Velvet Foot

Flammulina velutipes

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Photo of velvet foot mushrooms, mature, showing black stems.
Mature velvet foot mushrooms have distinctive velvety black stems.
Lisa K. Suits
Not recommended/not edible
Family

Marasmiaceae

Description

Tawny, sticky cap with whitish gills; the stalk is yellowish above and brownish below. Grows in clusters on deciduous logs. October–May. Cap convex to flat; tawny to reddish brown or reddish yellow; texture smooth and sticky to tacky to slimy. Gills broad; fairly well separated; whitish to yellowish; attachment notched. Stalk narrowing downward; yellowish above, brownish black below; texture velvety. Spore print white. Spores magnified are elliptical, smooth, colorless.

Lookalikes: The deadly galerina (Galerina marginata) has brown spores, yellowish to rusty brown gills, and a ring on the stalk (which may disappear with age).

Size

Cap width: 1–2 inches; stalk length: 2–3 inches; stalk width: 1/8 to 1/4 inch.

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Photo of velvet foot mushrooms, very young specimens, in a vertical arrangement.
Velvet Foot (Young Specimens)
When young, velvet foot mushrooms have light-colored stalks.

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Photo of a velvet foot mushroom cluster, shown from below.
Velvet Foot
Wild velvet foot is the same species as the thin white cultivated enoki mushrooms available in supermarkets.

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Photo of velvet foot mushrooms showing wet caps.
Velvet Foot (Wet Specimens)
Velvet foot mushrooms appear in cooler weather. The caps are shiny and sticky when damp.
Habitat and conservation

Grows in clusters on deciduous logs. They are found from autumn, through winter, to spring, making them one of the few mushrooms one sees in wintertime. In winter, they can arise during warm spells, sometimes pushing up through snow.

Distribution in Missouri

Statewide.

Status

Not recommended for eating. Although this is an edible mushroom, we don’t recommend eating it because it can easily be confused with the deadly galerina. Since the wild velvet foot isn’t a particularly tasty mushroom anyway, don’t chance it!

Life cycle

This species exists most of the time as a network of fungal cells (mycelium) within rotting logs, branches, or roots. The mycelium obtains nourishment by digesting, and rotting, the wood. When ready to reproduce, the mycelium develops mushrooms, which are reproductive structures. 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

Wild velvet foot is the same species as the cultivated enoki available in supermarkets. When velvet foot is grown in tall jars in the dark, it develops long, spaghetti-like stalks and tiny caps. The cultivated enoki are usually eaten raw or added to delicate Asian-style soups.

Ecosystem connections

Fungi and their fruiting bodies, mushrooms, are part of our natural environment. Their importance in forest ecosystems is monumental. Besides nourishing forest trees through symbiosis, they are also the wood rotters of the natural world.