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Fungi of the genus Lactarius, sometimes called milk-caps, are characterized by the fact that they exude a milky fluid ('latex') if cut or damaged. Like the genus Russula, with which they are grouped in the family Russulaceae, their flesh has a distinctive brittle consistency.
Often the gills are decurrent (starting to run down the stem) and the cap is depressed or even funnel-shaped when older. The stem and cap sometimes show 'strobicules' (or 'strobiculi'), which are flat-based shallow oval pits.
To identify to which of the roughly 400 Lactarius species a given specimen belongs, it is generally important to note whether the cap is bald/greasy or velvety or hairy/shaggy at the rim, particularly in young individuals. Also the initial colour of the milk (white, cream, orange, violet, ...) and the final colour on drying are determining characteristics.
Lactarius is from Latin lac 'milk'
Additional recommended knowledge
A selection of well-known European species
L. deliciosus is the only one with an English name: 'saffron milk-cap'. It is found under pine or spruce. L. deterrimus was formerly considered to be a variety of L. deliciosus and is distinguished by the milk turning wine-red on drying - but only after up to 30 minutes. L. salmonicolor is associated with spruce and remains a pure orange, unlike the other two which discolour green.
The milk of this mushroom emerges white but immediately changes to a deep yellow colour. The top of the cap is a pinkish red with concentric zoning on a background showing yellow tints. It is common under broad-leaved trees, especially oak. There are conflicting reports as to its edibility.
This flesh-coloured Lactarius is closely related to L. chrysorrheus, and again the milk is initially white and turns yellow, but only after several seconds. To allow the milk to contact the air this is best tested on a paper tissue (a cloth handkerchief is liable to be permanently stained).
L. quietus, which is commonly found under oak trees, is often thought to be a non-descript mushroom, and in fact that is the significance of its Latin epithet quietus. It has a distinctive smell said to be of bedbugs or of wet laundry. The milk goes a little cream but does not change further.
|This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Lactarius". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.|