Trial field key to species of the genus
LEPISTA & related species

Copyright © Pacific Northwest Key Council
(Clitocybe – Section Verruculosae) for the Pacific Northwest
By Gene Butler, October 1981
Copyright © 1981, 2004 Pacific Northwest Key Council
Photo copyright held by each photographer
Do not copy photos without permission





 Key to Species


 Table of Names of Species



Except as noted, members of the genus Lepista look almost, but not quite like either a Tricholoma or a Clitocybe. That is, cap is fleshy and gills are attached to a fleshy (over 5 mm thick), and stem is central and fibrous (when broken, fibers leave a ragged edge). There is no ring on the stem.

CAP sizes range from 1-4 cm to 3-15 cm with a giant at 10-30 cm. Cap surfaces may be dry or moist but typically not sticky; smooth, sometimes with hairs, not scaly (in PNW species). Cap margins in young fruiting bodies inroll in most species, incurve in a few. Cap colors are white, buff, dark brown, purple or purple tinged. In a few species fresh moist caps change color on drying (hygrophanous).

In species with violet colors and one PNW white species, GILLS are notched (sinuate –Tricholoma habit) at least when young; in most other species gills are squarely attached (adnate – Laccaria habit) or with decurrent tooth; in a few species gills run down the stem (decurrent – Clitocybe habit) at least in age. Gills are thin, typically close or crowded, rarely subdistant, not waxy looking, edges even. In several species gills are divided from the cap by a watery or subcartilaginous line or zone and then gills will separate as a unit from the cap.

STEMS are equal or sometimes tapering either way with the base almost club-shaped or bulbous in a few species. They may be inserted or bound to debris with mycelium (in certain species) or with root-like hairs (rhizoids) in one species.

All species grow on the ground, and most species in clusters (caespitose) or densely gregarious in fairy rings.

The microscopic description states Lepista contains those species of Tricholomataceae with roughened, colored spores and clamp connections on the hyphae of the fruiting body. Cystidia are absent. Spores are ellipsoid, except when noted and then are globose. When we note small warts, the roughness may not be visible under even an oil immersion lens.


Similar genera:

TRICHOLOMA: Although Tricholoma species typically have gills notched at the stem, as do several Lepista species, the spores of Tricholoma are white, never colored, whereas Lepista spores (PNW) are pale buff or pinkish-buff. Tricholoma caps never change color on drying; in several Lepista species color does so change. Young Tricholoma cap margins typically incurve, young Lepista cap margins typically inroll. Tricholoma species do not have purple colors; whitish Tricholomas are grayish; whitish Lepistas are typically brownish or buff tinged.

TRICHOLOMOPSIS: Tricholomopsis species grow on wood or buried wood. Lepista species grow on soil.

CLITOCYBE: Clitocybe species typically have gills running down the stem and inrolled cap margins. Lepista species with such characteristics may not be readily distinguished, except that if gills run down stem, they are nearly always short decurrent. White, buff and pinkish tan colors are common to both genera. In the Pacific Northwest, Lepista species do not have blue or strong gray to blackish colors. Clitocybe species have no purple colors.

Most Lepista species have a growth habit that is clustered, sub-clustered or at least gregarious. Only C. dilatata in genus Clitocybe appears to have a clustered growth habit. In the Pacific Northwest species, Clitocybe has white spores; Lepista pale pinkish buff or pinkish buff spores.

ENTOLOMA: Distinguished primarily by the rose beige to blush spore print.

RHODOCYBE: Spore print and mature gill color may be pink to dirty gray, from very pale to dark. In the Pacific Northwest they may be separated on a species basis. Rhodocybe species are typically very small and have thin cartilaginous stems (Collybia habit). Lepistas typically have a fleshy stem. L. tarda (L. sordida), the primary small PNW Lepista has purple colors, not known to writer to be present in Rhodocybe. On microscopic examination Rhodocybe species have roughened to angular spores, but members of the genus typically separate from Lepista by absence of clamp connections and presence of cystidia.


Most colors are described generically in this key. Buff, a common color in this section, is cumbersome to describe generically. The unmodified term "buff" describes a wide range of more or less grayed and therefore slightly dirty looking, too light to be brown colors in the yellowish-pink, orange to yellowish hues.

