Stem: to around 10cm, often curved or bowed, usually a lighter colour than the cap. Has a 'snake-skin' effect on the stem which can be clearer on some specimens more than others. Often yellowy in parts with reddish blothces. When broken it is fibrous.
Flesh: pale cream through to brownish at times, the stems are often very maggotty. It has an earthy/radish smell, more noticable on cutting.
Note: one of the most toxic species in the UK and has known to kill people, it is attributed to a number of fatalities in Central and Northern Europe. No part of this mushroom should be eaten or tasted. The variation in the shape of speciems can be quite dramatic, some have very conical caps and some much flatter, this collection of mushrooms were all taken from the same small patch in North Wales.
Cap: tawny to brown, begins with small fibrils but these soon disappear and leave a smooth cap. The variation in shape is notable, some specimens having much more conical shapes than some of tee flatter ones.
OVERALL: A mushroom that unless you are in the right area and habitat you are unlikely to encounter, indeed at the time of writing (2016) there are just over 100 records on the national database, but it can be quite numerous where it is found. As its name suggest it is deadly and the last known case of poisoning in the UK was in 1979 where it is said the people who ate it thought it was the Chanterelle (Cantharellus cibarius). This species is common in Northern Europe and the cases of poisonings of this species are on the rise, so great care must be taken in learning its identification so you know to avoid it. Symptoms of this mushroom can be delayed by up to two days, where flu like symptoms along with vomiting occur before total renal failure if left untreated.
HABITAT: Usually found in coniferous woodland, frequently with Pine (Pinus) and Spruce (Picea). Often found in small groups and can be numerous, damp acid soil with moss are its typical haunts.
DISTRIBUTION: Scarce in Scotland and rare in the rest of the UK, typically more records the further north you travel.
SEASON: July to November.
EDIBILITY: Deadly Poisonous, no part of this mushroom should ever be consumed or tasted.
SMELL: Earthy or faintly of radish.
SPORE COLOUR: Rusty brown.
CURRENT SCIENTIFIC NAME: Cortinarius rubellus Cooke
SYNONYMS: Cortinarius orellanoides Rob. Henry. Cortinarius speciosissimus nom. illeg. Kühner & Romagn. Cortinarius speciosus nom. illegit. J. Favre
SIMILAR SPECIES: This species has been confused with the edible Chanterelle (Cantharellus cibarius) which is a very big mistake. Firstly Deadly Webcap does not have deccurent gills, it is not egg yellow and the gills are brown and real gills, not like the veins on the Chanterelle. The False Chanterelle (Hygrophoropsis aurantiaca) is much more orange colour, though the colour can fade to yellow or even pale cream, but never usually brown, it has strongly decurrent gills too. The Brown Rollrim (Paxillus involutus) also has strongly decurrent gills and is generally larger, the edge of the cap also turns in at the margin. There are many other Cortinarius you could confuse this species and all Cortinarius should be avoided when picking mushrooms to eat. The 'snake-skin' type pattern on the stem, the colour of the cap and the shape of it is quite distinctive though.
Gills: when this mushroom begins to grow the gills are protected by a 'web' like structure, as the cap expands this web disappears. The gills themselves are pale yellow at first and as the spores develop they tinge the gills a rusty brown colour.
From Cortina meaning 'curtains' a reference to the web around the gills when young.
Cap: 3-8cm across Stem: 4-9cm in length, 6-15mm diameter
Note: here is a younger specimen showing the 'web' like structure that is around the gills when they start.