Notes on CONOCYBE in the Pacific Northwest

Prepared for the Pacific Northwest Key Council
By Ian Gibson, South Vancouver Island Mycological Society
Copyright © 2008, 2011, 2017 Pacific Northwest Key Council
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The genus Conocybe has not been systematically studied in the Pacific Northwest.

A.H. Smith made several hundred collections of Conocybe in North America. 16 species are covered in How to Know the Gilled Mushrooms by A.H. Smith, H.V. Smith, and Nancy Weber, and they estimate no more than 50 species for North America. The distributions given for the following species include the Pacific Northwest: Conocybe aberrans, C. brunnea, C. cyanopus, C. fimicola, C. flexipes, C. pinguis, and C. stercoraria. Conocybe smithii is also mentioned, and Paul Stamets says it has been reported from Washington and Oregon. Stamets has a particular interest in hallucinogenic species: he gives an account of C. smithii and C. cyanopus in Psilocybin Mushrooms of the World.

Conocybe ‘lactea’ is mentioned in How to Know the Gilled Mushrooms as a common species in the northern United States, and is given in other sources for the Pacific Northwest, but the current name is Conocybe apala. Two other widespread species have been reported from the Pacific Northwest. Conocybe filaris is said to be fairly common in the Pacific Northwest (Ammirati et al., 1985). Conocybe tenera is a widespread species reported from British Columbia, Washington, and Oregon. Conocybe aurea is a similar species reported by Steve Trudell from Washington. A final species, C. fibrillosipes, was described by Watling from Washington.



FRUITBODY small, slender. CAP conic to bell-shaped (sometimes convex when stipe annulate), greasy or moist but rarely viscid, usually striate when moist, usually brown. GILLS usually ascending-adnate. STIPE long, slender, fragile, white or dull-colored. ODOR and TASTE generally mild. SPORE DEPOSIT rust-brown to ocher-rust or ocher-brown. HABITAT saprophytic on a wide variety of habitats including grass, dung, soil, humus, and less commonly wood or moss. MICROSTRUCTURES spores usually smooth with an apical germ pore; cheilocystidia often flask-shaped or bowling-pin-shaped; cap cuticle cellular.


Galerina species might be confused and are more common, especially when the habitat is moss or wood. The caps are often viscid and / or translucent-striate. Their spores are typically roughened without an apical germ pore, and the cap cuticle is filamentous. Psilocybe species have spore deposits that are purple brown, blackish purple, blackish brown, or chocolate, and the cap cuticle is filamentous. Bolbitius species usually have a distinctly viscid, striate cap.

The key given below is adapted from How to Know the Gilled Mushrooms, including only species mentioned for the Pacific Northwest, and adding C. tenera, C. filaris group, and C. fibrillosipes. Collections should be checked against the description and confirmed microscopically: many species present in the Pacific Northwest will not be found in this key.



1a Annulus typically present (veil membranous, even when annulus not present there are partial veil remnants hanging from the cap margin in young specimens)

1b Annulus absent (if a veil is present it is fibrillose)

2a Growing on dung of herbivores

2b Habitat other than the above

3a Stipe below annulus faintly fibrillose to glabrous; spores 8-10(11) x 5-6 um

3b Stipe below annulus fibrillose with buff fibrils; spores 7-9 x 4-4.5 um

4a (2b) Stipe often flexuous, annulus with a thick cottony margin, growing on debris from an avalanche in a cold wet mountain habitat; spores 9-11 x 5-5.5 um

4b Not as above

5a Cap viscid when young, stipe densely fibrillose with pale buff fibrils below annulus, spores 7-9 x 4-4.5 um

5b Cap not viscid, stipe fibrils pale buff, silvery, or yellow-brown, sparse to woolly-floccose, spores various sizes

6a Annulus typically well-formed and stipe not floccose overall

6b Annulus seldom well-formed; stipe floccose overall

7a Stipe 1-3 mm wide

7b Stipe 3-5 mm wide

8a (1b) Stipe greenish to bluish near or at the base

8b Base of stipe not greenish

9a Cheilocystidia fusoid-ventricose

9b Cheilocystidia subcapitate

10a (8b) Cap brown to cinnamon-brown or yellow-brown or yellow, fading, margin finely striate when moist, gills close, stipe thin, fragile, growing in a variety of habitats but not generally on wood

