PSATHYRELLA in the Pacific Northwest

Prepared for the Pacific Northwest Key Council
by Ian Gibson, South Vancouver Island Mycological Society
Copyright © 2007, 2019 Pacific Northwest Key Council
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Psathyrellas are difficult to identify and there are many species, both described and undescribed. The main source for North American Psathyrellas is The North American Species of Psathyrella by Alexander Smith. In that monograph, he listed collections from the Pacific Northwest for about 160 species and over 400 for North America.

The non-specialist will usually be limited to learning a few common or distinctive species, such as Psathyrella candolleana, P. gracilis, P. longistriata, P. maculata, P. piluliformis (P. hydrophila), and P. velutina. A handful may be recognized by unusual habitat (e.g. P. carbonicola, P. epimyces, P. typhae). These species are described below. The others must be designated as "Psathyrella sp."

Psathyrella is a member of Coprinaceae in the 2001 edition of the Dictionary of the Fungi. Molecular research suggests that Psathyrella is closely related to most species that field guides designate as Coprinus, but is not closely related to Coprinus comatus, the type species for the family. One solution, suggested by Redhead et al. (2001) is to incorporate the Psathyrella species with most of the former Coprinaceae in a family called Psathyrellaceae. Ongoing molecular research may make it necessary to break the Psathyrella of Smith’s monograph into more than one genus. Already Lacrymaria lacrymabunda is a widely accepted name for Psathyrella velutina.

The Psathyrella fruitbody is of small to medium size with cap normally between 0.5 cm and 7 cm across. The cap is often hygrophanous but generally not viscid. Cap colors are typically in the brown to gray range. Cap shape is convex, conic or bell-shaped. Flesh is fragile. Gills are attached and not decurrent. The stem, typically whitish in color, is slender and fragile, often snapping evenly and cleanly in half. There is usually no annulus. Fruiting is usually on wood or in humus. Spore deposit is deep brown to purple brown or pinkish gray or blackish. Under the microscope, spores are smooth or less often warty and normally have a germ pore.

The name Psathyrella means "strawlike, fragile".



Psathyrella candolleana (Fr.) Maire    suburban Psathyrella

This species is the most common Psathyrella in North America but is variable and there are several similar species (see REMARKS). It makes sense to use Smith’s term "P. candolleana group". Features include cespitose growth around old hardwood stumps or buried wood, cap that is hygrophanous, honey-colored to whitish, striate, and may have hanging veil remnants, narrow whitish gills that become purplish brown with white edges, and whitish hollow stem that is silky-fibrillose to scurfy at top and fibrillose-scaly to appressed fibrillose in lower part. CAP 3-7(11)cm across, conic to convex when young, usually expanding to broadly convex or flat, or with obtuse umbo; hygrophanous, at first light to dark honey-color, gradually becoming dingy purplish brown at least near margin, fading to whitish or retaining tawny-buff disc; moist, smooth to slightly wrinkled, the margin striate, at first with scattered patches of fibrils or fine scales present only near margin, the margin at first with hanging veil remnants; flesh thin, fragile. GILLS adnate, close to crowded (54-57 reach stem), 2-3 tiers of subgills, 0.2-0.5cm broad; white to pallid and finally becoming grayish brown tinged more or less with violet, edges whitish and scalloped, (Smith). STEM 4-13 cm x 0.3-1.0cm , equal or narrowing at base, fragile, hollow; white or whitish; top silky-fibrillose to somewhat scurfy, sometimes striate, lower part fibrillose-scaly to appressed fibrillose; veil usually disappearing from stem but sometimes forming a membranous annulus. ODOR and TASTE mild. FRUITING cespitose to gregarious around old hardwood stumps or buried wood, particularly common around cottonwood and elm, often in lawns or gardens, spring and summer. SPORE DEPOSIT purplish brown. MICROSTRUCTURES spores 7-9(10) x 4-5 um, elliptic, smooth, truncate at apex from germ pore, wall about 0.3 um thick; basidia 4-spored; pleurocystidia not differentiated, cheilocystidia 32-46 x 9-16 um, saccate to clavate or cylindric, occasionally the lower part slightly ventricose, apex broadly rounded to obtuse or knob-like at times, wall thin, smooth and colorless, content not distinctive; clamp connections present. REMARKS Smith describes a candolleana group which includes the Pacific Northwest species P. candolleana, P. hymenocephala, P. incerta, P. rogueiana, and P. singeri. The group includes species with hanging veil remnants on the young cap margin, stem typically more than 0.25cm thick, and absent pleurocystidia. The cap of P. hymenocephala typically has a strong cinnamon color at first. Psathyrella incerta has yellowish cap, has smaller spores 6-7.5 x 3.5-4 um, and sometimes has an annulus. Psathyrella rogueiana is more strongly pigmented, veil remnants on cap are pinkish buff, veil remnants occur in patches, there are fine scales over lower half of stem, and stem discolors over basal area from handling. Psathyrella singeri has spores 6-7.5 x 4-5 um, in KOH nearly colorless, whereas the other species have spores in KOH cocoa brown or darker. In addition to these species, faded specimens of Psathyrella spadiceogrisea may be similar: it also fruits in spring but pleurocystidia are present.

