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..
This genus takes its name from the volva, which means a wrapper, and which, as we know from our studies of Amanita, entirely envelops the plant at a young stage. The genus is characterized :hen by the rosy or reddish spores, the presence of a volva, and the annulus is wanting. The stem is easily separable from the pileus at ts junction, in this respect being similar to Amanita, Amanitopsis, Lepiota and others. The gills are usually, also, free from the stem, The species grow on rotting wood, on leaf mould and on richly man-jred ground, etc. They are of a very soft texture and usually soon decay.
Volvaria bombycina (Pers.) Fr. Edible. - The silky volvaria is so called because of the beautiful silky texture of the surface of the cap. is not very common, but is world wide in its distribution, and occurs on decayed wood of logs, stumps, etc., during late summer and in autumn. It is usually of a beautiful white color, large, the volva large and thick, reminding one of a bag, and the stem is ascending when the plant grows on the side of the trunk, or erect when it grows on the upper side of a log or stump. The plant is from 8-16 cm. high, the cap 6-20 cm. broad, and the stem 1-1.5 cm. in thickness.
The pileus is globose, then bell-shaped, and finally convex and somewhat umbonate, white, according to some becoming somewhat reddish. The entire surface is silky, and numerous hairs stand out in the form of soft down, when older the surface becoming more or less scaly, or rarely becoming smooth at the apex. The flesh is white. The gills are crowded, very broad along the middle, flesh colored, the edge sometimes ragged. The spores are rosy in mass, oval to broadly elliptical, 6-9 x 5-6 µ smooth. The stem tapers from the base to the apex, is solid, smooth. The volva is large and bag-like. The plant is considered edible by some. Figure 137 is from a plant (No. 3096, C. U. herbarium) collected on a log of Acer rubrum in Cascadilla woods, Ithaca, on August 10th, 1898.
This plant seems to be rare, but it has a wide distribution in Europe and the United States. It occurs on richly manured ground, on dung, etc. The plants are 10-20 cm. high, the cap 6-12 cm. broad, and the stem 1-2 cm. in thickness. The entire plant is white or whitish, sometimes grayish, especially at the center, where it is also sometimes darker and of a smoky color. .
Volvaria bombycina. Cap, stem and volva entirely white, gills flesh color (natural size). Copyright.
The pileus is globose when young, then bell-shaped, and finally more or less expanded, and umbonate, smooth, very viscid, so that earth, leaves, etc., cling to it. The flesh is white and very soft. The gills are free, flesh colored to reddish or fulvous, from the deeply colored spores. The spores are broadly elliptical, or oval, 12-18 x 8-10 µ. The stem is nearly cylindrical, or tapering evenly from the base, when young more or less hairy, becoming smooth. The volva is large, edge free, but fitting very close, flabby and irregularly torn.
The species is reported from California by McClatchie, and from Wisconsin by Bundy.
Specimens were received in June, 1898, from Dr. Post of Lansing, Mich, which were collected there in a potato patch. It was abundant during May and June. Plants which were sent in a fresh condition were badly decayed by the time they reached Ithaca, and the odor was very disagreeable. It is remarkable that the odor was that of rotting potatoes ! In this connection might be mentioned Dr. Peck's observation (Bull. Torr. Bot. Club 26: p. 67, 1899) that Agaricus maritimus Pk., which grows near the seashore, possessed "a taste and odor suggestive of the sea."
McClatchie reports that it is common in cultivated soil, especially grain fields and along roads, and that it is "a fine edible agaric and our most abundant one in California."