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March (2010) Mushroom of the Month

The Small but Deadly Lepiotas...

Lepiota josserandii, L. subincarnata, L. helveola, L. castanea, L. felina, L. clypeolaria and possibly L. cristata

Lepiota castanea

Lepiota castanea

The old genus Lepiota contained several excellent edible species:

The last two being a couple of couple of good edibles

The two excellent edibles were moved into a new genus Macrolepiota and then after DNA analysis into the genus Chlorophyllum with the poisonus C. molybdites. Lepiota americana has become Leucoagaricus americanus (in Miller and Miller, North American Mushrooms) and there never has been agreement on Lepiota naucina. Many of these edible species, however, have caused gastrointestinal problems for some mycophagists and the most common cases of mushroom poisonings are caused by people picking Chlorophyllum molybdites believing that they have found the shaggy parasol.

Lepiota cristata

Lepiota cristata

Among the mushrooms left in the genus Lepiota, we find a group of small, poorly- known, difficult-to-identify mushrooms that are deadly poisonous-having aminitins as a toxin just like the deadly Amanitas. These small Lepiotas include both woodland species and species found more often in grasslands and at the edges of woods. They have dry caps with brown, to reddish brown, to pinkish scales with a smooth darker center, no ring or only a rudimentary ring on their fibrillose scaly or cottony stem. In 2009, a death in New York State was attributed to either Lepiota jossanderii or Lepiota subincarnata; the two species are so close that proper identification was not possible.

Because of the difficulty distinguishing between the small species of Lepiotas and the possibly deadly consequences, we recommend avoiding all small species of Lepiotas.