Many mushrooms like growing in mulch, but none enjoy that life more than Stropharia rugosoannulata. Commonly known as “the Wine Cap” or “the King Stropharia,” S. rugosoannulata is easily recognized by its habitat and wine-red cap – at least when young. The mushrooms quickly lose their color, so identifying older mushrooms hinges on other features, like the cogwheeled ring and dark purplish spore print. This mushroom is considered edible; mushroom hunters often collect and eat the Wine Cap and some even cultivate it.
agaric mushrooms with a Stropharia-like morphology
The gilled mushrooms, informally referred to as ‘agarics,’ are the type of mushroom with which we are most familiar. The most common edible mushrooms (white/button/portabella mushrooms, oyster mushrooms, and shiitake mushrooms), Amanita muscaria – the most recognizable mushroom in the world and the inspiration for almost all mushroom art – and the ‘magic mushrooms’ are all gilled mushrooms. All these mushrooms share one feature: vertical plates of spore-producing tissue stacked under a sterile cap.
The stropharioid mushrooms include agarics from the genera Stropharia, Hypholoma, Psilocybe,* and Pholiota. Mushrooms in this group produce a brown to dark brown spore print, have attached gills, and form a partial veil. There are actually quite a few mushrooms that can fit this description, so you might have to check some microscopic features to be sure your mushroom belongs to this group. Stropharioid mushrooms should have a cap surface composed of thread-like cells and have smooth spores with distinctive germ pores.
“Is this mushroom edible?” What a difficult question to answer. The world of edible mushrooms is littered with lookalikes, various degrees of edibility, mushrooms that are edible only under certain conditions, and mushrooms that no one has assessed for edibility. For Hypholoma sublateritium, the question is even more complicated. There is no consensus on whether or not Brick Caps are edible. North American field guides are divided on the issue and European field guides usually list these mushrooms as inedible or poisonous. In my local mushroom club, they are considered edible and are a welcome find in the late fall, when it is usually slim pickings for mushrooms. Because of this ambiguity, community is an essential part of mushroom hunting (despite its culture of secrecy and competition). If you are serious about mushroom hunting, you should be involved with a local mushroom club to ensure that you learn information about...
If you are collecting for the table, this is one little brown mushroom (LBM) that you should definitely be familiar with. Most LBMs go unnoticed because they are heard to spot and are usually too small to consider worth eating. The “Deadly Galerina” is therefore usually not dangerous on its own. The real danger from this mushroom comes when it is accidentally collected along with a group of edible mushrooms. Galerina marginata contains amatoxins, which are also found in such infamous species as Destroying Angels (Amanita virosa complex, FFF#050) and Death Caps (Amanita phalloides, FFF#051). In England, G. marginata goes by the beautifully ominous name, “Funeral Bell.” Unfortunately for me, people in the United States prefer the much blander common name, “Deadly Galerina.”