Charcoal Burner Identification – Russula cyanoxantha

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This post is part of our “100 Plants and Mushrooms” series. Here, you’ll see the mushroom’s main parts – its cap, gills or pores, stipe, and more – all with key identification features.

The Charcoal Burner stands out in the mushroom world, especially among its Russula family members, because of a unique trait: its gills. For most Russula mushrooms, these gills are quite firm, but the Charcoal Burner boasts soft, flexible gills that won’t break when you touch them.

Charcoal Burner: Key Parts in Photos

Where to find it

This mushroom loves slightly acidic soil that’s also rich in nutrients. Whether in deciduous forests, mixed woods, or even places with conifers, you can find this mushroom. The Charcoal Burner is mycorrhizal, meaning it forms a beneficial bond with the roots of certain trees, especially oaks and beeches. In this relationship, the mushroom helps the tree absorb nutrients, while the tree provides the mushroom with sugars.

How to identify Charcoal Burner

  1. Cap: Measuring between 1.5 to 7 inches across, the Charcoal Burner starts its life with an almost spherical cap. As it grows, this cap becomes more convex, eventually flattening out with a slight dip in the center. It can range from shades of purple to brown, grey, and even green in some varieties. The center tends to be a shade darker, but beneath the cap, the mushroom’s flesh is a firm white.
  2. Gills: These greasy-feeling gills are white and tightly packed. They connect to the stem in a manner that’s known as “adnexed to slightly decurrent”. In simple terms, it means they attach a bit above the bottom of the stem and may run down it just a bit. These gills can sometimes branch or “fork”, and they’re far more bendy than you’d expect for a Russula mushroom.
  3. Stipe: The stipe of the Charcoal Burner is a solid cylinder, standing between 2 to 5 inches tall. It’s white with hints of purple. Inside, the stem is white too, and you won’t find any ring-like structure around it.
  4. Spores: The Charcoal Burner has spores shaped like elongated ovals. These spores are adorned with tiny blunt bumps, making them easy to identify under a microscope. And if you’re into making spore prints, you’d get a white print from this mushroom.
  5. Taste: The Charcoal Burner doesn’t have any distinctive smell; it’s just typical mushroomy scent. As for taste, it’s mild and neutral.

Want to learn more?

Our new book, “A New Forager’s Guide to Wild Foods,” is available on Amazon. It helps beginners learn about how to identify and cook with these 100 common plants and mushrooms. Click the buy button on the right and order your copy now!

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