Psathyrella carbonicola A.H. Sm.    charcoal Psathyrella

Features include whitish fibrillose coating on cap and stem when young, and growth on burnt ground. CAP (1.5)3-6cm across, obtusely conic to convex becoming broadly convex to flat; hygrophanous, chocolate to bister when fresh, becoming nearly wood brown, fading to dingy cinnamon-buff or avellaneous (the last three shades would indicate grayish brown possibly with tinge of yellowish or pinkish); at first covered with whitish fibrillose veil patches, the scales appressed or somewhat recurved, these eventually wearing away, finely striate before fading; flesh up to 0.3cm thick, fragile, watery brown. GILLS adnate, close to crowded, narrow; pallid brownish becoming dark yellow-brown and finally purple-brown, edges even and whitish. STEM 3-7 cm x 0.2-0.5 cm, equal, tubular, cartilaginous, fragile; white, becoming pallid brownish; fibrillose to scaly up to fleeting annular zone (rarely a membranous ring present), becoming more or less bald. ODOR faintly disagreeable. TASTE mild. FRUITING cespitose to gregarious on burned ground. (Arora says also on burned wood). SPORE DEPOSIT dark purplish brown. MICROSTRUCTURES spores (6)6.5-7.5(8) x 3-4.2 um, elliptic, smooth, germ pore practically invisible, wall about 0.3 um thick; basidia 4-spored; pleurocystidia and cheilocystidia abundant and similar, 34-50(58) x 9-14 um, fusoid to fusoid-ventricose usually tapered evenly to a sharply pointed apex, wall usually colorless in KOH but in some vinaceous-gray to avellaneous, wall often refractive to within a short distance of apex, smooth, cell content not distinctive; clamp connections present. REMARKS Pholiota species and Myxomphalia maura are also common on burned ground. Psathyrella gossypina (Bull.) A Pearson & Dennis may occur in burned places but its cystidia contain oil droplets. Breitenbach & Kränzlin (and the online Index Fungorum) give this species as a synonym of Psathyrella pennata (Fr.) A. Pearson & Dennis but Smith does not agree with the synonymy.

