Green Cracking Russula

Green Cracking Russula

Russula virescens

Cap with a greenish, cracked, mosaic-like top, and cream-colored gills. It grows singly or in groups in mixed woods. July–September. Cap cushion-shaped, becoming convex, then becoming vase-shaped; margin is incurved; dull greenish olive; surface is patched or mosaic-like; flesh is thick and brittle. Gills broad; spacing close; cream-colored; attached. Stalk straight; white, turning brownish; brittle. Spore print white. Spores magnified are elliptical to oval, ornamented.

Lookalikes: There are many green russulas, and it is often difficult to tell one from another. None of them are poisonous, though some may not taste very good. The mosaic-like, cracked pattern on the top of this species distinguishes it from other green russulas.

Cap width: 2–5 inches; stalk length: 1½–3½ inches; stalk width: ¾–1½ inches.
Habitat and conservation: 
Grows singly or in groups in mixed woods. Grows from the soil.
Distribution in Missouri: 
Considered an excellent edible. This is a very good edible mushroom.
Life cycle: 
This species is mycorrhizal: It exists most of the time as a network of cells (mycelium) connected to tree roots, in a symbiotic relationship with the tree. (Many trees fare poorly without their fungal partners.) When ready to reproduce, the mycelium sends up the “mushroom” aboveground—this is the reproductive structure. Spores are produced in these structures and are released to begin new mycelia elsewhere. The mycelium of a mushroom can live for decades.
Human connections: 
Mushrooms decorate the woods the way wildflowers do, adding to our pleasure on hikes. Russulas are common and colorful mushrooms. You often can find them even when the woods are fairly dry.
Ecosystem connections: 
This is one of the many fungus species that help nourish forest trees through a symbiotic connection with tree roots. The netlike fibers of the fungus multiply the roots' ability for absorbing water and nutrients. In return, the tree shares nutrients with the fungus.
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