The following buff terms are exact color terms:
"Pinkish buff" is a color somewhere between light to moderate yellowish-pink.
"Vinaceous buff" is slightly grayer and of slightly more brownish hue than pinkish buff.
"Pale pinkish buff" is a color very close to pale orange yellow.

Bigelow and Smith classify Lepista as a section of Clitocybe. Many authorities do not accept that analysis. This key shows Clitocybe names because not all species have a Lepista designation.


NOTE (Ian Gibson 2017).

The key is presented as written in 1981. How applicable is it to the species now known as Lepista?

Here is a list of some other Pacific Northwest species have been places in Lepista by other authors. These are not included in Section Verruculosae by Bigelow (1982) and are not part of this key.

In the list immediately above, only Lepista idahoensis had its current name in Lepista in the online Index Fungorum, accessed January 24, 2017. Lepista flaccida and Lepista inversa are synonyms of Paralepista flaccida, and the rest have current names in Clitocybe.

On the other hand, most of the Lepista species in this key (Section Verruculosae) had their current names in Lepista. An exception is Lepista praemagna which had the current name Clitocybe praemagna. Thus this key is still quite applicable to modern Lepista.



1a Cap white to buff and no part other than spores tinted lavender, violet or purple

1b Cap white, buff or brown with some part bearing purple tints; or cap purple, grayish red or dark brown

2a Stem 1.5-5.0 cm thick; cap very large 10-30 cm

................................................................................Clitocybe praemagna

CAP 10-30 cm broad, convex becoming flat, edge incurved at first, surface dry, dull, cracked in age, white to cream or light brown in age; flesh thick in central area, white. ODOR and TASTE not distinctive. GILLS squarely attached or somewhat notched, close to subdistant, broad (up to 12 mm), whitish. STEM 3-7 cm long, 1.5-5.0 cm thick, equal or base enlarged, at times with a ridged (marginate) bulb, solid, white, base may be spotted brown. SPORES pinkish-buff, 6-8 x 4-4.5 um. FRUITING gregarious or clustered, often forming arcs or fairy rings in open grasslands or under sagebrush; June to September. EDIBILITY edible.

2b Stem 0.5-3.0 cm thick; cap medium to large 3-15 cm

3a Odor and taste strong and disagreeable, rancid-mealy; cap flesh thin throughout

................................................................................Clitocybe fasciculata

Cap flat, edge inrolled, flesh thin, white; gills close, readily separable from cap, edges not staining; stem off-center, no mycelium at base; on road banks.

CAP 4-13 cm broad, edge white, central area tinged gray to dingy pink; surface slightly hairy. ODOR evident when crushed. GILLS squarely attached, finally short decurrent, close to subdistant, broad near stem, edges even, faint grayish pink becoming vinaceous buff to light yellow to grayish yellow-brown. STEM 6-12 cm long x 1.0-1.5 cm through at top, enlarged downward with club-shaped bulb; small scales above, solid. SPORES pale lilac gray, 4.5-6 x 3-4 um. FRUITING on roadbanks, always clustered; September-October. EDIBILITY worthless. REMARKS This species closely resembles Clitocybe dilatata and Clitocybe subconnexa.

3b Odor and taste mild; cap flesh thick at least in the central area

4a Gills very narrow, under 2 mm

................................................................................Clitocybe densifolia

Cap obtuse, then flat, edge inrolled, flesh thick in central area, thin on edge; sometimes clustered.

CAP 3-10(15) cm broad, central area depressed when mature; surface unpolished or glazed, white or off-white, becoming cream buff or a duller very pale yellowish-brown; flesh firm but brittle, whitish to watery gray. ODOR not distinctive. TASTE not distinctive. GILLS squarely attached, then short decurrent to decurrent, forked and fused together, white or whitish becoming pinkish buff. STEM 4-8 cm x 0.3-2.9 cm at top, equal or base enlarged, club-shaped at times, surface sometimes with long lines, whitish, becoming pinkish buff, base with white wooly hairs. SPORES vinaceous buff, 3.5-4.5 x 2.5-3.5 um, subglobose. FRUITING gregarious or clustered, at times in rings, under cottonwood, alder, red cedar or mixed woods; August-September. EDIBILITY unknown. REMARKS This species appears similar to Clitocybe dilatata in the field.Lepista densifolia
Lepista densifolia
Michael Beug

4b Gills narrow to broad, always more than 2 mm

5a Cap flesh brittle; stem typically 0.5-l.0 cm thick at cap

................................................................................Clitocybe subconnexa

Cap convex, then flat, edge inrolled then straight, flesh thick in central area, thin on edge; always clustered. Typically smaller than other white to buff species.

