Stem: White to pale cream, rather long in relation to the cap, tapering towards the base of the stem. Smooth, discolours slightly when handled.
Flesh: white or pale cream, no real colour change, produces milk in the cap. Can crumble when handled, thick but not too tough.
Overall: a white mushroom that is often covered in debris that gets stuck to the cap. An occasional species that is widespread and occasional in the UK. A very hot species, used more as a spice than as an edible mushroom.
Cap: begins white and rounded but becomes a creamy/yellow and flatter with age. The margin starts of inrolled but unrolls as it matures and becomes flatter. With age it can develop some orange/red spots.
Gills: very crowded, decurrent, cream at first become whiter with age and later a slight dirty brown colour.
to produce milk
Cap: 6-15cm across Stem: 4-9cm in length, 2-4cm diameter
OVERALL: This attractive looking mushroom is a typical milk cap and that will be the first thing to look for when identifying it, gently damage the gills or break a bit of the edge of the cap and it should ooze a little milk, obviously, and that should tell you that you have a milkcap. The next thing is the all white colour with slightly cream gills, especially in younger specimens, becoming whiter as it matures, the gills are very crowded, to the point where it looks like they are so crammed together that it almost appears smooth on the underside. There are other large white milk caps but none have their gills as crowded together as the peppery milkcap. In many parts of Eastern Europe they stick to drying and using it very sparingly as a spice. It grows with a variety if deciduous trees throughout Europe - all the sites I have encountered this species have both oak and beech in close proximity.
HABITAT: usually with Beech (Fagus) and occasionally under other decidious trees.
DISTRIBUTION: Occasional over much of the UK.
SEASON: late summer to autumn.
EDIBILITY: 1/5, whilst it is not recommended to eat as a mushroom (if that makes sense), instead you would be advised to dry the peppery milk cap and then grind it in to powder or flakes and use sparingly like you would chilli flakes. People who have eaten this mushroom whole generally parboil it and even then many report it being not very tasty (but hot) and suffering some digestive discomfort.
SMELL: Not distinctive.
SPORE PRINT: White.
SIMILAR SPECIES: Of the other larger white milkcaps then the two that would lead to possible confusion are the Blushing Milkcap (Lactarius controversus) and the Fleecy Milkcap (Lactarius vellereus). The Fleecy Milkcap is generally a much larger mushroom with a 'fleecy' feel to the cap, especially towards the margin, the stem is 'shorter' in proportion to the rest of the mushroom. The gills of the Peppery Milkcap are much more crowded than than both of the possible look-a-likes. The Blushing Milkcap often appears like it has been 'bruised' with pink/purple colour on the cap and stem, the stem is shorter and the gills are not as closely packed, it is also mainly found with Poplar, Aspen and Willow.
SYNONYMS: Lactarius piperatus (Scop. ex Fr.) Gray, Agaricus piperatus Scop., Agaricus lactifluus var. piperatus (L.) Pers., Lactarius vellereus var. vellereus (Fr.) Fr.