Psathyrella epimyces (Peck) A.H. Sm.    parasitic Psathyrella

The habitat on shaggy mane fruitbodies is the most notable feature. CAP 2-6cm across, ovoid to spherical becoming broadly convex to nearly flat or with elevated margin; not hygrophanous, white but becoming dingy; silky-fibrillose, margin with hanging fibrillose veil remnants; flesh thick, soft, whitish. GILLS narrowly adnate or adnexed, narrow, broadest toward the cap margin; pallid, soon blackish brown, edges white-fringed. STEM 2-7cm x 0.5-1.5cm , equal or widening downward, soft, white, floccose-mealy, striate, with white annulus near base or not, or veil remnants appearing volva-like. ODOR and TASTE not distinctive. FRUITING on Coprinus comatus (shaggy mane). SPORE DEPOSIT blackish. MICROSTRUCTURES spores 7-9(10) x 4-5 um, elliptic, smooth, germ pore not distinct, wall 0.7-1.0 um thick; basidia 4-spored; pleurocystidia 40-64(70) x 9-15 um, broadly fusoid-ventricose with obtuse apex varying to subcylindric with rounded apex, pedicel often distinctly elongated, wall thin, smooth, and colorless; cheilocystidia similar to but smaller than the pleurocystidia and more of them with an obtuse to subacute apex; clamp connections present.Psathyrella epimyces
Psathyrella epimyces
Ben Woo

Psathyrella gracilis (Fr.) Quél.    slender Psathyrella

Distinguishing features are the fragile hygrophanous cap that is striate when moist, long thin whitish stem, the tendency for pink tints to develop on gills of old specimens, absent or rudimentary veil, large spores, and large acutely pointed pleurocystidia. CAP 1.5-3.5(5) cm across, conic usually becoming broadly bell-shaped, convex or nearly flat; hygrophanous, pale buff to clay color when young, gradually becoming pallid and then lead-color as spores mature, fading to whitish or pallid, the disc often retaining a tinge of buff, when old often with a pinkish hue at least along the margin; somewhat lubricous when young, bald, smooth, polished, margin translucent-striate when moist and often becoming scalloped or grooved, the surface often finely wrinkled when old; flesh thin, fragile. GILLS adnate, sometimes with a decurrent tooth, close, 22-25 reach stem, about 2 tiers of subgills, moderately broad at 0.4-0.6cm ; pallid when young becoming dull purple-brown when old, when old edges or even faces may be tinged pink; edges even. STEM 6-12 cm x 0.15-0.3 cm, usually twice as long as cap width, hollow, fragile; dull whitish; faintly pruinose to fibrillose-pruinose in upper part, bald in lower part or slightly fibrillose at first, base often with white radiating hairs and at times somewhat rooting but no pseudorhiza present, at times surface longitudinally striate. ODOR and TASTE mild. FRUITING scattered to gregarious on soil and debris, often in grassy areas under alder and cottonwood, mostly in the fall. SPORE DEPOSIT dark chocolate brown or purplish brown. MICROSTRUCTURES spores (10)11-14(15) x 6.5-8 um, elliptic, smooth, with distinct germ pore causing apex to appear slightly truncate, wall about 1.25 um thick; basidia 4-spored; pleurocystidia very abundant, 54-75 x 10-16 um, subaciculate to fusoid-ventricose, apex acute to subacute, the neck often flexuous, wall thin, smooth, and colorless in KOH, cheilocystidia shorter and more obtuse than pleurocystidia, occasional clavate cells also present; clamp connections present. REMARKS Some authorities list Psathyrella corrugis (Pers.) Konrad & Maubl. as the current name for many or all of the forms and varieties. Psathyrella microrrhiza usually has veil remnants on the cap, and cheilocystidia that cover the gill edges densely in a palisade (in P. gracilis, < 150 per 1000 um).

