Clitocybe is a large and important genus of gilled mushrooms, which are saprophytic and can be found on the ground both in grassland and woodland. There are some choice edibles in the genus, and one or two potentially lethal toxic species. The genus has recently been expanded on the basis of molecular testing as to include the whole of the old genus of Lepista – the blewits.


Wood Blewit (Clitocybe nuda)

Wood Blewit (Clitocybe nuda)

Wood blewits (Clitocybe nuda) are a very common feature of late autumn. Just as some of the other species are fading away, this species usually turns up and often in generous quantities. Regardless of its fame and popularity, it is not the easiest to identify safely. It is also particularly dodgy to rely on internet identifications of this species, because it closely resembles several rather variable Cortinarius species of dubious edibility/toxicity. The easiest way to tell them apart is to use your nose – wood blewits smell strongly of flowers or perfume. If you have no sense of smell (and one of my recent students proved this to me by not being able smell Tricholoma sulphureum, which absolutely stinks of gunpowder) then you might be advised to steer clear of this one, or get somebody else to check before you eat it.


Fool's Funnel (Clitocybe rivulosa)

Fool’s Funnel (Clitocybe rivulosa)

There are several other edible blewits, but the rest of the genus is decidedly tricky, and not for beginners. The first species you need to know if you’re thinking about eating clitocybes is C. rivulosa/dealbata.

Mycologists will argue whether there is one species or two, but from a foraging point of view your just need to know they/it are/is not to go anywhere near your mouth, because it can cause heart and/or breathing failure. Very common, this species has a habit of growing in rings in exactly the same places (sometimes right next to each other, at the same time) as a well-known edible species called a fairy ring mushroom (Marasmius oreades.) It could also easily be mistaken for an edible waxcap, and is a dead-ringer for a very good edible species called the miller (Clitopilus prunulus.) The latter grows near trees and never in rings, but the similarity is close enough to mean that the miller should be left to experienced fungi foragers; you must familiarise yourself with the dangerous clitocybes first.

trooping_websiteWarning over with, there’s also some other edible clitocybes, most common of which is Trooping Funnel (Clitocybe geotropa.) This mushroom is a bit tough (or “meaty” if you’re being more generous), but it is very common, and large enough not be confused with any of its smaller, dangerous relatives. It is very easily confused with an even bigger species (giant funnel – Leucopaxillus giganteus) but this is also edible. They are practically indistinguishable when young, which is the best time to eat them.

10 thoughts on “Clitocybe

  1. Marion Mahn

    Hi, I have a question – I have – apparently – a lot of clitocybe robusta (yellow spore print) growing in fairy circles in my backyard. They looks very nice and I was wondering, if they are edible. I do not want to be a guinea pig and try them out, if there is no knowledge about their edibility.
    Can you please enlighten me ? I have been on the Facebook mushroom identification page for days, but nobody seems to want to give me a clear answer. To me, the mushroom is not foul smelling, but rather like a mushroom should smell, maybe a little on the strong side.

    1. Geoff Dann Post author

      Hi Marion,

      I’m in England, and that’s not a European species. I wouldn’t mess with the small white Clitocybe species though – quite a lot of them are dangerous.


    2. Richard kaufman

      Clitocybe robust was rediscovered to be edible a few years ago at a meeting of the Westchester Mycological Society. A woman asked Gary Lincoff to identify them, as “they are growing in my yard, they’re delicious, I’ve been eating then for weeks and I’d like to know what they are.”. Apparently flavor and smell depend on the substrate they grow on. I found a report by Peck in 1898 in his capacity as new York state mycologist, of a meeting with the Maryland State Mycologist,wherein the latter fed him a meal of the said mushroom assuring him they were edible. FWIW, they are delicious. Just be sure of your identification.

  2. Ann Sadler

    I have some photos of some giant funnels, a lot growing in a country lane in East Sussex, near Horam.
    I believe they are not that common and am quite happy to give you the location of it is of interest.
    Ann Sadler

  3. Phil Wragg

    Hi there,
    I’ve got some large fungi on my lawn (4-7 inches across). They look like some kind of these Clitocybe. Could I send you a couple of pictures?
    Many thanks,

  4. Orathai

    Hi there I pick these mushroom yesterday because lots of people I know they been picking it and cooked it I wasn’t sure is it troopping funnel please could you help me to thank you very much.

  5. Steve Dixon

    I have been picking and eating trooping and giant funnels for about 8 years. I am a cautious forager and would recommend checking with an experienced person before eating. I once picked some funnels in a different location to my normal pick 150 miles away and found them too bitter to eat which I think were a version of cloudy funnels. This lends weight to the debate about whether 1-2 similar type of funnels are suitable for eating. An experienced forager I know says they don’t agree with him. I have a stomach as brittle as bone china and I have had no problems with trooping and giant funnels. I pick and dry them to keep for stews gravy and lasagne. The best advice I have had is once you have established they are edible only eat a small portion to begin with to allow your stomach to adapt to the new food type. Wise words.


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