Large, tannish lavender cap with thick, purplish gills and a stout stalk. It grows scattered or in groups in grassy areas and under hardwoods and conifers. July–November. Cap convex, becoming flat to depressed in the center; tannish lavender, becoming grayish white; texture smooth; margin curves in at first, becoming finely wavy. Gills: broad; spacing distant; purplish; gills attached. Stalk often curved; stout; tannish lavender to grayish white; texture smooth to slightly scaly. Spore print white to pale violet. Spores magnified are round, spiny, colorless.
Lookalikes: Other Laccaria species, none of which are known to be poisonous. The silvery-violet cort (Cortinarius alboviolaceus) has purplish gills that become rusty brown and a cobwebby veil.
Cap width: 2–8 inches; stalk length: 2–8 inches; stalk width: ⅜–¾ inch.
Habitat and Conservation
Grows scattered or in groups in grassy areas and under hardwoods and conifers. In Missouri’s oak woods, large numbers of purple-gilled laccaria can often be found in the fall.
Considered a good edible.
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.
Though it isn’t a choice edible, it’s pretty good when combined with other mushrooms or strong flavors. Meanwhile, even casual naturalists can appreciate seeing this beautiful lavender mushroom.
This is one of many fungus species that help nourish forest trees through symbiosis. The netlike fibers of the fungus cover the surface of a tree’s roots, increasing the surface area and the roots’ ability to absorb water and nutrients. In return, the tree shares nutrients with the fungus.
Mushrooms are a lot like plants, but they lack chlorophyll and have to take nutrients from other materials. Mushrooms are neither plants nor animals. They are in a different kingdom — the fungi. Fungi include the familiar mushroom-forming species, plus the yeasts, molds, smuts, and rusts.
Always be cautious when eating edible mushrooms. Be absolutely sure of the ID, and only eat a small amount the first time you try it to avoid a reaction..