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Crimson Waxcap (Hygrocybe punicea) Identification 

Crimson Waxcap / Autumn / Winter / Edible

Scientific Name

Hygrocybe punicea


Common Names

Crimson Waxcap, Crimson Wavy cap


Family

Hygrophoraceae


Habitat

They are found in unimproved fields and pasture.


Description 

One of the largest Waxcaps, they’re not very common but in the right conditions can appear in quite large groups. They prefer acidic soils.


Identifying Features:

Cap:

They are convex when young becoming bell shaped and then almost flat or upturned with age. They are deep red when young but the colour fades from the centre to orange or yellow. Slimy when young and wet and up to 10cm across. The flesh is pale yellow to white. They are normally found between September and December.

Rosemary Winnall, CC BY-SA 2.5 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5>, via Wikimedia Commons

Stem

The stems are fairly stout. The colour changes from white at the base through yellow and then red as you move towards the cap. Hollow and up to 12cm long.

Jason Hollinger, CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

Gills

Yellow when young becoming redder with age. The gills can be adnexed or almost free and are fairly widely spaced.


Smell:

No strong smell.


Spores:

White


Uses

In food

They are edible but due to habitat loss and changes in land use, Waxcaps are getting rarer and rarer. I personally don’t eat them for this reason and the fact that they are pretty insubstantial. You’re best just taking some photos.


Known hazards

None known.


Potential lookalikes

They could be confused with the Scarlet Waxcap (Hygrocybe coccinea), but this is typically smaller, has reddish flesh and is a lot more common.

The Splendid Waxcap (Hygrocybe splendidissima) looks very similar and in the past it was thought to be the same species but the Splendid Waxcap has a twisted or folded stem.

The Blackening Waxcap (Hygrocybe nigrescens) could also be confused but as the name suggests this blackens when damaged.


Extra Notes from the Foragers

For a long time it was thought that Waxcaps were saprotrophic feeding on the dead root systems of grass. Modern research suggests that they have a symbiotic relationship with mosses.

The name Hygrocybe means ‘watery head’.


Reference:

https://www.aber.ac.uk/waxcap/index.shtml

https://www.first-nature.com/fungi/hygrocybe-punicea.php

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hygrocybe_punicea

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