This section is from the book "Studies of American Fungi: Mushrooms, Edible, Poisonous, Etc.", by George Francis Atkinson. Also available from Amazon: Studies of American Fungi: Mushrooms, Edible, Poisonous, Etc..
In the rosy-spored agarics belonging to this genus the gills are decurrent, that is, extend for some distance down on the stem. The stem is fleshy. The gills are white at first and become pink or salmon color as the plants mature, and the spores take on their characteristic color. The plants should thus not be confused with any of the species of Agaricus to which the common mushroom belongs, since in those species the gills become dark brown or blackish when mature. The genus corresponds with Clitocybe among the white-spored ones.
Clitopilus prunulus Scop. Edible. - This species grows on the ground in the woods from mid-summer to autumn. It is not very common, but sometimes appears in considerable quantities at one place. During the autumn of 1898 quite a large number of specimens were found in a woods near Ithaca, growing on the ground around an old stump. The plants are 3-8 cm. high, the cap 5-10 cm. broad, and stem 1-2 cm. in thickness.
The pileus is fleshy, firm, convex and becoming nearly plane, and sometimes as the plants become old the center may be slightly depressed. It is whitish in color, or dark gray, or with a leaden tint, dry, sometimes with a distinct bloom on the surface, and the margin is often wavy. The cap is sometimes produced more on one side than on the other. The gills are not close, at first whitish, then salmon colored as the spores mature, and they are decurrent as is characteristic of the genus. The spores are elliptical or nearly so, and measure 10-12 µ long.
Plate 44, Figure 138
Clitopilus prunulus, cap whitish or dark gray, gills flesh color (natural size). Copyright.
Figure 138 is from plants collected near Ithaca, in the autumn of 1898. This species is considered to be one of the excellent mushrooms for food. When fresh it has a mealy odor and taste, as do several of the species of this genus. It is known as the prune mushroom.
Clitopilus orcella Bull. Edible. - This plant is sometimes spoken of as the sweet-bread mushroom. It is much like the prune mushroom just described, in odor and taste, and sometimes resembles it in form and other characters. It is white in color, and the plants are usually considerably smaller, and the pileus is, according to my observations, sometimes more irregular, Iobed and wavy on the margin. The flesh is also softer, and the cap is said to be slightly viscid in wet weather. The plant grows in the woods and sometimes in open fields.