Chlorophyllum molybdites: The False Parasol Mushroom

  1. Chlorophyllum molybdites is part of a confusing group of sometimes-toxic mushrooms. Part of the problem is that the official taxonomy has changed relatively recently, so the same name may be used to refer to different mushrooms by different authors—or different names may refer to the same species. The problem occurs with both common and scientific names. There also seems to be some genuine lack of clarity on which species are edible and which are toxic.
  2. Chlorophyllum molybdites is often called the false parasol to contrast it with its edible relatives, the shaggy parasols—but some authors include C. molybdites in the shaggy parasol group, perhaps in recognition of the fact that the distinction between edible and toxic species is not clear-cut in this genus. That being said, the fact that “vomiter” is another common name is a reminder that, as confusing as the question of edibility may be with Chlorophyllums, in the case of C. molybdites, the answer is usually “no.”

Inedible as it may be, it’s a pretty mushroom, often popping up in lawns in dramatic fairy rings.

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Identification and Description

Cap: Initially ball-shaped but then opening and spreading, eventually becoming flat or nearly so. Whitish or very pale brown. The surface becomes scaly and shaggy in mature specimens. The flesh is white and thick and either does not stain when cut, or stains pink. Medium to large.
Gills:
Free or only slightly attached to the stem, initially white, becoming gray-green or brown-green with maturity.
Stem:
Thin, slightly enlarged at the base, almost as long as the mature cap is wide. White or brownish, may discolor if handled. Bald or nearly so. Has a ring that is white above and greenish or brownish below.
Smell:
Nothing distinctive for identification.
Taste:
Nothing distinctive for identification.
Spores:
Smooth, almond-shaped.
Spore color:
Grayish green.
Edibility:
generally toxic.
Habitat:
Eats dead plant matter. Fruits from the ground in grassy areas either singly or in groups or even rings.

This species often grabs attention for growing in rings[i]. Such rings occur when the fungus, growing underground, expands outward while dying in the middle. The middle dies because the fungus has exhausted its food supply there. Although the presence of a fungal ring is often given away by the subtly greener grass growing above it, most people have no idea the fungus is there until it suddenly fruits. The term, “fairy ring,” refers to a belief that fairies use these rings for circle-dances, and that although the dancers are usually invisible, they are well aware of humans and react badly to intruders—supposedly, people who step into fairy rings are captured and made to join the dance, even past the point of exhaustion.

But not all fairy rings are C. molybdites. Many mushroom species can form rings, as can many species that are not fungi at all. One of the most dramatic examples is the coastal redwood (Sequoia semervirens), which is one of the few conifers capable of sprouting from the roots. Sometimes a ring of sprouts from the same root system will survive the death of the original trunk, producing a fairy ring of giant trees, all of them together actually a single interconnected organism thousands of years old[ii].

Chlorophyllum molybdites Look-Alikes

A mature Chlorophyllum molybdites specimen is usually easy to distinguish from its look-alikes by its green spore print and greenish gills, but immature specimens have white gills and no spores and present a much greater challenge[iii]. An added complication is that some fruiting bodies never develop spores, meaning they look mature but retain white gills. A spore-less spore-print on white paper can sometimes be mistaken for a white spore-print by the unwary.

The closest look-alike is C. rhacodes, an edible relative. The two may be indistinguishable before spores develop. The other Chlorophyllums are also look-alikes, usually with white, not green, spores, though as noted it is difficult to be sure which species in this genus a given author is really talking about.

Macrolepiota procera, or “the parasol,” is a popular edible species easily mixed up with C. molybdites[iv], but several differences exist. M. procera has white spores, a thinner stem with a “snakeskin” pattern along all or part of its length, a preference for growing in mulch or in the woods, not in grass, and a few other distinctive details.

Because C. molybdites, like many other parasols, has a stem ring, it can be confused with several of the Amanitas. The shaggy caps on the Chlorophyllums can also be mistaken for the warts on many Amanita caps. But Amanita warts come off easily, and Chlorophyllum shags do not. Amanitas also have white spores, not green. The closest look-alike among the Amanitas, A. thiersii, has particularly shaggy-looking warts and a similar overall shape and size, but unlike C. molybdites, it also has a shaggy stem[v].

Chlorophyllum molybdites Benefits

  1. molybdites is sometimes poisonous—not deadly, but the reaction can be deeply unpleasant. The problem is the word “sometimes.” There are people who eat this species with no ill effects and enjoy its meaty taste[vi]. Some writers claim that eating young specimens and making sure they are properly cooked can render the species safe, though others insist there is no way to predict who will get sick. Not even a prior good experience is a reliable indication, as some people who have tried eating this species multiple times got sick after some meals and not others. It’s possible this mushroom has as-yet unknown nutritional or even medicinal benefits when it’s not busy being poisonous—but under the circumstances, it is better left alone!

The species may confer another kind of benefit, though. Because C. molybdites eats dead plant matter, it  helps release nutrients into the soil where other plants can use them—it can help the lawn grow, in other words[vii]. If there is any danger of a child or pet eating the mushrooms and getting sick, just collect and compost the fruiting bodies when they appear. The fungus will continue to grow underground unharmed.

Chlorophyllum molybdites Dosage

There is no dosage because C. molybdites is not used medicinally.

Chlorophyllum molybdites Toxicity & Side Effects

Most people who eat C. molybdites quickly develop severe gastrointestinal upset. The mushroom can also be mistaken for an Amanita, some of which are deadly.

References:

[i]       Kuo, M. (2020). Chlorophyllym molybdites.

[ii]    Some Coast Redwoods May Seem to Be Clones, but They’re Not

[iii]     Kuo, M. (2020). Chlorophyllym molybdites.

[iv]     Muskat, A. (n.d.). How Not to Pass Up a Parasol and How Not to, Part II: Perilous Parasols. AlanMuskat.Com

[v]      Kuo, M. (2020). Chlorophyllym molybdites.

[vi]     Muskat, A. (n.d.). How Not to Pass Up a Parasol and How Not to, Part I: No Musmorgasbords.

[vii]    Hansen, J. (n.d.). Mushroom Fungi in Flower Beds and Grasses. SFGATE

 

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