3 Types of Purple Mushrooms

Cortinarius violaceus, commonly known as violet webcap mushroom
© Phant/Shutterstock.com

Written by Cammi Morgan

Published: February 13, 2024

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While purple mushrooms aren’t particularly common, they are an absolute delight to come across on strolls through the forest. Typically, these colorful, whimsical mushrooms are the most vivid and striking when young, as their lovely purple coloration often fades with age and weathering.

In this guide, we’ll take a look at three types of purple mushrooms, where they grow, their morphological features, ecological roles, and edibility status.

Read on to learn more!

1. Types of Purple Mushrooms: Violet Webcap (Cortinarius violaceus)

Cortinarius violaceus, commonly known as violet webcap mushroom
Cortinarius violaceus

is eaten by some people, but few, if anyone, consider it a choice edible.

©Phant/Shutterstock.com

When young and fresh, the violet webcap (Cortinarius violaceus) is a stunning mushroom with vibrant purple gills, cap, and stem (aka stipe). This lovely mushroom occurs across temperate forests of North America, Europe, and Asia. In the British Isles, this species is endangered. It also occasionally grows in the subarctic regions of western Greenland.

Identification

It’s important to note that Cortinarius violaceus does not retain its purple coloration throughout the entirety of its life cycle. Aged specimens are often mostly brown with some purple streaks. This species is much easier to identify when it is immature to mature recently.

Cap

Immature Cortinarius violaceus specimens have convex-shaped caps. As it grows, the cap expands to broadly convex, almost flat, or slightly bell-shaped. Before it becomes aged, the cap is a lovely violet color. Sometimes, the cap is covered in dense fine hairs, giving it a fuzzy/scaley texture. The cap may grow up to about 5 inches in diameter. Markedly aged specimens typically feature a dark brown cap that may have hints of purple. The flesh throughout is purple to purplish gray on mature specimens.

Gills

When young, the gills are dark violet. The gills of immature specimens are covered by a purple, web-like partial veil, which is called a cortina. This veil breaks as the cap expands. The gills become purplish gray and eventually rusty brown as the spores mature. The spore print is rusty brown. The gills aren’t crowded and typically feature short gills in between the ones that run from the underside of the cap margin to the stipe.

Stipe

Like the rest of this lovely mushroom, when young, the stipe is purple and often covered in fine hairs. Mature specimens feature brown to brown-black stripes that are nearly hollow. It can measure up to 6 inches tall and reach about .75 inches thick. The base of the stipe is typically swollen.

Ecology

The violet webcap is a mycorrhizal species. This means the filamentous, underground portion of the fungus (the mycelium) engages in a mutually beneficial nutrient exchange with the roots of host trees. Cortinarius violaceus is associated with a range of both hardwood and conifer trees. This species fruits in fall either alone, scattered, or abundantly across the forest floor.

Edibility

Field guide claims on the edibility of Cortinarius violaceus vary. Additionally, some webcaps are quite toxic. As such, we do not recommend consumption.

2. Types of Purple Mushrooms: Amethyst Deceiver (Laccaria amethystina)

Purple violet mushroom Amethyst deceiver (Laccaria amethystina)

©godi photo/Shutterstock.com

Quite distinctive and beautiful when young, the amethyst deceiver (Laccaria amethystina) produces enchanting amethyst purple fruiting bodies. Laccaria amethystina commonly occurs in temperate forested regions across Asia, northern South America, Central America, eastern North America, and Europe.

Identification

As this gilled, cap-and-stipe mushroom matures, dries out, or endures weathering, it turns cream-to-brown color. The common name of “deceiver” refers to the difficulty in identifying mature or weathered specimens that have lost their vibrant amethyst coloration.

Cap

Initially convex with in-rolled margins, the purple cap expands to a broadly convex or flat shape. The margins may have pale striations. Many display a central depression, and some older specimens may feature upturned margins. At maturity, the cap may grow up to a little over 2 inches in diameter. The flesh is thin and pale, purplish gray.

Gills

Fresh, non-aged individuals display lovely dark purple gills. The gills are waxy, spaced distantly apart, broad, sometimes wavy, and interspersed with short gills. The gills typically lose their strikingly purple color before the cap in response to the maturing spores, which produce a white spore print.