CAP 3-9 cm, central area slightly depressed when mature; surface slightly striate at times, opaque with satiny luster, white or whitish; flesh brittle, white. ODOR mild. TASTE mild. GILLS squarely attached becoming short decurrent, attached evenly at stem forming a line or collar, forked at times, edges even, pale buff. STEM 3-8 cm x 0.5-l.0 cm at top, equal or base enlarged with basal mycelium penetrating into surrounding debris, dull gray to pale buff. SPORES range from dirty pinkish buff or vinaceous buff to dirty pale pinkish buff, 4.5-5 x 3-3.5 um. FRUITING under hardwoods or conifers; August-October. EDIBILITY edible. REMARKS This species closely resembles Clitocybe fasciculata.Lepista subconnexa
L tarda v tarda
John Plischke

5b Cap flesh soft; stem typically 1.0-2.5 cm thick at cap

6a Cap with marked color change on initial drying; gill edges bruise brown

................................................................................C. irina var. luteospora

Cap convex then flat, edge incurved, flesh thick; gills separable from cap, edges stain brown; may be gregarious or solitary.

CAP 5-12cm, surface moist, opaque at times, pinkish buff or pale pinkish buff fading to off white in age; flesh thick, soft, fragile, pale pinkish buff. GILLS squarely attached to short decurrent, crowded to close, edges even, narrow then broad, white then creamy to pinkish buff. STEM 7-12cm x 1-2 cm at top, with whitish mycelium at base; base enlarged and club-shaped, solid; surface with longitudinal fibers or lines, watery buff near cap color darkening near base in age. SPORES pinkish buff 7-10 x 4-4.5 um, some spores smooth. FRUITING under conifers or aspen; July-August, October. EDIBILITY gastrointestinal poisonings reported, use caution. REMARKS Spores are darker than those of C. irina.

6b Cap color not changing; gill edges not bruising

................................................................................C. irina var. irina

Cap with obtuse knob, edge inrolled becoming flat with a low broad knob; gills not bruising.

CAP (2)4-13 cm broad, surface smooth, almost sticky young, then dry, sometimes pitted or with watery spots; whitish young or dry, soon pale buff; flesh thick, soft, whitish or pinkish to light yellowish-brown. GILLS squarely attached, decurrent by a tooth or rarely decurrent, crowded, narrow to moderately broad (4-7 mm), even to uneven, whitish then vinaceous buff to pale yellowish to grayish yellowish-brown. STEM 4-8 cm x 1.0-2.5 cm at top, equal or club-shaped, surface with small fibers, rough young to more or less striate old; white becoming grayish yellowish-brown, solid; flesh watery grayish yellowish-brown or whitish. SPORES pale pinkish buff, 7-9 x 4-5 um, mostly warty, but some smooth. FRUITING clustered or gregarious under conifers and hardwoods; October, sometimes August-September. EDIBILITY gastrointestinal poisonings reported - use caution. REMARKS This species may be mistaken for Clitocybe robusta or C. phyllophila in the field in whitish young or dry weather stages.L irina v irina
L irina var irina
Michael Beug

7a (1b) Stem thin, up to 0.8 cm; cap small, 1-4 cm

7b Stem thick, 1.0-3.0 mm; cap medium to large, 3-15 cm

8a Colors light, purple tints present

8b Colors dark, purple tints present or absent

9a Purple tints found in stem only

................................................................................C. saeva

CAP 8-14 cm broad, at first obtuse with incurved edge, then convex to flat, edge lobed or splitting; surface moist, evenly pale pinkish buff, paler old; flesh splits into layers, thick in center, very brittle, white or off-white. ODOR none. TASTE mild. GILLS notched, crowded, narrow (6-7 mm), very thin, in 3-4 tiers, equal, white to a pale grayish yellowish-pink, not darkening old. STEM 5-10 cm long, 1.0-2.0 cm thick at top, equal or base slightly club-shaped, solid; surface grayish-white with purple tinge. SPORES grayish or brownish pink or paler, 4.5-7 x 3-4 um, small warts. FRUITING in the woods or clustered on trash heaps; July-October, or in California, to December. EDIBILITY edible.

