all Cortinarius species may contain at least small amounts of the toxins concerned), the Pelargonium Webcap should in our opinion never be gathered for eating.
Other names: Pelargonium webcap, Pixy webcap, Cortinaire à pied tortueux (French), Bleicher, Wasserkopf (German), Pavucinovec ohybný (Slovak), Topp-spindling (Swedish).
Cortinarius flexipes Mushroom Identification
The cap of Cortinarius flexipes var. flexipes is 1 to 4cm in diameter, at first convex with a web-like cortina covering the gills, becoming bell-shaped and eventually flattening or even turning up irregularly at the edges; usually retaining a sharp central umbo. The cap surface is hygrophanous, dark grey to violet-brown when moist, becoming pale fawn when dry. The surface is covered with white scales.
Adnate, moderately crowded, sometimes with slightly toothed edges; at first grayish buff maturing rust-brown.
The fibrous brown stem has a violaceous flush towards the apex and a distinct white ring zone left by the cortina (the partial veil), with other white cottony velar remains adhering to the stem below the ring zone; 3 to 7mm in diameter, often tapering in towards a slightly bulbous base; between 4 and 8cm long.
Broadly ellipsoidal to subglobose; surface minutely roughened, 7.5-9 x 5-6.5µm; inamyloid.
Habitat & Ecological Role
In mixed woodland, most often in small groups under birches and spruces, nearly always with moss. This is a mycorrhizal mushroom and is often found on the edges of plantations containing spruce and birch.
Cortinarius hemitrichus, the Frosty Webcap, is similar in appearance but lacks the strong smell of pelargoniums.
Cortinarius flexipes Medicinal Properties
Anti-tumor effects. Polysaccharides extracted from the mycelial culture of C. flexipes and administered intraperitoneally into white mice at a dosage of 300 mg/kg inhibited the growth of Sarcoma 180 and Ehrlich solid cancers by 80% and 70%, respectively (Ohtsuka et al., 1973).
Cortinarius flexipes Taxonomy and Etymology
In his Synopsis Methodicae Fungorum of 1801, Christiaan Hendrik Persoon described this webcap mushroom and gave it the name Agaricus flexipes.
It was the great Swedish mycologist Elias Magnus Fries who, in 1838, transferred the Pelargonium Webcap to the genus Cortinarius, thereby creating its currently accepted scientific name Cortinarius flexipes.
Synonyms of Cortinarius flexipes include Agaricus flexipes Pers., Cortinarius flexipes (Pers.) Fr., and Cortinarius paleiferus Svrcek.
The generic name Cortinarius is a reference to the partial veil or cortina (meaning a curtain) that covers the gills when caps are immature. In the genus Cortinarius most species produce partial veils in the form of a fine web of radial fibers connecting the stem to the rim of the cap.
The specific epithet flexipes refers to a 'bent or flexible' stem, and for this mushroom, the stems are indeed usually bent rather than being exceptionally flexible.
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