Tricholoma magnivelare
(Peck) Redhead


Agaricus magnivelaris Peck
Agaricus ponderosus Peck
Armillaria arenicola Murrill
Armillaria magnivelaris (Peck) Murrill
Armillaria ponderosa Sacc.
Tricholoma ponderosum (Peck) Singer.
Tricholoma murrillianum Singer.

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Cap (Pileus):6 – 10 cm broad; convex at first then planar to bell shaped and finally funnel shaped with maturity; margins inrolled and even when young, then decurved, finally wavy when mature, with veil attached, breaking and eroding with maturity; surface dry, shiny, with debris on cap, with prominent large yellowish red brown fibrils toward the margin; coloured pale buff to ivory when young with large flattened brown to reddish brown scales, darkening to pale ivory yellow with age, scales remaining reddish brown; context 1.5 - 2 cm at junction with stipe, firm, compact, white; taste mild; odour distinctive, variously described as ‘spicy’, ‘cinnamon’, ‘cross between cinnamon and sweaty dirty clothes or socks’.
Gills or Lamellae (Hymenium): notched, at times appearing free when mature; spaced average – crowded, 0.6 – 1.2 cm broad; edges even when young, but splitting with age; coloured pale, white when young becoming more yellow with age, spotting red brown with age or bruising, becoming red brown when handled or bruised.
Stalk (Stipe): 6 – 10 cm long X 2 – 5 cm wide at apex, 1.5 – 2.2 cm wide at base, tapering downwards to equal, at times flexuous; surface dry, above the annulus with white scales, below the annulus with red brown scales that often peel away from stipe and often form belts around the stipe; base of stipe with adhering soil or sand; colour underneath the scales white to buff, ivory; annulus prominent, membranous, forming toward the top 2/3 of the stipe, often leaving remnants along margins of pileus; context solid, fibrous, white.

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Spore print white; spores 6 – 8 X 4 – 5 µm, broadly ellipsoid, smooth, inamyloid; no apparent hymenial cystidia; hyphae without clamp connections.

Comments: Until 1984, this mushroom was generally referred to as Armillaria ponderosa or Tricholoma ponderosum. The combined ivory to buff colour with reddish-brown scales or fibrils, the large annulus, and its distinctive odour make it easy to identify. Additional distinctive features of this mushroom are the gills that bruise reddish-brown and the distinctive greyish soil adhering to the stipe base.

There are a number of ‘look-alikes’ for T. magnivelare. Tricholoma caligatum is very difficult to separate from T. magnivelare. There are more and darker (purplish-brown) fibrils or scales on the cap and stipe of T. caligatum, which is smaller and less robust. Its aroma also has a sharper, cinnamon candy (Red Hots) component lacking from the pine mushroom’s musty and spicy smell. The poisonous Amanita smithiana grows in the same habitat as Tricholoma magnivelare and has been mistaken for this prized edible. Several cases of serious poisoning have occurred due to confusion with A. smithiana, which is pure creamy white, has a cap with cottony, easily washed off scales that frequently hang from the margins. It is generally more slender in stature, and has a long rooting turnip-shaped stalk lacking in T. magnivelare. Amanita smithiana usually lacks the distinctive odour of T. magnivelare and in age can develop a rather foul, salty odour. Catathelasma ventricosa and its larger cousin C. imperialis can be confused with T. magnivelare, although both lack the distinctive spicy, cinnamon odour of T. magnivelare. Their gills are decurrent whereas those of T. magnivelare’s are notched. Russula brevipes is often confused with T. magnivelare, but it has brittle flesh, lacks an annulus, has decurrent to horizontal gills, and lacks the distinctive spicy odour. Hygrophorus subalpinus, similar to T. maginvelare in stature and form, is commonly found around melting snow in the spring (although it also fruits in summer and fall) and has soft waxy decurrent to horizontal gills, a frequently disappearing membranous annulus that may be found at the stipe base close to ground level, and has an indistinct odour. While Tricholoma focale (=Tricholoma (Amillaria) zelleri) is very similar to T. magnivelare in stature, its bright orange colour and distinctive rancid cucumber-like odour readily distinguish it from T. magnivelare.

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Habit, Ecology and Habitat

Tricholoma magnivelare is usually found alone or scattered on the forest floor in conifer forests. In British Columbia, pine mushrooms fruit from mid August to early December depending on soil moisture and temperature. They are found in 8 different subzones or variants within 5 biogeoclimatic zones: Interior Cedar-Hemlock (ICH), Sub-Boreal Pine-Spruce (SBPS), Engelmann Spruce-Subalpine Fir (ESSF), Interior Douglas-fir (IDF), and the Coastal Western Hemlock (CWH) biogeoclimatic zones. They are ectomycorrhizal fungi that are associated with 60 – 200 year old lodgepole pine (Pinus contorta), western hemlock (Tsuga heterophylla), Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii), whitebark pine (Pinus albicaulis) and subalpine fir (Abies lasiocarpa) forests.

