The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, December 9, 2005


Yellow-centered Waxy Cap

(Photo by Kay Fairweather)

Name: The yellow-centered waxy cap is Hygrophorus flavodiscus. The genus Hygrophorus has about 200 species. The name Hygrophorous means "bearer of moisture" and flavodiscus means "yellow disc." The moisture it bears is in the form of a thick clear coat of slime on both the cap and stem. The yellow disc is in the center of the whitish cap. If I were naming it, I would call it the fried egg mushroom. The slime glistens like a layer of hot bacon fat. The transition from yellow to white is somewhat gradual — so maybe the over-easy fried egg mushroom would be a better name. Waxy cap is a somewhat misleading name since the waxiness is a quality of the gills underneath the cap, and anyway it is rather subtle in this particular species. Other members of the waxy cap family have more obviously waxy gills.

When and where found: Last Saturday, December 3, before there was a cover of snow, I was walking in the Towle woods and came upon several clumps of these yellow-centered waxy caps. They were growing in tight clusters of three to five, right at the edges of the trail, their caps protruding through the pine needles and oak leaves. Last year, around this time, I found many in the Carlisle Pines State Park. This is another mushroom, like the yellow-stalked Mycena (Biodiversity Corner, November 18, 2005), that will appear after there has been a frost or two. Even though the one I picked was frozen, it was still able to fulfill its function and drop spores, albeit in my house on the windowsill.

Distinguishing characteristics: Slimy, slimy slimy. There are other slimy mushrooms, but this one is distinguished by the yellow center in an otherwise white cap. The caps are up to three inches in diameter. The gills are not densely packed and descend the stem a little way. The stem is white, slimy and about three inches tall. The spore print is white.

Word for the day: Decurrent, in mushroom jargon, is an adjective for gills that run down the stem. It is also used in botany to describe leaves that extend downwards from their base along the plant stem. The yellow-centered waxy cap has decurrent gills.

Edibility: Some waxy caps are poisonous. The Audubon Guide says this yellow-centered one is edible after cleaning. I presume the cleaning removes the slime. All manner of other edible mushrooms which require cleaning to remove dirt and debris carry no caution about the need to clean. I find the sliminess rather unappetizing and would prefer a fried egg.

References: Gary H. Lincoff, Audubon Field Guide to Mushrooms of North America; Alan E. Bessette et al, Mushrooms of Northeastern North America.

Submissions and ideas for the Biodiversity Corner are encouraged on any wildlife in town. Send a note to Kay Fairweather at 392 School St, Carlisle MA 01741 or to

2005 The Carlisle Mosquito