Emetic Russula

Russula silvicola

Michael Wood

The Emetic Russulas are a group of mushrooms (fungus) which are closely related, and look a lot alike. Russula silvicola is one of them, and it's our most common Emetic Russula. The word "emetic" means it makes you throw up, so as you can guess, it's not a good idea to eat one of these.

Not all Emetic Russulas are exactly the same, so from here on out, when we refer to Emetic Russula, we are talking about Russula silvicola.

Emetic Russulas are found in dry woods, edges of woods, and brushy areas. You will find them close to trees they have a special relationship with.

Emetic Russulas have a pink or reddish cap, which can grow over 3 inches wide. Sometimes the cap has yellow blotches. The stalk of this mushroom is white, and usually two to four inches tall.

Emetic Russulas are very brittle and break easily.

Mark Steinmetz

Underneath the cap, Emetic Russulas have white gills, which is where spores come out. Mushrooms do not have nectar, pollen, or seeds like plants do. Instead, gills under the cap make spores, which travel by wind or animal and try to grow new mushrooms.

Actually, mushrooms aren't even the main part of the fungus. Like all mushrooms, Emetic Russulas grow from tiny whitish threads, called mycelia. Mycelia are the main part of the fungus. Fungi bodies are networks of mycelia growing in the soil. In late Summer and Fall, the Emetic Russula mycelia send up mushrooms, just like plants grow flowers. The mushrooms and spores are the fungus's way of reproducing itself.

Even after the mushrooms disappear, the Emetic Russula mycelia are still there, where they grow year-round in the soil. Some species of fungi have mycelia which stretch for miles.

Photo: Copyright, Taylor F. Lockwood

Terry Goyan

Emetic Russulas have a special relationship with some trees called a mycorrhizal relationship. This is when the fungus has tiny threads, called "hyphae" which penetrate into a tree's roots.

A mycorrhizal relationship is an example of mutualism, which is where two species help each other. The fungus pulls nutrients from the tree roots, but it also gives nutrients to the tree which it wouldn't normally be able to get.

Emetic Russulas are often found underneath, or near (tree roots grow far), their mycorrhizal partners. American Beech and pine trees are some of the trees which share with Emetic Russulas.


Illinois Mycological Association

Brother Alfred Brousseau

Emetic Russulas have another relationship with a plant, this one is a parasytic relationship. Indian Pipe is a plant which puts its roots into the mycelia of Emetic Rususulas. It gets nutrients from the fungus, which gets them from a tree. As far as we know, Indian Pipe doesn't give anything in return, so it is a parasite of Emetic Russulas and their mycorrhizal partners.

When they are not growing under partner trees, Emetic Russulas are found on rotted wood, dead leaves, and old logs. Sometimes the mushrooms are found by themselves, and other times they are in scattered groups. If they are in groups, they are probably mycorrhizal with a nearby tree.

Emetic Russulas also make "mushrumps." A mushrump is the name given a pile of leaves being pushed up by a young mushroom. You can't see the mushroom underneath, so it looks like the leaves form a small dome.

Relationships in Nature:

Animals Using as Food Source
Animals Using as Shelter
Associations With Plants

American Beech

American Beech My

Virginia Pine

Virginia Pine My

Eastern White Pine

Eastern White Pine My

Indian Pipe

Indian Pipe Pa

Relationship to Humans:

Emetic Russulas are not good mushrooms to eat, they will make you throw up. If you find them under trees in your yard, though, remember they are helping the trees grow.


Russula silvicola


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