9b Cap, gills and sometimes stem with purple tints

................................................................................Clitocybe glaucocana

CAP 6-15 cm broad, at first obtuse, then broadly convex with inrolled edge, becoming flat or retaining obtuse knob, edge split old; surface moist, pale watery buff with faint purple tint, center darkening slightly to a grayed yellowish-pink old; flesh thick, firm but brittle, white or with faint pinkish tinge. ODOR fragrant or none. TASTE mild. GILLS squarely attached or notched, crowded, thin, narrow (to 7 mm), equal, gray with faint purplish or pinkish tinge. STEM 5-9 cm long, 1.0-2.5 cm thick at top, equal or base enlarged to club-shaped, base with off-white mycelium or wool, solid; surface off-white or near color of gills. SPORES pinkish gray to brownish pink, 5.5-7.5 x 3-4.5 um, small warts. FRUITING gregarious to somewhat clustered in cedar swamps, on trash heaps or along roads where organic material is present in the fill; September-November. EDIBILITY edible.Lepista glaucocana
Lepista glaucocana
Kit Scates Barnhart

10a (8b) Fruitbody deep purple fading to dark dingy buff

................................................................................Clitocybe nuda

CAP 4-12 cm broad, broadly convex with edge inrolled becoming flat; surface smooth, watery-appearing fresh, color changing from light purple, reddish purple or grayish red, fading from the center to a buff, finally darkening to a dingy dark brown; flesh thin to thick, soft and pliant, watery at first, dull lilac, then whitish. ODOR faintly fragrant. TASTE mild. GILLS notched, attached squarely or decurrent by a tooth, close to crowded, narrow (4-8 mm), pale purple becoming buff to brownish old, edges even or uneven. STEM 3-6 cm x 1.0-2.5 cm thick at top, equal or base almost club-shaped, solid; surface ground color pale purple like gills, bruising darker purple, browning from base upward old. SPORES pale pinkish buff to vinaceous buff, 5.5-8 x 3.5-5 um. FRUITING solitary, gregarious or clustered in humus under hardwoods, conifers or piles of trash or leaves; late summer and fall. EDIBILITY known poisons present, dissipated on cooking, then edible.Lepista nuda
Lepista nuda
Steve Trudell

10b Cap dark brown, fruitbody without purple tints

................................................................................Clitocybe subalpina

CAP 6-12 cm, at first convex with inrolled edge, becoming flat, center occasionally slightly depressed; surface moist, changing color from dark grayish brown to a yellow brown or a tan on initial drying; usually dry in dry weather; flesh thin, brittle, color same as cap or gills moist, whitish faded. ODOR fungoid or absent. TASTE mild or disagreeable. GILLS attached squarely or tooth running down stem evenly forming a sharp line or collar on upper stem, narrow to broad (to 8 mm), crowded or close, grayish yellow brown to brownish pink. STEM 3-15 cm x 1-2 cm thick at top, equal or tapered either way; base taproot-like at times and occasionally with white root-like cords (rhizoids), fibrous, solid or hollow, surface same color as gills. SPORES pale orange yellow to yellowish pink 4.5-5.5 x 2.8-4 um. FRUITING in large clusters on soil along roads in conifer forests; August-September. EDIBILITY unknown. REMARKS has been found only in Mt. Rainer National Park.

11a (7a) Stem colored same as cap; taste mild

................................................................................C. tarda var. tarda

CAP 1-4 cm broad, obtuse with inrolled and incurved edge, then convex to flat with shallow depression in center, edge finally uplifted and spreading; surface dull, changes from deep violet or light grayish reddish through yellowish brown fading through vinaceous buff to slightly more reddish or yellowish; flesh thin, firm, brittle, same color as moist cap. ODOR none. TASTE mild. GILLS squarely attached to notched at first then running down stem, close to subdistant, narrow to moderately broad (2-2.5 mm), often arched, forked at times not interveined, separable from cap, color pale grayish or purplish pink to pale pinkish buff. STEM 2-6 cm x 0.15-0.6 cm at top, equal or the top enlarged and tapering downward, solid, color same as moist cap, base often with small tufts of whitish wool not grown together. SPORES dingy pinkish buff, 6-8 x 3-5 um, small warts, some smooth. FRUITING clustered to gregarious on lawns, pastures, soil, compost piles, manure or sawdust heaps, rarely in woods; August-September. EDIBILITY edible.L tarda v tarda
L tarda v tarda 1 Steve Trudell
Steve Trudell

