LACTARIUS Lesson 4/15/19 by Dianna Smith

– 6 Groups

          Like russulas, they break easily.


          Mycorrhizal with trees.

          Amyloid reaction with Meltzer’s solution (or iodine).

          They lactate on cutting or bruising.                                                             

          In N.A., it is a large genus. There are at least 200 species and 60 var. 


Majority are acrid to peppery – some can be boiled several times with fresh water.

A few toxic ones: L. torminosus; L. vinaceorufescens, L. chrysorheus

Some choice edibles: L. indigo; L. subpurpureus; L. chelidonium; L. volemus; L. hygrophoroides; L. corrugis; L. luteolusbecause of their meaty texture, they are good marinated in balsamic vinegar and olive oil and then broiled or grilled.

Questions to Ask When Examining Lactarius mushrooms:

Associated with what trees - conifer or deciduous, sphagnum moss

High or low elevation




Cap Characteristics

Sticky or dry

Thick or thin

Glabrous or wrinkled


Margin Inrolled? Wooly?

Flat or Vase-shaped

Stipe Characteristics

Thick or thin




Staining reactions?

Latex Characteristics

Taste: acrid, peppery, sweet

Changes color or not

Stains or not



LACTARIUS – 6 Groups simplified and adapted from the Hessler and Smith (1979) book on NA species of Lactarius.  Based on Mushroom U. course I took with Gary Lincoff

Note: There are other ways of organizing this information: such as Bessette, Harris and Bessettes , Milk Mushrooms of North America (2010)

Dapetes (Colored Latex, mild)

Albati (White, white latex, peppery)

Plinthogali  (Brown, with white latex)

Dulces (Dry, Meaty, white latex, staining brown)

Russulares (Small, often fragrant)

Lactarius (Hairy margin, scrobiculate, zonate, viscid, white latex unchanging or changing slowly).


Colored latex; Mild taste

All but Lactarius indigo are associated with conifers         

Lactarius deterrimus

Lactarius salmonicolor

Lactarius chelidonium var. chelidonium

Lactarius thyinos

Lactaius indigo

Lactarius paradoxus

Lactarius subpurpureus

                                                                                                              ALBATI CHARACTERS                                                                                                           

                                                                   Acrid to peppery taste; White fruit body;  White latex, unchanging (1 exception)*                                      

Lactarius piperatus

Lactarius deceptivus

Lactarius vellereus

Lactarius subvellereus

Lactarius subvellereus var. subdistans

Lactarius glaucascens

 PLINTHOGALI CHARACTERS                                                                                                                                       

                                                      Dark brown to tan fruitbodies;  White latex, often changing flesh pink;  Cap dry and velutinous

Lactarius lignyotus

Lactarius lignyotellus

Lactarius fumosus

Lactarius gerardii

Lactarius subplinthogalus (wrinkled cap, scalloped margin)


                                                                            Dry, ‘meaty’ pileus; Copious latex changing; and or staining or not

Lactarius (Lactifluus) volemus

Lactarius (Lactifluus) hygrophoroides

Lactarius (Lactifluus) corrugis

Lactarius (Lactifluus) luteolus


Generally small, russula-like mushroom;. White to clear latex; many fragrant odors.

Lactarius hibbardiae (name in field guides is L. hibbardae)

Lactarius glysiosmus

Lactarius griseus

Lactarius quietus var. incanus

Lactarius hepaticus

Lactarius peckii

Lactarius oculatus

Lactarius rufus


Latex white to whey-clear; Latex unchanging or changing to yellow, purple, pink-orange, olive or grey;                                                                                                   Caps viscid, zonate or with cottony margin.

Lactarius zonarius

Lactarius psammicola

Lactarius torminosus

Lactarius controversus

Lactarius hysginus var. subroseus

Lactarius vinaceorufescens

Lactarius chysorheus

Lactarius sordidus

Lactarius atroviridis

Lactarius mucidus

There are other ways of organizing this information: Bessette, Harris and Bessette, Milk Mushrooms of North America (2010) who first divides the genus into

Eastern Lactarius and Western Lactarius. TIP:  (You can ignore the western ones until you do a foray out west, or move there).4Then They divide them into four Groups: A. B. C. and D as follows:

A. Latex colored a). immediately or within five minutes of exposure to air L. chrysorrheus

Strong Odors of crushed flesh: fruity, spicy, fragrant, aromatic, maple sugar, coconut, anise, geranium, apples, raw pumpkin, ripe crushed blackberries, or lemony; Odor spermatic, alkaline, disagreeable. (Group A - 47) L. volemus, L. hyzingus, L. pyrogalus

B. Latex color unchanging or not changing within 5 minutes, taste mild within 2 minutes. (Group B - 38)

C. Cap white, buff, yellow, orange, ochraceous to brownish-ochre, pale yellow-cinnamon, pale pinkish cinnamon to pale rosy cinnamon, red lilac, grey or brown; margin bearded or stem scrobiculate; or latex slowly changing color or staining or drying tissues a different color. (Group C - 46) atriviridis, turpis, deceptivus, controversus, vellereus, psammicola, torminosus, affinis, hyzingus, lignyotus, maculatus

D. Cap white, buff, yellow, orange, ochraceous to brownish-ochre, pale yellow-cinnamon, pale pinkish cinnamon to pale rosy cinnamon, red lilac, grey or brown; but without bearded margin, scrobiculate stem, or latex changing color, staining or drying tissues. (Group D is small w 16) rufus, peckii, oculatus, cinereus, griseus, hepaticus

I might have the odiferous mushrooms have their own group.

The point is, until a sufficient number of Russula species have been asigned to clades, we wont know whether or not the phylogenetic information will help us organize our lactarius (or  russulas) into groupings that make sense to us macroscopically. It is likely there will be little clarity to assist the amateur to recognize species - even assuming we go through the time-consuming effort to examine spores and cell structures and cap cuticle tissues micrscopically, Therefore, I recommend that you devide your own multi-access keys listing a set of field characters and see how they add up to you. Remember, there is no right or one-way of organizing these fungus to learn them. 

fences and assigned to clades