Russula brevipes and Russula crassotunicata

Postede by Taylan 10/23/13

Taylan: Judging by the amount of taps on my shoulder yesterday from people who commented on my postings here, I do know there are a lot more viewers than the few regulars. Please join to the postings, try to figure things out, humorously embarrass yourselves like we do, and get straightened by the pros. It is the only way to learn!

Can you identify these two different Russulas? Make a guess. I will post the results later.

(I believe the Russula scholar Bart Buyck from Paris tagged these two. Remarkably similar species.)

I was pretty sure they were both R. brevipes and hence dragged (annoyed) both Sava and Bart to these tags a couple of times, to "correct" the labeling error. lol

No, these are two different Russulas. I don't know if the pros did a taste and spore test, but the hint is that one has dacriform spores while the other has broadly elliptical spores. And one is significantly hotter than the other.

Bart spoke a few more words too but they entered in one ear and exited in the other because of information overflow. I "think" he was talking about the length and the surface structure of the stem.

PS: Post-show research reveals that Lactarius deceptivus is remarkably similar to Russula brevipes too. Now there are two look alikes to deal with.

Katie: My Russula crassotunicata and the bottom would be Russula brevipes. It would help to see the top of the cap thought to see if there was a boat load of dirt on it.

Taylan: please change your top/bottom referral to left/right or small/big since they are almost at the same height.

Yes, one of them is R. brevipes. The other is not R. crassotunicata.

Lute: These two Russulas shows by Taylan demonstrate the larger problem that we have in relying on molecular (DNA) and microscopic identification for our mushrooms. I would say that 98.6% of the mushroom collectors would not be able to make the Russula differentiation in the field, and if they didn't have microscopes or a microbiology lab at home, the number might be higher yet.

I'm starting to think that something like an updated Friesian classification system using common names and tying that to a separate look-up list comparing common names to all the possible (updated) scientific names would be of great value to most of the amateur mushroom collectors. That would be especially useful for the initial field collection process.

Besides, while common names may be of only regional usage, they seem to change much LESS frequently than the scientific classifications (making it easier for the masses to remember and keep from poisoning themselves).

Taylan: I like studying the common names more than the latin names. Yes there are often several names for each mushroom, but at least they don't change over time.

I recently read an article that even some primates are recently being suggested to be renamed. So now chimpanzees are no longer a member of the genus Pan, but Homo, just like the genus of humans. If we stick with the names of a chimp and a human, I think we are set for life. Scientists can continue to argue between a Pan and a Homo.

Mike: A classification system based on field characters and common names, which then could be an entry into a key of modern scientific names is an interesting one. It is a side effect of more accurate taxonomic techniques that scientific names are rapidly losing their correlation to field characteristics. When I heard that all those white-spored lepiotas are now in Chlorophyllum (which means "green gills") along with the green-spored one, it was a sad day.

On the other hand, the issue with common names is illustrated by the Audubon guide, in which Gary Lincoff had to make up hundreds, if not thousands, of common names, because most fungi don't have them. (Some members of the NYMS still haven't forgiven him.) Who decides what is the proper common name of a fungus? That sounds like a silly problem, but biology has developed complex formal procedures for setting scientific names to avoid ambiguity and disputes. But I could make up my own common names for mushrooms, and no one could stop me using them in my key.

The American Fisheries Society develops a set of "official" common names for fish, but many others are widely used, leading to considerable confusion. An example is calling some Pacific rockfish "red snapper," even though their taste and texture are nothing like true red snapper. This is done for marketing, but there can be other reasons.

I was reluctant to raise this issue, because I like the idea of something based on field characters, and I don't have a better suggestion. I do have this perspective, though: For pot-hunters, the situation is not bad, because most good edibles have common names already and there are relatively few good edible species. For those who want to identify even LBMs, the ID challenge is so great that changing taxonomy doesn't make it much harder. The issue seems to be those of us in the middle!

Don: Can anyone tell me what separates these two species? All of the slight differences I can detect could easily be explained by normal species variation.

Taylan: Don, the only identifying features I know are the spore shape and the taste test. Details are up above. Others may know more on this topic.

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