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How to Safely Identify Wine Cap Mushrooms

Mushrooms are sprouting in your outdoor bed, but how can you tell if they are edible - or a poisonous wild mushroom?

Thankfully, Wine Cap mushrooms are not just easy to grow - they are also easy to identify!

How to grow mushrooms Canada

Turning Straw into Mushrooms

Customer Jason Misovic recently harvested Wine Cap mushrooms from his urban garden.  He summarized their key identification features in a post to the Vancouver Island Mushroom Identification group, and invited us to share his photos with you.

A few wild mushrooms are deadly poisonous, so when growing mushrooms outdoors it’s important to accurately identify edible mushrooms before eating.


How to identify Wine Cap Mushrooms

Giant Stature

Grown outdoors in straw or woodchips, Wine Cap mushrooms emerge as round burgundy caps perched on a thick white stipe (stalk).

The cap gradually expands and flattens out, sometimes fading to tan-brown colour as they mature.

Typically spanning 4-13cm across, these mushrooms have been known to reach epic sizes with 30cm wide caps, towering 20cm high.

One single mushroom can weigh upwards of 3lbs (1.5kg).

Wow!  No wonder these mushrooms are also known as the “Garden Giant”.

How to grow King Stropharia rugoso-annulata Canada
How to grow and identify Garden Giant Stropharia rugoso-annulata Canada

Unique Cogwheel "Skirt"

One of the most distinctive features of Wine Cap mushrooms is the partial veil.  The partial veil covers the young gills while they form on the underside of the mushroom cap.

As the gap expands, the veil breaks apart in a cogwheel pattern, exposing the developing gills.  Once the cap is fully open, the veil remnants remain as a thick, fragile ring of white tissue around the upper stipe, referred to as a “skirt” or annulus.

Take a Spore Print

Wine cap is known scientifically by the latin name Stropharia rugosoannulata, which makes reference to this “rugoso” creased annulus. Spores are like the “seeds” of a mushroom that form from the gills.  When released, they float in air currents to a new place to grow.

The colour of spores can be an important feature used to confirm a mushroom identification.  In the case of Wine Cap mushrooms, the spores are a deep purple black.

It’s easy to take a spore print.  Simply remove the stalk, place the cap with gills down on white paper and leave overnight.  In the morning remove the cap and check the colour of the spore “dust” on the paper.

Review of 4 Key Features

  1. Large wine red cap can reach up to 30cm in size, with colour fading to tan as it ages or dries out in the sun.

  2. Thick white stalk 1-3cm wide, surface discolouring yellow with age but inside flesh white.  White “strings” of fungal mycelium often extend from the base like roots.

  3. Cogwheel-shaped veil of tissue on underside of cap, breaking away to expose the gills, then leaving a distinctive ring of tissue on the stalk.

  4. Gills on underside of cap mature from a light purplish grey to nearly black as they release dark purple-black spores.Special shout out to Jason Misovic for sharing these detailed photos!


Special shout out to Jason Misovic for sharing these detailed photos!