One of the smaller species of red waxcap fungi, the Hygrocybe Miniata Mushroom can occasionally be found in the Pacific Northwest, look for them in woodland clearings.
The Hygrocybe Miniata Mushroom are notoriously difficult to separate on macroscopic characters alone, and so it is a great help when a species has one or more features shared with few or no other waxcaps. These waxcap caps are scurfy rather than greasy.
The red waxcap is an uncommon find on most of the coast but widely distributed in parts of Vancouver Island. This species has pretty much a worldwide distribution in temperate regions, although in some countries it is more commonly found in the forest rather than on grassland. Hygrocybe is recorded in most parts of mainland Europe and Asia as well as most of North America, Australia, and many other countries.
The genus Hygrocybe is so named because fungi in this group are always very moist. Hygrocybe literally means ‘watery head’. The name miniata means very small so think small when looking for them.
The cap is up to 3 cm in diameter and is at first convex and but then flattens out with a slight depression. They are initially blood red in color but with age, the cap fades to orange and then to a yellowish color. The cap flesh is thin and reddish-orange. The gills are a reddish-brown with light yellow edges. the stem is orangey red in color, the diameter up to 0.5 cm and up to 7cm tall with no stem ring. The spores are white.
Waxcaps have long been considered to be saprobic on the dead roots of grasses and other grassland plants, but it is now considered likely that there is some kind of mutual relationship between waxcaps and mosses. The red waxcap is reportedly edible, but it is too small and insubstantial as well as too uncommon to be worth considering as a culinary collectible. It is, however, a very fine feast for sore eyes.