Stipe

The stipe is rarely fully purple, even when young. Instead, it often features patches of purplish gray to purplish brown. The stipe is typically equal in thickness except for a slightly swollen base. It can measure up to about 3 inches in height. The stipe is hollow and fibrous.

Ecology

In North America, Laccaria amethystina only occurs east of the Rocky Mountains. What broad categories of tree this species is mycorrhizal with depends on its growing region. In North America, the amethyst deceiver fruits are from late spring through summer and can primarily be found with hardwoods, especially beeches. Additionally, a 2001 study confirmed L. amethystina to be an “ammonia fungus,” a species that develops fruiting bodies in abundance after neutral or weakly alkaline soil is amended with ammonium-nitrogen.

Edibility

This species is technically edible. However, the stipe is fibrous, the flesh is thin, and not particularly flavorful. The amethyst deceiver is also similar looking to a couple of other poisonous purple mushrooms.

Additionally, researchers have found that Laccaria amethystina may contain harmful levels of elemental arsenic in contaminated soils compared to several other mushroom species growing in the same soil. This suggests a hyperaccumulation of arsenic by L. amethystina. Given its less-than-stellar flavor profile and potential for hyperaccumulation of arsenic, consumption is not recommended.

3. Types of Purple Mushrooms: Lilac Fibrecap (Inocybe lilacina)

A Lilac fibrecap toadstool, Inocybe geophylla var. lilacina, showing its bright purple colouration on the floor of woodland

This beautiful mushroom contains a toxin that is especially toxic to canines.

©Starsphinx/Shutterstock.com

Commonly occurring across North America and mainland Europe, the lilac fibrecap (Inocybe lilacina) is a lovely mushroom to stumble across on a forest stroll.

Identification

This light purple species is perhaps one of the most colorful of the approximately 1000+ species in the Inocybe genus. Like many other purple-colored mushroom species, Inocybe lilacina tends to lose its distinctive and lovely purple coloration with age and consistent exposure to direct sunlight. When young and fresh, however, the fruiting body is a delightful, gentle lilac.

Cap

The cap of an immature lilac fibrecap is conical. As the mushroom matures, the cap expands to broadly bell-shaped. The caps of young specimens are a beautiful lilac, although they may also feature patches of pale pink or cream. As the cap ages, the color tends to fade to a pinkish or pale purplish-brown. Caps of very old specimens or those exposed to direct sunlight often fade to nearly white. The cap may measure up to 1.5 inches in diameter. The flesh is lilac to off-white.

Gills

The gills of Inocybe lilacina crowd, initially pale purplish-gray-brown and narrowly attached to the stipe. As the spores mature, the gills become light brown and produce a brown spore print. The gills of Immature specimens are covered by a white, cobweb-like partial veil called a cortina.

Stipe

The stipe is faintly lilac to off-white with an equal or swollen base. Sometimes, fine hairs cover it, and a faint partial veil ring may be present. The stipe may measure up to about 3 inches tall.

Ecology

Inocybe lilacina is mycorrhizal with hardwoods and conifers. You may find it growing solo, scattered, or abundantly across the forest floor. Depending on the growing region of North America, it may fruit from late fall through early winter.

Edibility

The lilac fibrecap is quite poisonous and contains toxic levels of muscarine. While lovely to gaze upon, when ingested, this species can cause significant nerve toxicity with symptoms including:

  • Tremors
  •  Low blood pressure (hypotension)
  •  Blurred vision
  •  Restlessness
  •  Fainting
  •  Increased or decreased heart rate (tachycardia and bradycardia)
  •  Hypersalivation
  •  GI pain
  •  Vomiting
  •  Diarrhea
  •  Sweating
  •  Seizures


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About the Author

Cammi Morgan is a writer at A-Z Animals where her primary focus is on mycology, marine animals, forest and river ecology, and dogs. Cammi has been volunteering in animal rescue for over 10 years, and has been studying mycology and field-researching mushrooms for the past 3 years. A resident of Southeast Appalachia, Cammi loves her off-grid life where she shares 20 acres with her landmates, foster dogs, and all the plants, fungi, and critters of the forest.

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