Psathyrella longistriata (Murrill) A.H. Sm.    ringed Psathyrella

The persistent ring is unusual for a Psathyrella; other features include hygrophanous cap that is some shade of brown, thin fragile flesh, adnate close gills that are pallid becoming dark brown or purple brown, and white or pallid fragile stem with scattered scales below ring. It is common in the Pacific Northwest. CAP 4-8 cm across, conic to convex expanding to flat or broadly convex, sometimes with a low umbo; hygrophanous, gray-brown, dingy yellowish brown, or reddish brown, fading with drying; moist, at first covered with thin fibrillose patches of veil, soon bald, smooth or becoming finely wrinkled, translucent-striate when moist; flesh thin and fragile. GILLS adnate to adnexed, close, 46-54 reach stem, 2-3 tiers of subgills, moderately broad, 0.5-0.7cm ; pale buff when young, soon dull purplish brown to vinaceous-brown, edges white and floccose. STEM 4-10 cm x 0.5-1.0 cm, slightly enlarged downward, hollow, fragile; white or pallid; annulus superior to median, white, usually persistent and membranous, white-floccose on underside, upper surface striate and silky; stem sheathed up to ring by a thin white fibrillose coating which often becomes broken into floccose scales and eventually may disappear, somewhat silky fibrillose-scaly or merely silky above annulus. ODOR and TASTE not distinctive. FRUITING scattered to gregarious on humus and debris under conifers and also under alder. SPORE DEPOSIT dull vinaceous-brown to purplish brown or nearly black. MICROSTRUCTURES spores (6.5)7-9 x 4-4.5(5) um, elliptic, smooth, germ pore present but not readily evident, wall about 0.3 um thick; basidia 4-spored; pleurocystidia abundant, 40-60(72) x 10-17 um, fusoid-ventricose with obtuse to subacute apex, wall thin, colorless and smooth, cheilocystidia similar to pleurocystidia or saccate to balloon-shaped and 28-36 x 10-18 um, thin-walled and readily collapsing; caulocystidia present; cap cuticle of colorless cells 10-30 um wide and among them are clavate to pear-shaped upright cells 40-50 x 10-20 um, the layer not truly hymeniform; clamp connections present.Psathyrella longistriata
Psathyrella longistriata
Boleslaw Kuznik

Psathyrella maculata (C.S. Parker) M.M. Moser    spotted Psathyrella

Features include hygrophanous appendiculate cap that develops fibrous-silky sooty-brown to blackish zones and spots on sooty-brownish, later pale ground, growth in clumps on alder, and microscopic features including relatively small spores, rostrate cystidia and pleurocystidia shaped like typical chrysocystidia but lacking the distinctive content. CAP 2-6cm across, becoming bell-shaped and finally flat or with slight umbo; hygrophanous, at first viscid from a blackish brown to pale grayish brown coating of universal veil fibrils, the pale grayish brown fibrils of the cap surface soon showing through, at maturity with a broad blackish brown patch or patches or spots or streaks and with grayish brown appressed fibrils over the remainder; margin typically with hanging pallid to brownish veil remnants; flesh soft, fairly thick, whitish, stem pinkish in base when cut. GILLS adnate, crowded, narrow; pallid when young, violet brown when old, edges white and edges floccose. STEM 6-12cm x 0.6-1.4cm , slightly narrowed downward, fleshy and fibrous (not fragile), solid becoming hollow; pallid near top; surface densely fibrillose and lower part entirely covered or merely streaked or spotted with blackish brown fibrils, sometimes with an apical ring and surface above it fibrillose scurfy. ODOR mild or fungoid. TASTE mild. FRUITING cespitose to somewhat cespitose on alder stumps and logs, fall, according to Courtecuisse occurs on stumps of other hardwoods and conifers. MICROSTRUCTURES spores 5-6 x 3-3.5 um, elliptic to oblong in face view, bean-shaped in profile, smooth, apical germ pore inconspicuous, wall thin; basidia 4-spored; pleurocystidia abundant, 32-46 x 9-15 um, obovate-mucronate or the apical fingerlike projection considerably drawn out (up to 6-15 um long), walls thin, smooth and colorless, content homogeneous in KOH or rarely with a few refractive particles, homogeneous in Melzer's reagent, cheilocystidia similar to pleurocystidia or merely saccate and up to 18-20 um wide; clamp connections mentioned with cap trama. REMARKS Psathyrella velutina is somewhat similar but larger, but lacks small dark patches on cap, and has different habitat.Psathyrella maculata
Psathyrella maculata
Ben Woo

Psathyrella piluliformis (Bull.) P.D. Orton = Psathyrella hydrophila (Bull.) Maire    clustered Psathyrella

