Shrooming with the kids in Alabama: Identifying sample #1.

We divide our field survey of shrooms into “samples” for the purpose of identifying them once we got home and we able to to consult a few online resources. Unfortunately, we currently lack a field guide to the world of the fungi. But we make do.

Sample #1: “The Pretty-In-Pinks”

Cap was red on top and slightly upturned. The stem was white with no ring.The cap was a light red wash- almost pink- with a soft, velvety texture. We agreed the shape of the cap was umbilicate- the edge was flat and recessed in the center, almost like a bathing pool for fairies.

This pretty-in-pink sample boasted a obvious striate margin (another way of saying it had a lined edge).

As I used a twig to flip over the cap, we agreed the stalk was centrally positioned. Unfortunately, our flipping method did not allow us to get a sense of the shape of the stalk’s base. We could only speculate that it might have been equal.

But the underside of the cap revealed a large number of crowded cream-colored gills.

The attachment of the gills to the stalk was “free” (or not attached). Max claimed the white ring in the center made this “obvious”. We concluded that it would be accurate to say them stem was white with no ring.

According to David Fischer, gilled mushrooms, or agarics, have evolved at least four or five times according to DNA study results.

Fischer says the gills keep evolving because they “provide the highest surface-area-to-mass ratio for the external production of spores”.

When we broke open the middle, we discovered whitish cream spores.


The white gills and red/white color combination suggests a mushroom in the Russula genus. But which one?

Option 1: Russula rosea

Also known as the Rosy brittlegill, Russula rosea fruits in late October and early November, depending on the temperature of the location. The cap is red or pink, often cream towards the centre; sometimes entirely cream; dry, either shiny or matt, sometimes slightly powdered. 5 to 12cm diameter, convex, later flattening or developng a slight central depression.

The gills are a pale cream color, almost freely attached; forked; very brittle. It maintains a mycorrhizal association with deciduous broadleaf trees, particularly Beech, but occasionally also found under conifers.

Option 2: Russula emetica

This option came up only because I read a possible ID of a mushroom almost identical to our Pretty-in-Pinks that called it a Russila emetica. First described in 1774, the “sickener” has a wide distribution in North America, where it thrives in damp woodlands in a mycorrhizal association with conifers, especially pine trees. Alas, this species is poisonous and likely to cause stomach distress.

Option 3: Russula betularum

Russula betularum is a small, very pale member of the Russula (brittlegills) genus of mushrooms. It is usually white to very pale pink, inedible, and grows with birch trees. It is commonly known as the birch brittlegill.

Russula (Wikipedia)
List of Russula species (Wikipedia)
Russula rosea (First Nature)
Russula emetica, the sickener (First Nature)
Russula nobilis, the beechwood sickener (First Nature)