Witch's Hat

By William T. Hathaway

Witch's Hat (Hygrophorus conicus)

Witch's Hat (Hygrophorus conicus) has been observed in several of our local mixed pine-hardwood forests. I photographed this solitary specimen in a soggy pine straw site in the White Oak Mountain area in central Pittsylvania County.

For those of us trying to learn some of the mushroom names, this witch's cap is unique in that it has a significant conical cap in its early stages of development. When bruised or crushed, the mushroom flesh quickly turns black.

Mushroom manuals with dozens of excellent pictures can only give us a hint as to the accurate identification of most mushrooms. Experts have many detailed characteristics that must be mastered before naming a species, and even experts often disagree with one another. As an amateur naturalist I feel comfortable with probable mushroom names, since I don't eat wild mushrooms.

(See also other mushrooms.)