This is a common species whose principal fieldmarks are fragile texture, smooth, hygrophanous, usually convex cap that is dark red brown drying tan, white or pallid stem, growth in large clumps on decaying hardwood, and dark brown spores. CAP 2-5(7)cm across, conic or convex becoming broadly convex to nearly flat, sometimes with slight umbo; hygrophanous, reddish brown to orange-brown or somewhat umber as spores mature, and when old may be blackish brown when wet, pale tawny over marginal area, fading to pale tan or grayish, rarely vinaceous-brown fading to pale cinnamon; moist, bald or white-fibrillose only along margin, the margin at first fringed or with a belt of fibrils from veil, sometimes striate when moist, occasionally wrinkled; flesh thin, rather firm, becoming fragile. GILLS adnate to adnexed, crowded, narrow to moderately broad, pale brownish becoming dark reddish brown at margins, margin even or only slightly fringed. STEM 3-7(15)cm x 0.2-0.6(1.0)cm , equal, hollow, often fragile; white to pale grayish at first, dingy brownish when old at least near base; top pruinose, lower part somewhat fibrillose becoming bald. ODOR and TASTE not distinctive (Smith), some collections are bitter according to Arora. FRUITING cespitose-gregarious on decaying hardwood or buried hardwood, fall. SPORE DEPOSIT dark brown or dark purple brown. MICROSTRUCTURES spores (4)4.5-5.5(6) x 3-3.5 um (or 5.5-7 x 3.2-3.7 um from deposits), elliptic, smooth, apical pore present but inconspicuous, wall about 0.2 um thick; basidia 4-spored; pleurocystidia abundant, (30)36-48(56) x 9-16(20) um, broadly fusoid-ventricose with neck more or less elongated and ending in a broadly rounded to obtuse apex, thin-walled, smooth, colorless, cheilocystidia 22-30 x 9-14 um, clavate to saccate, colorless and thin-walled, cells similar to pleurocystidia also present; clamp connections present. REMARKS Psathyrella spadicea has a thicker stem and no veil and microscopically has larger spores with weaker pigment and metuloid cystidia. Hypholoma species are less fragile and more brightly colored. Galerina and Pholiota species have paler brown spores. Pholiota mutabilis has an annulus and finely scaly stem.

Psathyrella typhae (Kalchbr.) A. Pearson & Dennis    cat-tail Psathyrella

The unusual habitat on cat-tails and sedge is the most notable feature. CAP 0.5-2 cm across, convex, becoming nearly flat; hygrophanous, dark to pale rusty brown, fading to pale buff; at first with thin patches of pale fibrils, soon bald, striate when moist, somewhat pleated; flesh, thin, fragile, watery. GILLS attached by narrow tooth or nearly free, subdistant to moderately close, broad; whitish at first, soon pale brown, finally with a purplish brown tinge. STEM 1-2cm x 0.1-0.15cm , weak, watery, fragile, base slightly enlarged; colorless; covered by scattered fibrils or with a denser fibrillose zone toward the base which is delicately mycelioid at attachment. ODOR and TASTE not distinctive. FRUITING gregarious on dead leaves and stems of Typha (cat-tail), Carex (sedge), or Phragmites (reed), often fruiting near the waterline, late spring and summer. MICROSTRUCTURES spores 10-12 x 5-6.5 um, elliptic, smooth, apical pore not evident because of thin wall; basidia 4-spored; pleurocystidia absent, cheilocystidia 30-47 x 8-15 um, subcylindric to ventricose, with the neck only slightly narrowed and the apex broadly rounded, colorless in KOH, thin-walled; caulocystidia abundant and more or less similar to cheilocystidia; clamp connections present.