11b Cap colored purplish pink, stem off-white, taste bitter

................................................................................C. tarda var. alcalina

CAP 2-7 cm broad, at first convex, sometimes with slight obtuse knob expanding to finally deeply depressed with edge turned upward, surface hairless, center sometimes scaly from cracking of skin; color changes on initial drying from medium pink or purplish pink to pale orange-yellow or dingy whitish; flesh thin, fragile, off-white to moderate pink. ODOR strong, alkaline. TASTE bitter, lingering. GILLS squarely attached to notched, close to nearly subdistant, medium broad at least near stem, many tiers present, off-white, soon light purplish gray or purplish pink, finally moderate pink (especially when wet). STEM 1.5-5.5 cm long, top 0.4-l.0 cm thick, equal or tapering downward, solid, off-white to dingy brown. SPORES pale yellowish pink to vinaceous buff, 4.5-6 x 3-4 um. FRUITING on lawns or on soil under pine; May, September-November. EDIBILITY worthless.



  1. Bigelow, H., and A.H. Smith. 1969. The status of Lepista – a new section of Clitocybe. Brittonia 21(2): 144-177.
  2. Bigelow, H.E. 1982. North American Species of Clitocybe, Part 1. Vaduz, West Germany: J. Cramer. and 1985. North American Species of Clitocybe, Part 2. Vaduz, West Germany: J. Cramer.
  3. Groves, J.W. 1962. Edible and Poisonous Mushrooms of Canada. Canada Dept. Agriculture, Ottawa.
  4. Kelly, K.L., Deane B. Judd. COLOR Universal Language and Dictionary of Names.
  5. Lincoff, Gary, D.H. Mitchel. 1977. Toxic and Hallucinogenic Mushroom Poisoning. Van Nostrand Reinhold.
  6. Hennig, B., E. Michael. 1971. Handbuch fur Pilzfreunde.
  7. Miller, O.K. Mushrooms of North America. E.P. Dutton, New York.
  8. Singer, R. The Agaricales in Modern Taxonomy. various editions.
  9. Smith, A.H., Helen V. Smith, Nancy S. Weber. 1979. How to Know the Gilled Mushrooms. Wm. C. Brown










? subaequalis






panaeolum f. caespitosa








nudus v. glaucocanus
















Gyrophila nuda










personatum v anserinum








? subequalis


Paxillus lepista






nudum v. sordidum




Gyrophila sordida
Clitopilus tarda

tarda v. pallidior



 CLITOCYBE (Fr.) Staude  
    C. densifolia (Favre) H.E. Bigelow & A.H. Sm. 4a
       = Lepista densifolia (Favre) Singer & Clém.  
    C. fasciculata H.E. Bigelow & A.H. Sm. 3a
       = Lepista caespitosa (Bres.) Singer  
    C. glaucocana (Bres.) H.E. Bigelow & A.H. Sm. 9b
       = Lepista glaucocana (Bres.) Singer  
    C. irina v. irina (Fr.) H.E. Bigelow & A.H. Sm. 6b
       = Lepista irina (Fr.) H.E. Bigelow  
    C. irina v. luteospora H.E. Bigelow & A.H. Sm. 6a
       = Lepista irina (Fr.) H.E. Bigelow var. luteospora  
    C. nuda (Fr.) H.E. Bigelow & A.H. Sm. 10a
       = Lepista nuda (Bull. ex Fr.) Cooke  
    C. praemagna (Murrill) H.E. Bigelow & A.H. Sm. 2a
       = Lepista praemagna (Murrill) Singer  
    C. saeva (Fr.) H.E. Bigelow & A.H. Sm. 9a
       = Lepista saeva (Fr.) Orton  
    C. subalpina H.E. Bigelow & A.H. Sm. 10b
       = Lepista subalpina (H.E. Bigelow & A.H. Sm.) Harmaja  
    C. subconnexa Murrill 5a
       = Lepista subconnexa (Murrill) Harmaja  
    C. tarda v. alcalina 11b
       = Lepista tarda (Peck) Murrill v. alcalina  
    C. tarda v. tarda Peck 11a
       = Lepista tarda (Peck) Murrill  


- END -



Valid XHTML 1.0 Transitional