10b Cap white overall or with buff center, or if cap brown then growing on wood

11a Cap deep yellow, apricot-yellow, ocher-yellow, drying pale orange to pale ocher-yellow, stem whitish when young

11b Cap ocher to cinnamon or orange-brown, stem brownish even when young

12a Cap white overall or buff on disc, gills narrow and close, stipe very fragile (fruitbody often lasting only a few hours before toppling over or withering), growing in grass

12b Cap tawny, gills broad, stipe fragile, on rotten conifer logs



Conocybe aberrans (Kühner) Singer

CAP 0.7-1.6 cm across, conic; tawny; striate when moist, at first pruinose. GILLS seceding, broad; pale tawny. STIPE 1-2.5 cm x 0.1-0.25 cm, hollow, fragile; pallid overall; pruinose; no annulus. HABITAT on rotting conifer logs. DISTRIBUTION found at least in Idaho, not common. MICROSTRUCTURES spores 8-10 x 4-5 um, distinct germ pore; cheilocystidia 38-55 x 7-10 um, fusoid with more or less acute apex.

Conocybe apala (Fr.) Arnolds (= Conocybe lactea (J.E. Lange) Métrod, =Conocybe albipes (G.H. Otth) Hauskn.)

CAP 1.0-1.5(2.5) cm across, elongate-parabolic to blunt-conic or bell-shaped; not hygrophanous or only weakly so, ivory or cream, becoming tinged with ocher at center; becoming radially and irregularly wrinkled, glistening when dry, margin striate when moist. GILLS adnexed then free, crowded, soft and collapsing with age; pale cinnamon becoming rust; edge white, floccose when fresh. STIPE 5-11 cm x 0.1-0.25 cm, thin and fragile, wilting easily, widening slightly downward to a distinct basal bulb; white, when old slightly tinged cream; minutely downy-striate throughout; veil absent. HABITAT scattered or in troops in grass, late spring to fall. MICROSTRUCTURES spores (10)11-14 x 7.5-8.5(10) um, broadly elliptic to oval, smooth, thick-walled, with large germ pore; basidia 4-spored; pleurocystidia absent, cheilocystidia 20-25 x 7.5-12 um, lecythiform, head (3)4-5 um wide, neck narrow and up to 5 um long; cap cuticle a hymeniform layer of pyriform to sphaeropedunculate cells; clamp connections not seen. REMARKS Conocybe crispa is distinguished by two-spored basidia and crisped gills. Conocybe apala
Conocybe apala
Michael Beug

Conocybe aurea (Jul. Schaeff. ex Fr.) Hongo

CAP 1.2-5.0 cm across, conic-bellshaped to convex to flat with uplifted margin; hygrophanous, deep yellow, apricot-yellow, ocher-yellow, drying pale orange to pale ocher-yellow. GILLS narrowly adnate, crowded; whitish then cinnamon then rust, edge whitish-flocculose. STIPE 3.0-5.0 cm x 0.15-0.4 cm, widening slightly downward to slightly swollen base; whitish then pale yellow-brown, minutely pruinose-striate throughout when fresh; veil absent. HABITAT on humus-rich or nutrient-rich soil or compost. DISTRIBUTION reported by Steve Trudell from Washington. MICROSTRUCTURES spores 10-13 x 5-7.5 um, elliptic to almond-shaped in face view, thick-walled, germ pore large and distinct; pleurocystidia absent, cheilocystidia 17-25 x 7.5-10 um, lecythiform (bowling-pin-shaped), head up to 5 um wide; cap cuticle a hymeniform layer of spheropedunculate to clavate or pyriform cells intermixed with lecythiform cystidia; clamp connections present. REMARKS According to Breitenbach et al., Conocybe tenera (which could look like old fruitbodies of C. aurea) has a brownish stem even when young and somewhat longer spores. They give spores of C. aurea as 9.8-13.1 x 5.8-7.2 um and spores of C. tenera as 10.5-14.0 x 5.0-6.9 um. Watling gives spores of C. aurea as 11-12.5 x 5-7 um and spores of C. tenera as 10-13 x 5.5-6 um.Conocybe aurea
Conocybe aurea
Steve Trudell

