Russula brevipes — Short-stalked russula

Short-stalked russula

Short-stalked russula2 photograph by Alexander H. Smith with permission from the Denver Botanical Garden.

Short-stalked russula

Short-stalked russula partly hidden under forest litter, photograph by David Carmean.

Odour: Mild.
Taste: Mild to acrid.
Cap: 7–30 cm in diameter. The cap starts out rounded with a central depression, and becomes more vase-like depressed with a wavy edge. The colour is white to cream, often with brown stains. In the forest, caps can be completely invisible, making only a bulge covered by duff and soil. Some of the cover of litter usually remains adhering to the cap.
Gills: Very crowded, with many short gills interspersed among the long gills, decurrent onto the stem, white.
Stem: 2-8 cm long x 2-5 cm wide, white.
Ring or veil: None.
Cup: None.
Spores: 8-10 x 6.5-9 µm, with scattered warts.
Habitat: In all kinds of forests, both with oaks (Quercus spp.) and with conifers including pines (Pinus spp.), and Douglas fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii), often only visible as a raised piece of forest floor; ectomycorrhizal4.
Geographical distribution: The species in a broad sense has worldwide distribution. Regionally, the short-stalked russula is known from Alaska, BC, and southwards to forested areas of Washington and Oregon1.

The cascade russula, Russula cascadensis is easily confused with the short-stalked russula. The taste of gills (take a pea-sized bite, taste for a few moments, spit out) of the cascade russula, Russula cascadensis ranges from very hot to acrid (sharp or bitter, unpleasant) to mildly hot. Gills of short-stalked russulas are mild or only slightly acrid. Some milk caps look similar, but a drop of ‘milk’ will show when their gills are broken. The white chanterelle (Cantharellus subalbidus) looks superficially similar, but has thick vein-like gills on the underside of the cap. It is smaller and not as substantial as the short-stemmed russula. The short-stalked russulas are a complex of perhaps five species, but the separate species have yet to be named. At least two species occur in BC5,6.

Considered edible. Siegel and Schwartz3 warn that some forms of short-stalked russula taste good while others are 'down right awful'. To speculate, different species within the complex may differ in flavour.

Avoid eating acrid/hot specimens, which may be cascade russulas rather than short-stalked russulas. Eating acrid/hot russulas has been associated with gastrointestinal upsets7.

Short-stalked russula can be parasitized by Hypomyces lactifluorum and the parasitized mushrooms are commercially harvested and sold as lobster mushrooms. They must be cooked; raw lobster mushrooms may cause stomach upsets. Short-stalked russulas have no known toxins but illnesses are occasionally reported by individuals with unusual sensitivities7.

Treatment: Contact your regional Poison Control Centre if you or someone you know is ill after eating russulas. Poison Centres provide free, expert medical advice 24 hours a day, seven days a week. If possible, save the mushrooms or some of the leftover food containing the mushrooms to help confirm identification.

Poison Control:
British Columbia: 604-682-5050 or 1-800-567-8911.
United States (WA, OR, ID): 1-800-222-1222.

Russula brevipes is one of the hosts for Monotropa hypopithys, Indian pipe.8

MyCoPortal. Mycology Collections Portal, <> accessed February 2018.

Russula brevipes Denver Botanical Gardens DBG-F-005234.

Siegel, N. & Schwarz, C. Mushrooms of the Redwood Coast. A Comprehensive Guide to the Fungi of Coastal Northern California. Ten Speed Press, Berkeley, California (2016).

Bergemann, S. E. & Miller, S. L. Size, distribution, and persistence of genets in local populations of the late-stage ectomycorrhizal basidiomycete, Russula brevipes. New Phytol 156, 313-320 (2002).

Specimen Russula affin. brevipes UBC F20353; UNITE SH220523.07FU DOI: 10.15156/BIO/SH220523.07FU, GenBank #KC581331.

Russula affin. brevipes mb20181020.4 UBC F3XXXXX.

Beug, M. W., Shaw, M. & Cochran, K. W. Thirty-plus years of mushroom poisoning, Summary of the approximately 2,000 reports in the NAMA case registry. McIlvainea 16, 47-68 (2006).

Bidartondo, M. I. & Bruns, T. D. Extreme specificity in epiparasitic Monotropoidaeae (Ericaceae): widespread phylogenetic and geographical structure. Mol. Ecol. 10, 2285-2295, doi:10.1046/j.1365-294X.2001.01358.x (2001).

Russula brevipes WTU-F-039072.