Psathyrella velutina (Fr.) Singer = Lacrymaria velutina (Fr.) Pat.    velvety Psathyrella

Features include large size (for Psathyrella), sturdy stature, fibrillose to fibrillose-scaly cap and stem, obscure hairy ring, and blackish-brown spore deposit. CAP (3)5-12cm across, soon broadly convex to nearly flat, occasionally with blunt umbonate; ground color yellowish to dull tawny, sometimes nearly umber on the disc when old; at first innately fibrillose from grayish or slightly darker fibrils, becoming appressed fibrillose-scaly, not striate, at times radially wrinkled, margin at first with hanging cottony patches or fringed with fibrils; flesh thick on disc. GILLS adnate to notched, crowded, broad near stem, narrowed toward cap margin but not reaching it, at first pale yellowish then rusty brown and finally shaded deep brown and mottled from spores, edges whitish and sometimes beaded with droplets. STEM (2)5-10(15)cm x 0.4-1.2(2.0)cm , equal, soon hollow; whitish in upper part, slowly becoming dingy tan to tawny from the base upward; fibrillose to floccose-scaly up to the ring or ring zone; veil soft and fibrillose-cottony, dingy buff to pallid, often copious, veil forms ring or ring zone. ODOR and TASTE not very distinctive. FRUITING scattered, gregarious to cespitose on rich moist humus or soil, on compost heaps, very old sawdust piles, areas rich in organic material, grassy places, roadsides, on gravelly ground, sometimes in the woods. SPORE DEPOSIT blackish-brown. MICROSTRUCTURES spores 9-12 x 5.5-7 um, elliptic with an apical snout from germ pore, ornamented with minute warts, in American collections within a thin colorless sheath or envelope that gives a smooth overall appearance unless the envelope doesn’t revive well, inner wall about 0.6 um thick; pleurocystidia (37)48-64 x 9-14 um, narrowly clavate to utriform, colorless or the lower part with dull brownish walls, scattered in fascicles, cheilocystidia abundant, 40-80(90) x 8-12 um, flexuous, subcapitate to subfilamentous, colorless, smooth; clamps present. REMARKS P. lacrymabunda (Lacrymaria lacrymabunda) is often listed as the current name with Psathyrella velutina and Lacrymaria velutina as synonyms (as well as Psathyrella lacrymabunda), but Smith lists it separately in a different subgenus in which spores are smooth, pleurocystidia are not clustered, and caps do not appear as hygrophanous.Lacrymaria velutina
Lacrymaria velutina
Andrew Parker



  1. Arora, David. 1986 Mushrooms Demystified Second Edition. Ten Speed Press, Berkeley.
  2. Breitenbach, J., Kränzlin, F. 1995. Fungi of Switzerland Volume 4 Agarics Second Part. Edition Mykologia Lucerne.
  3. Courtecuisse, R., Duhem, B. 1995. Mushrooms and Toadstools of Britain & Europe. Collins Field Guide Harper Collins, London.
  4. Kirk, P.M., P.F. Cannon, J.C. David, and J.A. Stalpers. 2001. Ainsworth & Bisby’s Dictionary of the Fungi Ninth Edition. CAB International, Wallingford, U.K.
  5. Moser, M. 1983. Keys to Agarics and Boleti. Translated by S. Plant. Publisher Roger Phillips, London.
  6. Redhead, S.A. 1979. Fungi Canadenses No. 133. Psathyrella typhae. Agriculture Canada, Ottawa.
  7. Smith, Alexander H 1972. The North American Species of Psathyrella. Memoirs of The New York Botanical Garden Volume 24.


 Psathyrella (Fr.) Quél.
    P. candolleana (Fr.) Maire
    P. carbonicola A.H. Sm.
    P. epimyces (Peck) A.H. Sm.
    P. gracilis (Fr.) Quél.
    P. longistriata (Murrill) A.H. Sm.
    P. maculata (C.S. Parker) M.M. Moser
    P. piluliformis (Bull.) P.D. Orton
       = Psathyrella hydrophila (Bull.) Maire
    P. typhae (Kalchbr.) A. Pearson & Dennis
    P. velutina (Fr.) Singer
       = Lacrymaria velutina (Fr.) Pat.


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