Candystick plants (Allotropa virgata), which parasitize the fungus, can be used as an indicator for pine mushrooms. Soils under T. magnivelare are generally well or rapidly drained and are normally drier than the average for the area. The soils have an Ae horizon and bleached, dry and powdery fungal mats. The humus form under pine mushrooms is a humimor, which is typically 5 – 10 cm thick and composed of a layer of tenacious undecomposed roots and fungal mycelia or mats. Soils directly beneath T. magnivelare are therefore typically nutrient poor. This mushroom is commercially harvested in the Nass and Shumal river valleys, Chilcotin Plateau, Bella Coola Valley, Columbia River Valley and Upper Arrow Lake, Lillooet River Valley, Squamish area and the Nahtlatch Valley, south coast and Vancouver Island.

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Interesting Facts

Pine mushrooms are the most valuable wild mushrooms in the province and are shipped almost exclusively to Japan. The commercial harvest of this mushroom generates millions of dollars to pickers, buyers and brokers in all pine mushrooms areas in the province. There is some local culinary use of pine mushrooms and by some First Nation people in the province. Pine mushroom and the related cottonwood mushroom (Tricholoma populinum) have been used by the Interior Salish, Thompson and Lillooet, First Nation people as a source of food. The Nisga’a Nation in the northwest part of the province has developed a forest development plan for the Nisga’a Village Lands that will protect commercially viable pine mushroom grounds.

The provincial pine mushroom resembles the Japanese matsutake (Tricholoma matsutake), which is esteemed in Japan. In Japan, the retail price of fresh matsutake can exceed $200/pound ($440/Kg). Matsutake mushrooms have been revered as gifts in Japan for centuries, as they symbolize fertility, prosperity and happiness. One of the earliest records of Japanese matsutake is a 759 A.D. poem celebrating its virtues. During the 13th – 17th centuries, the nobility would organize matsutake forays and send their harvest to important people or loved ones. In the 17th to 18th centuries, consuming matsutakes was limited to the imperial court, but eventually the practice became more common among the public. During 1636 – 1667, a Buddist monk in Kyoto recorded the annual production of matsutake in a specific forest and based on this account, Professor Hamada of Kyoto University was able to approximate the seasonal precipitation, temperature conditions, age and ecological status of the forest at that time. By the early 1980’s, Japanese matsutake production was in serious decline and imported matsutakes from Korea were required to meet Japanese demand. This decline was precipitated by the invasion of the pine nematode, which attacks the black and red pines that serve as hosts to T. matsutake. Moreover, there was a change in Japanese forest management, which increased the mushrooms decline. For centuries, understory shrubs and oak trees were harvested for charcoal, which allowed the shade intolerant pines and its associated matsutake to thrive. After World War II, the traditional charcoal-burning stoves were replaced by natural gas ones, which resulted in the diminished removal of woody shrubs. Pine seedlings are therefore unable to compete in the dense understory which favours non-matsutake shade tolerant hosts. As the mature pines die from nematode attack, the seedlings are unable to become established which results in the disappearance of the matsutake. To meet the increasing demand for matsutake mushrooms, it was necessary to import similar species from North America (T. magnivelare), Europe and North Africa (T. nauseosum = T. matsutake).

The mushroom’s distinctive odour can be identified from the belowground mycelium and experienced pine mushroom pickers can smell the fungus in a stand even when there are no mushrooms. Scientists have isolated 78 volatile flavour compounds, of which 22 have been identified, from Tricholoma matsutake. Methyl cinnamate, (a pleasant sweet odour) in combination with 1-octen-3-ol, (a musty or spicy odour) isolated from T. matsutake are the prime contributors in giving this mushroom its distinctive odour.

These compounds have been shown to aid in human moisture retention and stimulate circulation, and have antibacterial, antifungal and anticarcinogenic properties. Carbohydrates and proteins isolated from T. matsutake are reported to reduce sarcomas and other tumors. When T. matsutake is steeped in water overnight, the solution is used as a face wash to remove any darkened facial spots and wrinkles. Alcoholic extracts of T. matsutake are rich in songyic acid, which is used as a skin-whitening agent. Ethylene glycol, a major component of anti-freeze and aircraft deicing compounds has been isolated from T. matsutake in significant amounts.

It was proposed that T. magnivelare, be listed as endangered by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, a branch of the United Nations Environment Program. However, both amateur and professional mycologists as well as the proponents for listing the pine mushroom failed to discover any documentation showing a decline in pine mushroom populations. As a result, the proposal was disregarded.

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