Russula xerampelina

Russula xerampelina (Schaeff) Fr., the crab brittlegill.


Agaricus xerampelina Schaeff.
Russula alutacea var. erythropus Fr.
Russula erythropus Fr. ex Pelt.
Russula erythropus var. ochracea J. Blum
Russula xerampelina var. erythropus (Fr. ex Pelt.) Konrad & J. Favre [as ‘erythropoda‘]
Russula xerampelina (Schaeff.) Fr.

Common name

Crab brittlegill
Shrimp mushroom
Woodland russula
Herring mushroom


Cap: 5-12 inches diameter, convex to slightly depressed, variable in color, usually deep blood-red or brownish-red, often paler (yellowish) in the center, fleshy, compact, skin slightly slimy at first, then somewhat granular. Peel difficult to separate from the flesh; margin even, grooved on aging.
Gills: adnexed, close, narrower at the stem, some forked, pale cream color or yellow.
Stem: 3-10 cm long, 1-3 cm thick, white or tinged reddish, equal, firm, striate or grooved, staining yellowish when bruised and brownish when cut; smell of crab or fish when old; taste usually mild.
Spore print: cream to yellow.
Spores: broadly elliptical, ornamented with prominent warts and thin lines, apiculate, 8-11 x 7-8 µm.
Habitat: singly or scattered in woods on ground, later summer and fall.
Edibility: edible.
Chemical tests: the flesh stains dark green with FeSO4.

Nutritional content

Evaluating protein quality in R. xerampelina by analysing the composition of essential amino acids, researchers concluded that this species has a very good protein content with a biological value (BV=83%) comparable to that of beef (BV=85%) (Petrovska and Kulevanov, 2006).

Medicinal properties

Anti-tumor activity

Polysaccharides extracted from the mycelial culture of R. xerampelina and administered intraperitoneally into white mice at a dosage of 300 mg/kg inhibited the growth of Sarcoma 180 and Ehrlich solid cancers by 70% and 80%, respectively (Ohtsuka et al., 1973).

Anti-parasitic activity

R. xerampelina extract was shown to be inhibitory to the growth of Plasmodium falciparum, a pyrimethamine-resistant malarial parasite (Lovy et al., 2000).

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Adamcik S, Marhold K.
Taxonomy of the Russula xerampelina group I. Morphometric study of the Russula Xerampelina group in Slovakia
Mycotaxon. 2000 76:463-79.

Adamcik S.
Taxonomy of the Russula xerampelina group. Part 2. Taxonomic and nomenclatural study of Russula xerampelina and R. erythropoda.
Mycotaxon. 2002 82:241-67.

Adamcik S.
Studies on Russula clavipes and related taxa of Russula section xerampelinae with a predominantly olivaceous pileus
Persoonia. 2004 18(3):393-409.

Lovy A, Knowles B, Labbe R, Nolan L.
Activity of edible mushrooms against the growth of human T4 leukemic cancer cells, HeLa cervical cancer cells, and Plasmodium falciparum.
Journal of Herbs, Spices & Medicinal Plants. 2000 6(4):49-58.

Ohtsuka S, Ueno S, Yoshikumi C, Hirose F, Ohmura Y, Wada T, Fujii T, Takahashi E.
Polysaccharides having an anticarcinogenic effect and a method of producing them from species of Basidiomycetes.
UK Patent 1331513, 26 September 1973.

Petrovska BB, Kulevanova S.
Composition and nutritive value of protein in some Macedonian edible wild Russulaceae mushrooms.
Planta Med. 2006. 72(11):P214

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