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Traditionally the family Hygrophoraceae, also known as waxy caps or waxcaps, was a taxon of white-spored agarics. Among them are some of the most brightly coloured fungi encountered, often in grasslands, forests and mossy areas across the northern hemisphere. The family contains 9 genera and 325 species.
The common name "waxy cap" comes from the waxy feel and appearance of the gills or lamellae and often of the entire fruiting body. This characteristic may be subtle, and it is often difficult to identify some species as members of this group by relying on this characteristic alone. The lamellar attachment ranges from adnate to subdecurrent (fully decurrent in Camarophyllus), and the lamellae themselves are typically widely spaced.
The most distinct microscopic characteristic of this group are the very long basidia. The spores are unpigmented, inamyloid, smooth, and ellipsoid to elongate in shape. The pileipellis is usually a cutis, except in Camarophyllopsis, which has a hymenoderm pileipellis. Ecologically, most members of this family are ectomycorrhizal, except for Hygrocybe, which are mostly saprotrophs.
This family consists of several genera that are distinguished from each other by the arrangement of the lamellar trama, by the macroscopic appearance of the fruiting body, especially the coloration, and by their ecological niche.
Elias Magnus Fries first described the genus Hygrophorus in 1835, classifying it into three "tribes", Limacium, Hygrocybe, and Camarophyllus. These tribes were raised to generic status by Paul Kummer in 1871. The Family Hygrophoraceae was first proposed under the name "Hygrophores" by Roze in 1876 to group these genera. (Hesler and Smith, 1963)
Modern authors have been divided as to whether to treat all members of the Hygrophoraceae as one large genus, Hygrophorus, or to segregate them into various genera, including Hygrophorus, Hygrocybe, Camarophyllus (= Cuphophyllus), Camarophyllopsis (= Hygrotrama), Humidicutis, Bertrandia, and Neohygrophorus. L. R. Hesler and Alexander H. Smith (1963) took the former approach, while other authors such as Rolf Singer (1958), Marcel Bon (1984), David Boertmann (1996), and Anthony M. Young (2005) have recognized Hygrophorus plus one or more segregate genera.
Molecular phylogenetic analysis by J-M Moncalvo, et al. (2002) revealed that several non-waxy cap genera, Chromosera and Chrysomphalina are also nested within the Hygrophoraceae, while Neohygrophorus was not closely related to the core group of Hygrophoraceae.
The Hygrophoraceae has been recognized by the majority of modern authors (eg, Singer, 1958; Bon, 1984; Largent, 1985; Boertmann, 1996; and Young, 2005), however, Eef Arnolds (1986) and Cornelis Bas (1990) have sunk the entire group into the Tricholomataceae. Some secondary sources (eg, Kirk, 2001) continue to use Arnold's and Bas' classification provisionally given the unsettled state of fungal nomenclature in the early 2000s. (Kuo, 2003) Young (2002, 2005) notes that though Moncalvo's analysis shows Hygrophoraceae to be polyphyletic, Tricholomataceae is even more so and will probably be split, so that adding the former to the latter will compound the problem. Young (2002) also notes that combining the two families would represent a continuation of the highly outdated concept that all white-spored genera belong in one taxon.
- Arnolds E. (1986)
- Bas C. (1990). Tricholomataceae R.Heim ex Pouz. In: Flora Agaricina Neerlandica 2:65. ISBN 9061919711
- Boertmann D. (1996). The genus Hygrocybe (Fungi of Northern Europe 1). Copenhagen: Danish Mycological Society. ISBN 8798358111
- Bon M. (1984). Le genre Cuphophyllus (Donk) st. n. (= Camarophyllus ss. Singer, Kuhner, Clémençon, Moser, etc. non Fr.). Documents Mycologiques 14(56):9–12.
- Hesler LR, Smith AH. (1963). North American species of Hygrophorus. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press. ISBN 0901439674
- Kirk PM. (2001). Ainsworth and Bisby's Dictionary of the Fungi (9th ed). Wallingford, UK: CABI Publishing.
- Kuo M. (2003). Mushroom taxonomy: The big picture. MushroomExpert.Com (website).
- Largent DL. (1985). The Agaricales of California 5: Hygrophoraceae. Eureka, CA: Mad River Press. ISBN 0916422542
- Moncalvo JM, et al. 2002. One hundred and seventeen clades of euagarics. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 23:357-400.
- Singer R. (1958). The Agaricales in modern taxonomy.
- Young AM. (2002) Brief notes on the status of Family Hygrophoraceae Lotsy. Australasian Mycologist 21(3):114–116.
- Young AM. (2005). Fungi of Australia: Hygrophoraceae. Collingwood, AU: CSIRO Publishing. ISBN 0643091955
- "The Waxy Caps: Hygrophorus and Hygrocybe" by Michael Kuo, MushroomExpert.com, December, 2004.
- North American species of Hygrophorus by L.R. Hesler and Alexander H. Smith, 1963. (Full text of monograph – includes species now treated as Hygrocybe and Camarophyllus as well as Hygrophrus.)
- IMA Mycological Glossary: Hygrophoraceae Family
- "Waxcaps and other Grassland Fungi", Northern Ireland Fungus Group.
- "Fungal Biology: Conservation: One Case Study", University of Sydney, School of Biological Sciences, June, 2004.