Hygrophoraceae: The Waxgill Mushroom Family
The Waxgill Family includes mostly mushrooms with moist, sticky, or slimy caps. The thick, soft gills typically have a waxy feel when rubbed between the fingers. The spores of all species are white.
The first mushroom I've learned in this family is the subalpine waxy cap (Hygrophorus subalpinus) shown here. These are mycorrhizal mushrooms, which associate with the roots of neighboring conifers. There are about a hundred species of Hygrophorus in North America. I've seen it here and there in the forest over the years, but didn't take the time to investigate it. I assumed it might be poisonous, anyway. But in June of 2006, I did a three-day walk over the Tobacco Root Mountains with my friends Kris and Nick. For gear we took only what we could stuff in our pockets, which was mostly food. High up in the mountains, not far from the snow-line, we found dozens of these white, firm mushrooms. I still didn't know what they were, but figured that if they were edible, then we were passing up an abundant food source. I took the picture shown here, and brought it home for identification. Turns out it is edible, though apparently not too exciting. Next time I see it, I'll have to try it!
Arora, David. All That the Rain Promises, and More... Ten Speed Press: Berkeley, CA. 1991.
Arora, David. Mushrooms Demystified, Second Edition. Ten Speed Press: Berkeley, CA. 1986.
Phillips, Roger. Mushrooms of North America. Little, Brown & Co.: Boston. 1991.
Schalkwijk-Barendsen, Helene M.E. Mushrooms of Northwest North America. Lone Pine Publishing: Redmond, WA. 1991.
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