Bleeding Mycena

Mycena haematopus


Photo of cluster of bleeding mycenas, small, capped, reddish mushrooms
Bleeding mycena cluster
Lisa K. Suits
Not recommended/not edible



Small, with a bell-shaped, reddish brown cap; bleeds dark red when cut. Usually grows in clusters on decaying wood. June–September. Cap egg-shaped, becoming bell-shaped to conical, with a central knob and upturned margin; reddish pink when dry, becoming darker reddish brown when moist, and paler gray toward the lined margins; texture dry, becoming polished and radially lined; when cut, the flesh bleeds a dark, blood red liquid. Young specimens usually have a powdery bloom on the cap. Gills narrow to moderately broad; spacing close to nearly distant; whitish, staining a reddish brown; gills attached. Stalk skinny; pinkish to reddish tan; covered with fine hairs; longer, coarse hairs at the base; when young, the cut stalk bleeds dark red. Spore print white. Spores magnified are broadly elliptical, smooth, colorless. This little mushroom is easy to identify because of the bell-shaped cap and oozing, blood red liquid.

Lookalikes: Other Mycena species—none, however, “bleed” like this species.


Cap width: ½–2 inches; stalk length: 1–4 inches; stalk width: 1⁄32–1⁄8 inch.

Habitat and conservation

Can grow singly, but is more often found in clusters on decaying wood.

image of Bleeding Mycena Distribution Map
Distribution in Missouri



Not edible.

Life cycle

Mushrooms exist most of the time underground or within rotting wood or leaf litter as a network of cells (mycelium) digesting and decomposing rotting material. When ready to reproduce, the mycelium sends up the mushroom, which is the reproductive structure. Spores are produced in the gills and are released to begin new mycelia elsewhere. The mycelium of a mushroom can live for decades.

Human connections

Mushrooms decorate nature the way wildflowers do, adding to our pleasure on hikes. Like wildflowers, they are often bestowed with poetic or fanciful names, reflecting the amusement they bring to us. This mushroom is also sometimes called "bleeding fairy helmet."

Ecosystem connections

This is one of the many fungus species that live on decaying wood. It and other such saprobic fungi play an important role in breaking down the staggering amount of biomass produced each year, returning nutrients to the soil—an unglamorous but vital role in the ecosystem.