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What is a Mauve Splitting Wax Cap?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 16 November 2016
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A mauve splitting wax cap is a mushroom native to the forests of Australia and New Zealand. As might be imagined from the name, this fungus is famous for its purple hue and for the distinctively split cap, which also has a waxy texture. Because of its brilliant color, the mushroom is a popular subject for photographers in the areas where it grows, and it is easy to identify, making it a good starter fungus for people who are just starting to learn to identify mushrooms.

Not least because of its color, the mauve splitting wax cap was almost certainly known to natives of New Zealand and Australia long before Europeans arrived, but as is common with plants and animals native to colonial regions, Europeans are credited with its “discovery.” Because the privilege of naming generally goes to the person who discovers an organism, a European biologist, Karoly Kalchbrenner, named this mushroom after describing it in the late 1800s.

Formally known as Humidcutis lewelliniae, this mushroom is in the wax cap family. Like other members of this family, it has a texture that is slightly waxy to the touch, and as the genus name implies, the skin is very moist, which can add to the waxy feel. Wax caps also often leave a waxy residue on the skin, which can feel odd or unpleasant, depending on one's feelings about wax.

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Several features beyond the color distinguish the mauve splitting wax cap. This fungus is gilled, with the gills being free, rather than attached, and the distinctive splits in the cap develop along the line of the gills underneath. The cap is shaped rather like an umbrella, and the stem, also known as the stipe, is smooth. The spore print is white, and the mushroom does not appear to be edible.

This fungus prefers moist environments, and it can be found in both temperate and tropical regions of New Zealand and Australia. It is most abundant in areas with thick layers of leaf mold, and the mushrooms often grow in small clusters. They will also grow in sandy soils.

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