Spore print white or yellow. Cap up to about 10 cm diam., sunken towards the centre, smooth, or with radiate ridges near margin (‘pectinate’), or scaly in one species. Colour varying between species, yellow-brown, red, purple, or green, the colours washing out in wet weather or with age. Flesh white, sometimes darkeing on exposure to air, brittle, snaps easily. Gills white to yellow, sometimes staining darker in patches with damage, colours varying between species. Stipe white or with hints of the colour of the cap, cylindric or tapering slightly towards the base, no ring.
Russula species are ectomycorrhizal, always found on the soil close to their host trees. The indigenous species are confined to either Nothofagus forests or to stands of tea-tree, where they are often found in large numbers in the autumn. There is at least one exotic species, R. sororia, found under the introduced trees Quercus and Fagus.
There have been about 30 indigenous species described from New Zealand. Because colour is important in their identification and because the colours wash out in the rain, identification to species level can be difficult without a microscope.
Lactarius is ecologically and macroscopically similar, but when damaged the flesh oozes a white or yellowish liquid. Macowanites is phylogenetically related to Russula, and is similar in colour to the red species, but it is a ‘secotioid’ fungus the gills never become exposed, remaining covered by a thin, white membrane.


NZFungi Entry

Macowanites carmineus
(=Russula kermesina)

Detail showing the distorted, partly covered gills.

Macowanites tapawera
(=Russula tapawera)

One of the species lacking a distinct stalk.

Russula griseoviridis

Characterised by a greenish, scaly cap.