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..
The genus Lepiota lacks a volva, but the veil is present forming a ring on the stem. The genus is closely related to Amanita, from which it differs in the absence of the volva, or perhaps more properly speaking in the fact that the universal veil is firmly connected (concrete with) with the pileus, and with the base of the stem, so that a volva is not formed. The gills are usually free from the stem, some being simply adnexed, but in some species connected with a collar near the stem. The stem is fleshy and is easily separable from the cap. A number of the species are edible. Peck, 35th Report N. Y. State Mus., p. 150-164, describes 18 species. Lloyd, Mycol. Notes, November, 1898, describes 9 species.
Lepiota naucina Fr. (Lepiota naucinoides Pk., Annularia Iaevis Krombh.) Edible. - The smooth lepiota, L. naucina, grows in lawns, in pastures and by roadsides, etc. It occurs during the latter part of summer and during autumn, being more abundant in September and early October. It is entirely white, or the cap is sometimes buff, and in age the gills become dirty pink in color. It is from 8-12 cm. high, the cap 5-10 cm. broad, and the stem 8-15 mm. in thickness.
The pileus is very fleshy, nearly globose, then convex to nearly expanded, smooth, or rarely the surface is broken into minute scales. The gills are first white, free from the stem, and in age assume a dull pink tinge. The spores are usually white in mass, but rarely when caught on white paper they show a faint pink tinge. The spores are elliptical to oval. The stem is nearly cylindrical, gradually enlarging below so that it is clavate, nearly hollow or stuffed with loose threads.
Since the plant occurs in the same situations as the Agaricus campestris it might be mistaken for it, especially for white forms. But of course no harm could come by eating it by mistake for the common mushroom, for it is valued just as highly for food by some who have eaten it. If one should look at the gills, however, they would not likely mistake it for the common mushroom because the gills become pink only when the plant is well expanded and quite old. There is much more danger in mistaking it for the white amanitas, A. phalloides, A. verna, or A. virosa, since the gills of these deadly plants are white, and they do sometimes grow in lawns and other grassy places where the smooth lepiota and the common mushroom grow. For this reason one should study the descriptions and illustrations of these amanitas given on preceding pages, and especially should the suggestions given there about care in collecting plants be followed, until one is- so certainly familiar with the characters that the plants would be known "on sight."
Lepiota naucina. - Section of three plants, different ages.
The pink color of the gills of this lepiota has led certain students of the fungi into mistakes of another kind. This pink color of the gills has led some to place the plant among the rosy spored agarics in the genus Annul aria, where it was named Annnlaria Iaevis by Krombholtz (vide Bresadola Funghi Mangerecci e velenosi, p. 29,
Plate 25, Figure 81
Lepiota procera. Grayish brown to reddish brown, gills and flesh white (3/4 natural size). Copyright.
1899). It fits the description of that plant exactly. The pink color of the gills, as well as the fact that the gills turn brownish when dry, has led to a confusion in some cases of the Lepiota naucina with the chalky agaric, Agaricits cretaceus. The external resemblance of the plants, as shown in various illustrations, is very striking, and in the chalky agaric the gills remain pink very late, only becoming brown when very old.
Lepiota procera Scop. Edible - The parasol mushroom, Lepiota procera, grows in pastures, lawns, gardens, along roadsides, or in thin woods, or in gardens. It is a large and handsome plant and when expanded seems not inappropriately named. It is from 12-20 cm. or more high, the cap expands from 5-12 cm., while the stem is 4-7 mm. in thickness. It occurs during summer and in early autumn.
The pileus is oval, then bell-shaped, convex and nearly expanded, with usually a more or less prominent elevation (umbo) at the center. Sometimes it is depressed at the center. It is grayish brown or reddish brown in color on the surface and the flesh is whitish. As the cap expands the surface layer ceases to grow and is therefore cracked, first narrow chinks appearing, showing white or grayish threads underneath. As the cap becomes more expanded the brown surface is torn into scales, which give the cap a more or less shaggy appearance except on the umbo, where the color is more uniform. The torn surface of the pileus shows numerous radiating fibres, and it is soft and yielding to the touch. The gills are remote from the stem, broad and crowded. The spores are long, elliptical, 12-17 µ long. The stem is cylindrical, hollow, or stuffed, even, enlarged below into a prominent bulb, of the same color as the pileus, though paler, especially above the annulus. The surface is usually cracked into numerous small scales, the chinks between showing the white inner portion of the stem. The ring is stout, narrow, usually quite free from the stem, so that it can be moved up and down on the stem, and is called a movable ring.
Figure 81 is from plants (No. 3842, C. U. herbarium) collected in a garden at Blowing Rock, N. C, during September, 1899.
A closely related plant, Lepiota rachodes Vitt., has smaller spores, 9-12 x 7-9 µ. It is also edible, and by some considered only a variety of L. procera. It is rare in this country, but appears about Boston in considerable quantities "in or near greenhouses or in enriched soil out of doors," where it has the appearance of an introduced plant (Webster, Rhodora, 1: 226, 1899). It is a much stouter plant than L. procera, the pileus usually depressed, much more coarsely scaly, and usually grows in dense clusters, while L. procera usually occurs singly or scattered, is more slender, often umbonate. L. rachodes has a veil with a double edge, the edges more or less fringed. The veil is fixed to the stem until the plant is quite mature, when it becomes movable. The flesh of the plant on exposure to the air becomes a brownish orange tint.