British distribution: Throughout Britain.
Identification and variation
The species is most likely to be confused with the brown and pinkish variants (vars. perplexa and sciophanoides) of H. psittacina. From these it differs at least in the mucilaginous gill edges. Otherwise they can appear very similar, though the gills of H. psittacina should be ascending and narrowly attached to the stem, not decurrent. The colour of the stem apex would normally also provide separation, but there are traps here. The stem apex of H. psittacina is typically green, that of H. laeta typically grey. However the green colour is missing in H. psittacina vars. perplexa and sciophanoides, while according to Boertmann (op.cit.), the stem apex of H. laeta is rarely bright violet or dark olive.
In addition to the variation in H. laeta described above, there is also a yellow variant, var. flava, named and depicted by Boertmann. It is known in Britain but is uncommon. The cap and stem are yellow, the gills whitish to yellow, but in other features much like typical H. laeta. Boertmann considers it northern and arctic-alpine, but existing British records (FRDBI) do not support this. I have seen it in hill turf in company with the typical form and also in lowland, riverside woodland with other waxcaps. Further variants of H. laeta are described by Bon (1990).
A small, bright yellow species, H. vitellina, also has shining, viscid edges to the gills and could be confused with H. laeta var. flava. It differs in its relatively broader spores and lack of a gelatinised subhymenium (again see Boertmann, op.cit., also Candusso, 1997). Generally it is a more delicate fungus.