Cortinarius traganus
lilac conifer cortinarius

Species account author: Ian Gibson.
Extracted from Matchmaker: Mushrooms of the Pacific Northwest.

Introduction to the Macrofungi


© Michael Beug     (Photo ID #15186)


E-Flora BC Static Map

Distribution of Cortinarius traganus
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Species Information

Subgenus Telamonia Section Tragani (used to be considered as in Sericeocybe). Cortinarius traganus is recognized by 1) lilac colors (sometimes the cap with white radial sectors; lilac colors lacking in forma ochraceus), 2) dry surface of cap and stem, 3) brown yellow flesh, and 4) the particular fruit-like odor. |Cortinarius pyriodorus has often been confused with Cortinarius traganus. Some call the European one (which smells like goats according to some and pears according to others) C. traganus and the North American one (like overripe pears) C. pyriodorus. Lincoff(2) lists both for North America, with C. traganus smelling faint or pungent, pleasant or unpleasant and being common in the Pacific Northwest, and C. pyriodorus like overripe pears. Bessette(2) lists both with C. traganus smelling pungent and pleasant or disagreeable and C. pyriodorus of ripe pears. Arora(1) considers C. pyriodorus to be the American variant of C. traganus. Phillips(1) says in the East, C. traganus is usually named C. pyriodorus. Stuntz(5) discusses the controversy but uses C. pyriodorus and does not list C. traganus for Washington. |There is also forma ochraceus which is similar to C. traganus and pear-smelling but has no violet colors. |Joseph Ammirati (pers. comm. some years before 2020) listed C. traganus for Washington, meaning a pear-smelling species with characteristic ochraceous flesh (C. pyriodorus differing by having violet flesh). |In 2020, Liimatainen(11) compared DNA of the C. pyriodorus holotype, the C. traganus var. ochraceus holotype from WA, and an epitype of C. traganus from Sweden and listed the first two as synonyms of the latter. (The Cortinarius pyriodorus Kauffman holotype does not appear in their phylogenetic tree however.) The epitype follows the most common interpretation of the Fries species involving a pale lilac cap, a bulbous, whitish purplish stem, yellow context, and an odor.
4-10cm across, (hemi-)spheric, then convex, sometimes with a distinct broad umbo, often irregular and wavy at margin; pale lilac, soon decolored, sometimes thoroughly grayish white, when old yellowish brown spotted; felted, then patched from the veil, (Brandrud), 4-13cm across, obtuse or convex becoming flat or broadly umbonate; "violet to lilac, sometimes with white wedge-shaped sectors, occasionally also with rusty or ochraceous stains"; "smooth, dry, finely silky or fibrillose", "margin often hung with veil remnants", (Arora)
compact; hygrophanous-marbled, becoming saffron-yellow to brown-yellow from base, (Brandrud), rusty brown to tawny-brown or yellow-brown (often marbled) in stem, usually paler in cap and yellower in stem base, (Arora)
(moderately) crowded; brown-yellow to grayish brown, later vivid brown-yellow, edge paler, (Brandrud), adnexed to adnate, fairly well-spaced; pale cinnamon or ocher-buff becoming cinnamon brown or rusty brown when old, (Arora)
5-10cm x 0.8-2cm, club-shaped - bulbous (bulb up to 3.5cm wide), pale lilac, yellowish brown from base with age; stem surface coarsely fibrillose; woolly girdle formed by abundant veil which is lilac at first but soon yellowish, (Brandrud), 5-12cm x 1-3(5)cm, usually enlarged in lower part, solid; "lilac or purplish, sometimes also with white areas"; dry, finely fibrillose, (Arora)
"lilac, soon pale yellowish, abundant, forming a woolly girdle", (Brandrud), cortina pale lilac, leaving hairs on upper stem, (Arora)
"strong, especially on the gills, fruity and characteristic", (Brandrud), often faintly pungent or sweet, (Arora), strong, of overripe pears, (Phillips), strong, pungent, sometimes faint, described as either pleasant or unpleasant, (Lincoff(2)), strong, penetrating smell of billygoat or acetylene, sometimes fruity, (Lincoff(1)), strongly of acetylene (pear liqueur) (Courtecuisse), pungent and pleasant or disagreeable (Bessette(2), Miller), usually fairly strong, pungent penetrating odor, some forms have spicy or fragrant odor, like overripe pears, (Ammirati(1)), fruity but hard to detect for some people (Trudell), strong, unpleasant, sweet sickly, chemical, (Buczacki for Britain/Ireland)
a touch bitter (Phillips), sweet (Lincoff(1)), not distinctive or slightly bitter (Bessette(2)), bitter (Miller)
Microscopic spores:
spores 8-10 x 5-6 microns, elliptic to almond-shaped, distinctly verrucose; gill edge with isolated small clavate sterile cells, (Brandrud), spores 7-10 x 5-6 microns, elliptic, rough, (Arora)
Spore deposit:
rusty brown (Arora, Phillips)
Cortinarius traganus is present at least in BC, WA, and OR, and has been reported from ID by Andrew Parker, pers. comm. Desjardin reports it from CA with a pungent, fruity odor and dingy yellowish buff to grayish yellow flesh. Harrower(1) assigned a BC collection sequence 166 to Cortinarius traganus.
poisonous according to one source and indigestible according to another (Arora)

Habitat and Range

Cortinarius alboviolaceus is paler with mild odor, has violet-edged gills when young, and never has rusty brown flesh. Cortinarius camphoratus has blue-violaceous flesh and gills, and an odor of rotting vegetables. Cortinarius pyriodorus is considered same species by some, see NOTES above. Cortinarius fragrans is similar in smelling like overripe pears and in having bluish gills, but C. fragrans has a paler cap and whitish or lavender-tinged flesh in the stem. See also SIMILAR section of Cortinarius malachius.
coniferous forests (Brandrud), single, scattered or gregarious (sometimes in clumps) under conifers, (Arora), summer and fall, (Miller)


Synonyms and Alternate Names:
Cortinarius pyriodorus Kauffman?