There are more mushrooms in the genus Cortinarius than in any other genus. Many are undescribed. In numerous cases North American mycologists have adopted European names and descriptions for cortinarius mushrooms that appear to be the same or similar to species in our region of the world. It is likely that many of these names will change over time. Sometimes two or more different scientific names have been applied to the same mushroom. Many are undoubtedly species clusters. Molecular analysis shouold help sort out this genus over time. See “Mission Impossible Completed: Unlocking the Nomenclature of the Largest and Most complicated subgenus of Cortinarius, Telemonia,” by Kare Liimatainen in Fungal Diversity 08 September 2020.

Cortinarius hairy brown1565

Partial veil of Cortinarius mushrooms is thread-like or web-like.

These fungi are called ‘Cortinarius' for the cobweb-like ‘cortina’ or partial veil that protects the immature gills. The spore print of the majority of corts is rust-brown.  All corts are mycorrhizal with trees.

The edibility of corts is uncertain in most cases. any cortinarius (except for C. caperatus, assuming you can identify it with certainty) is not recommended as we haven’t studied them all for edibility. Some of those studied contain a toxin called orellanine, which damages the kidneys after a latent period of between 2 and 14 days after being consumed.

15% of cases of orellanine poisoning from eating corts have been fatal, which is a good reason for making a spore print.

The genus Cortinarius originally included eight subdivisions, four of which have been subsumed. The following subgenera are accepted: 

MYXACIUM - species having both a viscid or glutinous cap and stem

PHLEGMACIUM -species with a glutinous cap, but a dry stem.

CORTINARIUS - dry cap and stem with bright pigmentation

TELAMONIA - hygrophanous, dry cap and stip and dull pigmentation 

To see enlarged versions of each photo represented in this family and descriptions, click on the first photo and then click on the textual links above each photo to get to the next one.