Conocybe brunnea J.E. Lange & Kühner ex Watling

CAP 0.5-1.4(2) cm across, conic to convex, often becoming flat or with slight umbo; hygrophanous, bright rusty brown, fading to buff or ocher; bald except for veil fibrils along margin, not striate or striate to half way when moist, margin appendiculate with ivory or pale cream, fleeting, membranous veil fragments. GILLS adnate, close to crowded, broad, ventricose; pale tawny to rust, edge irregular, whitish when fresh. STIPE 2.5-4 cm x 0.15-0.3 cm, equal or widening slightly downward or thickened at base, hollow then stuffed; pale buff or cream then fulvous or yellow-brown, darkening near base or after handling; floccose with dingy buff fibrils, rarely with apical annulus, but tooth-like remains may occur in the annular zone. HABITAT on rich humus and debris under hardwoods, spring, under herbs, by roadsides, etc., has been collected on wood. DISTRIBUTION in the Pacific Northwest found at least in Washington, apparently rarely collected. MICROSTRUCTURES spores (6)6.5-8(9.5) x 3.5-4.5(5) um (Watling), 8-10 x 4.5-5 um (Smith), ellipsoid to ovoid, smooth, with small germ pore; pleurocystidia absent, cheilocystidia 25-45 x 5-11 um, capitate (like a bowling pin); cap cuticle a hymeniform layer of clavate, pedicellate cells up to 22 um broad with slightly to strongly colored pedicels, often with bowling-pin-shaped pileocystidia up to 40 um long; clamp connections present.

Conocybe cyanopus (G.F. Atk.) Kühner

CAP 0.3-1.2(2.5) cm across, nearly hemispheric to convex, expanding to broadly convex when old, sometimes umbonate; reddish cinnamon brown to dark brown, paler when faded; moist to dry, smooth overall to slightly wrinkled toward the disc when old, margin translucent-striate when moist, sometimes trace filamentous veil remnants along the cap margin. GILLS adnate to adnexed, close to subdistant, moderately broad; dull rusty brown; edge fringed whitish. STIPE 2-4 cm x 0.1-0.15 cm, equal to slightly swollen at base, fragile; whitish at first, becoming grayish or brownish at top, base often tinged dark greenish blue to greenish gray or bruising these colors, fading to grayish; annulus absent. HABITAT scattered in grassy areas in lawns and fields or on moss. DISTRIBUTION reported from BC, WA, CO. MICROSTRUCTURES 7-9 x 4-4.5 um (Smith), spores 6.5-7.5(8.5) x 4.5-5 um (Watling), ellipsoid, smooth, small germ pore; pleurocystidia absent, cheilocystidia (20)30-40 um long, fusoid-ventricose, apex +/- obtuse, rarely subcapitate; cap cuticle a hymeniform layer of pyriform cells intermixed with numerous cystidia similar to cheilocystidia. REMARKS probably moderately to highly hallucinogenic, 0.33-1.01% psilocybin, 0-0.007% psilocin, 0.12-0.20% baeocystin, other toxins unknown. Conocybe smithii differs chiefly in having subcapitate cheilocystidia, but has more delicate umbonate cap, slightly longer spores, and favors mossy environments or woodland swamps.

