Winter Mushroom or Velvet Foot, Flammulina velutipes
Physalacriaceae or Honey Mushroom Family

Mushrooms showing stalks

Medium sized mushroom to several inches across, Cap shiny, sticky, yellow brown to orange brown or pinkish brown. Stalk, thick, similar in color to cap, but darkening to dark brown to nearly black upwards from the base, as seen att left and lower left. The darkening is due to the growth of a dark velvet, giving the mushroom one of its common names. Gills are white and produce white spores. Often grows in clusters. Fruits in cold weather, often in the middle of winter; the pictures were taken on New Year's Day.

Found in eastern and western US, and parts of Europe and Asia. Lives on and decays logs and stumps of hardwoods; sometimes attacks living wood. Out west there also occurs another velvet foot (F. populicola) that appears identical to ours. It can be distinguished with a microscope, and because it grows only on aspens.

The cap color, white gills, dark, velvety lower stalks, and appearance in winter make this mushroom fairly easy to identify. It can easily be confused with deadly galerina, which also grows in clusters on wood in cold weather, but that species has a browner cap, brown gills and spores, and a ring around the stalk. While winter mushroom is considered edible, deadly galerina, as one might guess, is not. Those who eat wild mushrooms must be extremely careful not to confuse the two.

If you want to eat winter mushrooms your safest bet is to go to a grocery and buy enoki or enokitake mushrooms, which are cultivated varieties of winter mushroom. They are grown in the dark where they grow long, thin, and colorless in an attempt to reach sunlight.

Group of mushrooms   Mushroom showing gills

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