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 genus Hypholoma the spores are purple brown, the gills attached to the stem, and the veil when ruptured clings to the margin of the cap instead of to the stem, so that a ring is not formed, or only rarely in some specimens. The stem is said to be continuous with the substance of the cap, that is, it is not easily separated from it. The genus is closely related to Agaricus (Psaltiota) and Stropharia, from both of which it differs in the veil not forming a ring, but clinging to the margin of the cap. It further differs from Agaricus in the stem being continuous with the substance of the cap, while Stropharia seems to differ in this respect in different species. The plants grow both on the ground and on wood. There are several species which are edible and are very common. Peck gives a synopsis of six species in the 49th Report New York State Mus., page 61, 1896, and Morgan describes 7 species in Jour. Cinn. Soc. Nat. Hist. 6: 113-115.
Hypholoma sublateritium Schaeff. Edible, bitter sometimes. The name of this species is derived from the color of the cap, which is nearly a brick red color, sometimes tawny. The margin is lighter in color. The plants grow usually in large clusters on old stumps or frequently appearing on the ground from buried portions of stumps or from roots. There are from six to ten, or twenty or more plants in a single cluster. A single plant is from 8-12 cm. high, the cap is 5-8 cm. broad, and the stem 6-8 mm. in thickness.
The pileus is convex to expanded, smooth, or sometimes with loose threads from the veil, especially when young, even, dry. The flesh is firm, whitish, and in age becoming somewhat yellowish. The gills are adnate, sometimes decurrent by a little tooth, rather crowded, narrow, whitish, then dull yellow, and becoming dark from the spores, purplish to olivaceous. The stem usually tapers downward, is firm, stuffed, smooth, or with remnants of the veil giving it a floccose scaly appearance, usually ascending because of the crowded growth. The veil is thin and only manifested in the young stage of the plant as a loose weft of threads. As the cap expands the veil is torn and adheres to the margin, but soon disappears.
Plate 6, Figure 25
Hypholoma sublateritium. Cap brick-red or tawny. (Natural size, often larger.) Copyright.
Plate 7, Figure 26
Hypholoma appendiculatum (natural size, often larger). White floccose scales on cap (var. coroniferum) and appendiculate veil; caps whitish, or brown, tawny, or tinge of ochre, Gills white, then purple brown. Copyright.
The flesh of this plant is said by European writers to be bitter to the taste, and it is regarded there as poisonous. This character seems to be the only distinguishing one between the Hypholoma sub-lateritium Schaeff., of Europe, and the Hypholoma perplexum Pk., of this country which is edible, and probably is identical with H. sublateritium. If the plant in hand agrees with this description in other respects, and is not bitter, there should be no danger in its use. According to Bresadola, the bitter taste is not pronounced in H. sublateritium. The taste probably varies as it does in other plants. For example, in Pholiota praecox, an edible species, I detected a decided bitter taste in plants collected in June, 1900. Four other persons were requested to taste the plants. Two of them pronounced them bitter, while two did not detect the bitter taste.
There is a variety of Hypholoma sublateritium, with delicate floccose scales in concentric rows near the margin of the cap, called var. squamosum Cooke. This is the plant illustrated in Fig. 25, from specimens collected on rotting wood in the Cascadilla woods, Ithaca, N. Y. It occurs from spring to autumn.
Hypholoma epixanthum Fr., is near the former species, but has a yellow pileus, and the light yellow gills become gray, not purple.
Hypholoma appendiculatum Bull. Edible. - This species is common during late spring and in the summer. It grows on old stumps and logs, and often on the ground, especially where there are dead roots. It is scattered or clustered, but large tufts are not formed as in H. sublateritium. The plants are 6-8 cm. high, the cap 5-7 cm. broad, and the stem 4-6 mm. in thickness.
The pileus is ovate, convex to expanded, and often the margin elevated, and then the cap appears depressed. It is fleshy, thin, whitish or brown, tawny, or with a tinge of ochre, and becoming pale in age and when dry. As the plant becomes old the pileus often cracks in various ways, sometimes splitting radially into several lobes, and then in other cases cracking into irregular areas, showing the white flesh underneath. The surface of the pileus when young is sometimes sprinkled with whitish particles giving it a mealy appearance. The gills are attached to the stem, crowded, becoming more or less free by breaking away from the stem, especially in old plants. They are white, then flesh colored, brownish with a slight purple tinge. The stem is white, smooth, or with numerous small white particles at the apex, becoming hollow. The veil is very delicate, white, and only seen in quite young plants when they are fresh. It clings to the margin of the cap for a short period, and then soon disappears.
Sometimes the pileus is covered with numerous white, delicate floccose scales, which give it a beautiful appearance, as in Fig. 26, from specimens (No. 3185 C. U. herbarium), collected on the campus of Cornell University among grass. The entire plant is very brittle, and easily broken. It is tender and excellent for food. I often eat the caps raw.
Hypholoma appendiculatum (natural size), showing appendiculate veil. Copyright.
Hypholoma candolleanum Fr., occurs in woods on the ground, or on very rotten wood. It is not so fragile as H. appendiculatum and the gills are dark violaceous, not flesh color as they are in H. appendiculatum when they begin to turn, and nearly free from the stem.