Conocybe fibrillosipes Watling

CAP 1.0-1.7 cm across, convex, hemispheric, hardly expanding; rich dark tawny orange, tinted with chestnut, particularly toward the disc; striate to half-way and covered particularly at margin with small, pale yellow-brown fragments of appendiculate and marginal veil. GILLS fairly close; pale ochraceous then rusty tawny. STIPE 1.8-3.2 cm x 0.3-0.5 cm, stout; yellow-ocher; fibrillose-streaky to woolly floccose, particularly towards base, veil peronate (sheathing) or present as mere flecks of membrane toward apex, then fibrillose-woolly. HABITAT type among herbaceous debris in conifer woodland. DISTRIBUTION type found in Washington. MICROSTRUCTURES spores 6.5-8.5(9) x 3-5 um, ellipsoid, smooth, germ pore just visible; pleurocystidia absent, cheilocystidia bowling-pin-shaped, 16.5-25.5 um long, body 6-8 um wide, head 2.5-4.5 um wide; cap cuticle a regular hymeniderm of clavate-pedicellate cells, pileocystidia frequent, bowling-pin-shaped. REMARKS The stout stipe for a Conocybe may suggest a Galerina.

Conocybe filaris (Fr.) Kühner

CAP (0.2)0.3-1.2 cm across (Watling), conical with obtuse umbo or conic - bell-shaped, becoming convex on expanding, retaining umbo; very hygrophanous, cinnamon with rust center, fading, rarely finely wrinkled, margin striate when moist. GILLS adnexed, ventricose, close but not crowded; fulvous, edge white and flocculose-denticulate. STIPE 1.0-3.5 cm x 0.05-0.15 cm, more or less equal, with annulus; ivory at top, ivory to silvery white in lower part from silky fibrils, gradually sepia from base upwards; pruinose at top, coarsely fibrillose-striate in lower part; annulus conspicuous though small, often slipping to base, felt-like, striate and whitish to cream on upper surface, buff on lower surface. HABITAT on rich clayey soil especially in woodlands in limestone areas, edges of paths, in parks etc., (Watling), in decayed wood substratum, in wood or bark chips, or on newly laid lawns and grassy areas that rest on buried wood, (Stamets), rich clay soil, often in gardens and parks, especially around greenhouses, occasionally in moss, on mossy logs, along paths, and in sawdust and compost piles, (Ammirati et al.). DISTRIBUTION fairly common in the Pacific Northwest (Ammirati), reported throughout the Pacific Northwest (Stamets). MICROSTRUCTURES spores (6.5)7-8.5(9.5) x (4)4.5-5 um, (Watling), 7.3-8.0(9.9) x 4.0-4.8(5.4) cm (Ammirati et al.), 7.5-13 x 3.5-5.5 um (Stamets), ellipsoid, smooth, fairly thick-walled, germ pore present though not prominent; basidia 4-spored (Watling), 4-spored and 2-spored (Stamets); pleurocystidia absent, cheilocystidia lageniform (bowling-pin-shaped), 24-40(45) x 8-10.5 um, apex obtuse 2.5-4(6) um wide, neck 5-7 um long; cap cuticle a hymeniform layer of sphaeropedunculate cells 10.5-21 um broad with slightly darkened pedicels. REMARKS The spore size given by Stamets is different from that given by Watling, possibly because collections with 2-spored basidia are included, the cap width given by Stamets and Ammirati et al. is 0.5-2.5 cm, and the habitat is different for the three sources. Conocybe filaris is poisonous: it been reported to contain the same deadly amanitins as Amanita phalloides and Galerina autumnalis. Conocybe rugosa (Peck) Watling is characterized by darker rusty tawny to dark brick, wrinkled cap 0.75-2 cm across, prominent annulus, spores 8-10 x 4.5-5.5(6) um, and lageniform cheilocystidia with a short neck (but longer than C. filaris) and more acute to subacute apex than in Conocybe filaris - a Paul Kroeger collection from BC is deposited at University of British Columbia (as Pholiotina rugosa).Conocybe filaris
Conocybe filaris
Fred Stevens (MykoWeb)

Conocybe fimicola Watling

CAP 1-2.5 cm across, conic; hygrophanous, russet when fresh, fading to pale tawny; bald, moist, striate when fresh. GILLS adnate, close, narrow to moderately broad, 1-3 subgills between neighboring gills; dull tawny. STIPE 3-4 cm x 0.2-0.3 cm, equal; top cinnamon buff, base yellowish becoming dark brown; apex mealy, densely fibrillose-pruinose in upper part, more appressed-fibrillose with buff-colored fibrils in lower part, membranous annulus buff, striate above at times, fleeting. HABITAT gregarious on manure in spring. DISTRIBUTION described from Washington. MICROSTRUCTURES spores 7-9(10) x 4-4.5 um, ellipsoid, smooth, with a small apical germ pore, wall not thickened; basidia 4-spored; pleurocystidia absent, cheilocystidia 24-32 x 7-10 um, fusoid-ventricose with narrow neck and +/- acute apices; cap cuticle a hymeniderm composed of clavate to pyriform cells when revived in alkali with rusty cinnamon pedicels, no pileocystidia; clamp connections not seen in cap trama but present in stipe hyphae.

