Conocybe Fayod   

Kingdom: Fungi
Phylum: Basidiomycota
Class: Agaricomycetes
Order: Agaricales

British distribution: Common, usually on rich soils.
World distribution: Cosmopolitan.

A large genus in Britain, with 58 species listed by Watling (1982). Most are delicate, "mycenoid" species of grasslands, presumably as saprotrophs on dead grass and/or dead moss. A number grow amongst herbs in woodlands and a few occupy other habitats, such as sand dunes, or are coprophilous on dung.

A very similar, though unrelated, genus is Galerina, both genera having rust-brown spores and the same delicate habit. Both genera were formerly placed together in the genus Galera. However, Conocybe is easily distinguished microscopically by its cellular cap cuticle (filamentous in Galerina). Almost all British species of Conocybe have smooth spores (spore surface minutely roughened or ornamented in Galerina, but this not always visible with a standard microscope).
Both genera may be common in short turf in lawns and pastures, but they tend not to occur together. Conocybe species occur on fertile, often base-rich soils, whereas Galerina species are more characteristic of acid, base-poor soils.

Conocybe rickeniana, studio shot
Conocybe rickeniana, Achnanellan, Argyllshire, 1984

Conocybe rickeniana is one of the most common species in lawns, including those on the University campus (regular on the lawn by the greenhouse). However, it needs careful separation from the large number of similar species, spore size and the shape of the cells (cystidia) on the gill edge being important.

Conocybe dunensis, studio shot
Conocybe dunensis, Tentsmuir National Nature Reserve, Fife, 1987 (collected by permit).

Conocybe dunensis is a rather dark-coloured species, associated with Marram grass (Ammophila) or other grasses on dunes. Note the characteristic striations on the stem.

•   Watling, R., (1982). British Fungus Flora, Agarics and Boleti. 3. Bolbitiaceae: Agrocybe, Bolbitius & Conocybe. H.M.S.O., Edinburgh.

© A.J. Silverside
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