You probably know that Corts are famous for being hard to identify. But this mushroom’s distinctive sticky cap that looks like a large, flat, tan, wrinkled prune, plus the slimy bulb at the base of the stem are merciful gifts to frustrated fungus fanatics. Rejoice, because few Cortinatius species offer us such helpful identification clues.
Usually, it’s not hard to tell if a mushroom is a Cortinarius species. The genus gets its name from its characteristic “cortina” (kor-TEEN-ah): a cobwebby veil that extends from the edge of the cap to the stem and shrouds the gills of the immature mushrooms. As the cap expands, the cortina tears, and typically leaves a trace of a ring on the stem. Other distinguishing features of the genus are the rusty-brown to cinnamon-brown spore prints, and growth almost always on the ground, usually in the woods.
Old time mushroomers commonly ate the Corrugated Cortinarius, but did not rave about the quality. Currently, most Cortinarius species are on the do-not-eat list until further studies determine which are safe.
IN A NUTSHELL: STRONGLY WRINKLED, YELLOWISH TO REDDISH-TAN, STICKY CAP WITH WHITISH FRAGMENTS ALONG THE EDGE WHEN YOUNG. GILLS VIOLET-GRAY WHEN YOUNG, BECOMING CINNAMON BROWN, JOINED TO STEM. GROWS ON THE GROUND.
CAP: 1 1/2” to 4” wide. Coarsely wrinkled. Sticky when moist. Rusty-orange to reddish-brown. Delicate tissue paper-like whitish fragments hang from edge when young.
GILLS: Grayish-violet when young, becoming cinnamon-brown with age. Close together. Joined to the stem.
SPORE PRINT: Rusty brown.
STEM: 3” to 5” long, 1/4” to 1/2” thick. Finely shaggy. Straight. Hollow. Sometimes with a hint of a ring. Paler than the cap, except for the slimy bulb at the base, which is colored like the cap.
GROWTH: Alone, or scattered on the ground in hardwood forests. June to September.
EDIBILITY: Do not eat.
COPYCATS: Xanthoconium separans has a layer of pores, not gills, beneath its cap. Cortinarius caperata shows a light white frosting on the young cap, and its stem retains a definite ring. Pholiota delineata and Psathyrella rugocephala grow on dead hardwood, and make purple-brown spore prints. All of these copycats have a more or less wrinkled cap, and all are edible.
TIP: This mushroom is very common in some, but not all woods, in this region.
- Bill Russell
Scientific name: Cortinarius corrugatus