Conocybe flexipes Watling

CAP obtusely conic then bell-shaped to flat-umbonate; hygrophanous, pale tawny fading to pinkish buff; bald, translucent-striate when moist. GILLS adnate but seceding, close, moderately broad; pale buff to dull ochraceous brown; edge minutely fringed when old. STIPE 5-7 cm x 0.1-0.15 cm, equal, fragile; pale buff in upper part, tawny near base; pruinose to bald above annulus, appressed-fibrillose to bald below annulus; membranous annulus pale buff, striate on upper surface, with a thick cottony margin. HABITAT scattered on organic avalanche debris, fall. DISTRIBUTION found at least Mt. Rainier National Park, WA. MICROSTRUCTURES spores 9-11 x 5-5.5 um, narrowly ovate to elliptic, smooth, truncate from small germ pore; pleurocystidia not seen, cheilocystidia 26-38 x 6-12 um, ventricose and narrowed to obtuse to more or less capitate apex, neck often quite long; cap cuticle a hymeniderm of clavate-pedicellate and inflated cells with little or no thickening of pedicels, no pileocystidia; clamp connections present.

Conocybe pinguis Watling

CAP 1.5-3.5 cm across, convex becoming flat; bright ochraceous brown, fading; viscid when young, bald, minutely striate at margin. GILLS depressed-adnate, seceding, crowded, narrow, 1-3 subgills between gills; pallid then pale tawny. STIPE 7-9 cm x 0.3-0.4 cm, equal to slightly enlarged at base; whitish in upper part, becoming dark brown in lower part; densely fibrillose below annulus with pale buff fibrils that disappear, fibrillose-scaly above annulus; annulus thick, membranous, near top, striate on upper surface. HABITAT gregarious on old rotting logs of alder and ? maple, spring and early summer. DISTRIBUTION found at least in Washington, uncommon. MICROSTRUCTURES spores 7-9 x 4-4.5 um, narrowly ovoid, smooth, germ pore small; pleurocystidia none, cheilocystidia abundant, 34-45 x 7-9 um, narrowly ventricose with capitate to subcapitate apices 5-7 um wide, at times nearly cylindric-capitate; cap cuticle a hymeniderm of pedicellate, clavate cells with pale cinnamon, possibly slightly thickened pedicels, no pileocystidia; clamp connections present.

Conocybe smithii Watling apud Benedict, Tyler and Watling

CAP 0.3-1(1.3) cm across, obtusely conic, expanding to nearly flat with a distinct pronounced umbo; hygrophanous, ochraceous tawny to cinnamon brown, paler when faded; margin translucent-striate when moist. GILLS adnate to adnexed, crowded to subdistant, narrow to moderately broad; pale grayish yellow becoming rusty cinnamon brown. STIPE 1-5(7) cm x 0.075-0.1(0.15) cm, equal to slightly enlarged at base, fragile; whitish, becoming pallid yellowish brown, more grayish at base; surface with fine fibrils at first but soon smooth, base may be tinged grayish blue or greenish gray or may bruise these colors, becomes yellowish when old; annulus absent. HABITAT scattered to numerous in moss and about bogs, mossy logs, moist soil, or under dense cover often associated with mosses, also in lawns; late spring, summer, and perhaps early fall. DISTRIBUTION reported at least from WA, OR. MICROSTRUCTURES spores 6.5-9.5 x 4.4-5.1(5.8) um, ellipsoid, smooth, thick-walled, small germ pore; pleurocystidia absent, cheilocystidia 20-40 x 9-15 um, subcapitate, thin-walled; cap cuticle in the form of a cellular to hymeniform layer, with pileocystidia; clamp connections present. REMARKS probably hallucinogenic, up to 0.80% baeocystin, other toxins unknown. Conocybe cyanopus hard to distinguish, differs chiefly in having fusoid ventricose cheilocystidia with apex +/- obtuse but has convex, almost hemispheric cap and slightly shorter spores and favors grassy environments.

