Everything about the nebulous clitocybe: characteristics, habitat, and uses

The Clouded Funnel, or Lepista nebularis, is a common mushroom in the Northern Hemisphere, often found under beech and fir trees in autumn. Although this mushroom was once consumed, it is now considered toxic. Discover its characteristics, uses, and precautions to take.

General characteristics

The Clouded Funnel is distinguished by its gray cap measuring 5 to 20 cm in diameter, its tight cream gills, and its specific odor often compared to that of oyster mushrooms or a chicken coop. This medium to large-sized mushroom has a rolled margin and a cuticle ranging from gray to white. The gills descend slightly along the stem, and although its taste is mild, its odor is unpleasant.

This mushroom gives off various scents such as musty-earth, fecal, fungal, cheese, as well as rose and bitter almond. The spores of Clitocybe nebularis are smooth and reactive to certain chemicals, carried by basidia measuring between 22 and 30 μm in length.

Classification and history

The species Agaricus nebularis was discovered in 1789 by the botanist August Johann Georg Karl Batsch. Later, Elias Magnus Fries confirmed this identification. Initially classified in the genus Agaricus, it was then moved to the genus Clitocybe by Paul Kummer in 1871. Although there are similarities with the Lepistas, it is now considered under its synonym Clitocybe nebularis for nomenclature reasons. Its morphological characteristics, however, bring it closer to Lepistas rather than Clitocybes.

  • Agaricus nebularis also known as Clitocybe nebularis.
  • Other name: Lepista nebularis.
  • Gymnopus nebularis formerly called Agaricus pileolarius.

Possible confusions

It is crucial not to confuse the Clouded Funnel with toxic species. For example, the Livid Entoloma, highly toxic, has butter-yellow to pink gills and emits a flour-like odor. It is also important to be cautious with other mushrooms like the Pleasant Hygrophorus, which has white and spaced gills with a bitter almond odor, or the Miller, edible but recognizable by its fragile flesh and strong flour fragrance.

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The Clouded Funnel is distinguished by its gray cap, decurrent cream gills, grayish club-shaped stem, and distinctive odor.

Habitat and distribution

The Clouded Funnel mainly grows in beech forests and under deciduous trees in the Northern Hemisphere. These mushrooms prefer moist and nutrient-rich soils, such as those in forests with young or middle-aged trees. They thrive in hollows where the litter is thick.

Clitocybe nebularis is a widespread species, tolerant to different soil pH levels. It easily colonizes clayey soils but avoids sandy, gravelly, and marshy areas. These mushrooms are often found in circles under beech trees, but can also be found in other types of forests such as fir or oak forests.

Culinary uses and precautions

Harvesting the Clouded Funnel, an edible mushroom appreciated in various countries, requires precautions to limit its toxicity. Some experts suggest removing the mushroom’s cuticle, while others recommend treating it with vinegar and oil to eliminate toxins. Several techniques such as successive blanching or drying followed by powder reduction are also mentioned to make this mushroom safer for consumption.

In Spain and French-speaking regions such as Franche-Comté and Switzerland, it is notably used in various traditional dishes like mushroom crusts or soups.

Medicinal properties

Despite its toxicity, the Clouded Funnel contains substances like nebularine, with antibiotic and antifungal properties. Mushrooms produce various secondary metabolites with interesting properties. For example, the Clouded Agaric contains substances like nebularine that have antibiotic, antifungal, and insecticidal activities. These components are obtained through biotechnology or chemical synthesis today. In addition to their effects against viruses, parasites, and specific cells, they show promising potential in various fields.

Harmful effects of substances

The Clouded Funnel, a mushroom often responsible for intoxications, causes symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, headaches, and intestinal disorders. These effects appear quickly after consumption, sometimes affecting only certain individuals. Intoxications can result from insufficient cooking, sudden allergies, or consumption of specimens that are too old or altered. It is important to carefully check the condition and freshness of the mushrooms before eating them to avoid any health risks.

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In France, this species is now considered non-edible. In French-speaking Switzerland, the VAPKO association confirmed in 2023 that it is not edible. Mycological societies in Germany, Austria, and Italy share the same opinion.

Distribution and ecology

Clouded Funnel mushrooms are mainly found in beech forests and under deciduous trees. These mushrooms prefer moist and nutrient-rich soils, such as those in forests with young or middle-aged trees. They thrive in hollows where the litter is thick.

Clitocybe nebularis is a widespread species in the Northern Hemisphere, tolerant to different soil pH levels. It easily colonizes clayey soils but avoids sandy, gravelly, and marshy areas. Its development is favored by a moist and nitrogen-rich environment.

These mushrooms are often found in circles under beech trees, but can also be found in other types of forests such as fir or oak forests. Their adaptability allows them to survive in various forest habitats while being abundant in the northern regions of our planet.

Study of living beings

The Volvariella surrecta mushroom parasitizes a decomposing specimen of Clitocybe nebularis. Fruiting bodies appear late, usually between September and November or December. These mushrooms are clearly visible towards the end of autumn and the beginning of winter. Clitocybe nebularis can take on different gregarious forms such as conical, clustered, fused, with anastomosis phenomena. It can also develop a ring-like mycelium in a circle.

The fragmentation of forests by human activities leads to a decrease in the number of fungal species and negatively affects the intra-species genetic diversity, including that of Clitocybe nebularis.

Unlike most agaricales, Clitocybe nebularis is not heavily affected by larvae of the fly Mycetophila fungorum due to insecticidal metabolites potentially related to rice. In the advanced stage of decomposition, this mushroom becomes the host of the mycoparasitic mushroom Volvariella surrecta, resulting in deformed fruiting bodies covered with white mycelium, especially observed towards the end of autumn.

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How to cook the Clouded Funnel

Although the Clouded Funnel is now considered toxic due to the gastrointestinal issues it can cause, there are methods to reduce its toxicity and make it safer to consume. Here are some suggested techniques:

  1. Remove the cuticle: The cap skin may contain toxins, so it is recommended to remove it before cooking.
  2. Blanching: Blanch the mushrooms several times in boiling water, changing the water between each blanching, to help eliminate some toxic substances.
  3. Treatment with vinegar and oil: Some experts recommend marinating the mushrooms in vinegar and oil to neutralize toxins.
  4. Drying: Drying the mushrooms and then reducing them to powder is another method to decrease their toxicity. The powder can then be used as a condiment.
  5. Extended cooking: Cooking the mushrooms for a long time at high temperatures also helps reduce the risk of intoxication.

Recipe examples:

  • Mushroom crusts: Sauté blanched mushrooms with garlic and parsley, then serve them on toasted bread crusts.
  • Mushroom soup: Add dried mushroom powder to a vegetable soup to provide a rich flavor.
  • Mushroom marinade: Marinate with vinegar, olive oil, aromatic herbs, and spices, then store in the refrigerator for later use.

It is crucial to remember that despite these methods, consuming the Clouded Funnel carries risks and should be done with caution. Always make sure to properly identify the mushrooms and follow food safety recommendations.

Conclusion

The Clouded Funnel is a multifaceted mushroom. Although it is now considered toxic, its medicinal properties and rich history make it a subject of interest for mycologists and mushroom enthusiasts. Always proceed with caution when harvesting it.