Conocybe stercoraria Watling

CAP 1.0-3.5 cm across, obtuse to convex, becoming flat; hygrophanous, yellowish brown fading to yellowish or buff, margin at times with a few veil fragments, otherwise bald, minutely striate. GILLS depressed-adnate, close, moderately broad; white becoming yellowish brown like the moist cap. STIPE 5-6 cm x 0.15-0.2 cm, equal, hollow, fragile; dark yellowish brown in upper part, dark brown in lower part; faintly fibrillose-striate or bald; annulus membranous, not striate, margin broad, lower surface cottony, very soon disappearing. HABITAT scattered on horse dung, spring to early fall. DISTRIBUTION found at least WA, not uncommon. MICROSTRUCTURES spores 8-10(11) x 5-6 um, elliptic, distinctly truncate from broad germ pore; pleurocystidia none, cheilocystidia (28)30-37 x 7-10 um, ventricose-capitate, thin-walled; cap cuticle a hymeniderm of clavate cells, with either thin-walled colorless or thick-walled rust-colored pedicels; clamp connections present on hyphae of stipe.

Conocybe tenera (Schaeff. ex Fr.) Fayod

CAP 0.8-2.0 cm across, bell-shaped to convex; fulvous-tinged sienna to cinnamon-tinged ocher when fresh, paler when old, drying ochraceous; glistening when dry, strongly striate throughout. GILLS adnate then free, crowded; whitish then pale cinnamon then rust, edge whitish-flocculose. STIPE 3.5-7.5 cm x 0.1-0.3 cm, slender, equal or widening slightly downward to slightly swollen base; colored as cap, darkening slightly when old; minutely pruinose-striate throughout when fresh; veil absent. HABITAT on soil in grass or among herbs in a variety of habitats: lawns, gardens, fields, and woods; spring and summer, occasionally fall. DISTRIBUTION widespread in northern hemisphere, several reports from BC, Murrill reported it from WA, OR, CA. MICROSTRUCTURES spores 10-13 x 5.5-6 um, elliptic in face view, thick-walled, germ pore large and distinct; pleurocystidia absent, cheilocystidia 17.5-25 x 7-10 um, lecythiform (bowling-pin-shaped), head (3.5)4-5 um wide; cap cuticle a hymeniform layer of sphaeropedunculate cells with slightly thickened pedicels intermixed with a few cystidia; clamp connections present.Conocybe tenera
Conocybe tenera
Michael Wood (MykoWeb)



  1. Ammirati, J.F., J.A. Traquair, and P.A.Horgen. 1985. Poisonous mushrooms of Canada including other inedible fungi. Fitzhenry and Whiteside, Markham Ont. 396p.
  2. Arora, David. 1986. Mushrooms Demystified. Ten Speed Press.
  3. Hallen, Heather E., Roy Watling, and Gerard C. Adams. 2003. "Taxonomy and toxicity of Conocybe lactea and related species." Mycol. Res. 107: 969-979.
  4. Smith, Alexander H., Smith Helen V., Weber, Nancy S. 1979. How to Know the Gilled Mushrooms. Wm. C. Brown Company, Dubuque, Iowa.
  5. Stamets, Paul. 1996. Psilocybin Mushrooms of the World. Ten Speed Press, Berkeley.
  6. Trudell, Steve, Joe Ammirati. 2009. Mushrooms of the Pacific Northwest. Timber Press.
  7. Watling, Roy. 1971. "The Genus Conocybe Subgenus Pholiotina II. Some European exannulate species and North American annulate species." Persoonia 6(3):313-339.
  8. Watling, R. 1982. British Fungus Flora Agarics and Boleti 3 Bolbitiaceae Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh.


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