Candy Cap Mushrooms
       Lactarius rubidus ,
       Lactarois fragilis - the "Large Candy Cap"
       Lactarius camphoratus - grows on the East Coast

These mushrooms are known and valued for their highly aromatic qualities.
They smell like maple syrup.
When fresh, the maple syrup aroma of candy caps is faint, but when dried,
the maple syrup aroma is strong
The smell or scent of dried candy caps can linger for days.

Some references indicate that the Candy Caps found in Oregon
are not as aromatic or scented as those found in California

Candy Caps often used as a flavoring rather than as a main dish.

    How to identify Candy Caps :

  1. Cap Color: a uniform cinnamony copper color
    that is sometimes darker in the center,
    The color is not zoned concentrically.
    That is, there are not lighter and darker concentric bands or rings.

  2. Cap Surface rough: The cap will not feel smooth.
    If you rub your finger lightly over the cap surface,
    it will have a rough texture, that is, it will feel nubby.

  3. Cap surface dry: The cap surface is dry, never viscid

  4. Smell: Candy Caps have a maple syrup fragrance or scent.
    The scent has been described as similar to
    maple syrup, butterscotch, burnt sugar, camphor, or vaguely spicy.

    The maple syrup scent may or may not be easily detectable
    in a fresh specimen. Fresh candy caps often don't
    demonstrate a maple fragrance until dried.
    Furthermore some people can easily detect the
    maple syrup scent while others can not.

    The scent can be revealed by burning a little bit of
    the mushroom using a butane cigarette lighter.
    Burning a little bit of the mushroom will
    release the fragrance it then can be readily detected.

    Finally it should be noted that the fragrance detected depends
    upon the person, the species, the variety, the tree symbiont, the soil,
    the duff type, the growing region, and other variables.

  5. Stipe: a snappy, crispy, and hollow stipe,
    rather than a cartilaginous or rubbery stipe.
    The stipe will break like chalk (similar to a Russula)
    The brittleness is caused by rounded cells called sphaerocysts.

  6. Latex: Produces a pale white milky latex
    that has a skim-milk consistency.
    The latex is quite watery and whitish,
    and it does not turn color upon exposure to the air.
    Stated differently, the sap has a milky translucent quality
    that looks like watered down whole milk or skim milk,
    rather than opaque white or yellow whole milk.
    The latex of many other Lactarius species turns color upon exposure to air.

  7. Cap Margin: Often wavy or frilled

  8. Cap Size: a size ranges from one to three (or more) inches in diameter.
    The body is thin rather than chunky.

  9. Spore Print: a white spore print.
    It can sometime be seen where some caps overlap others.

  10. Gills: multitudes of thin lighter gills,
    rather than a few widely spaced gills.

  11. Taste: a sweet, non acrid taste.
    Does not have a acrid or bitter component.

Some of the above is adapted from info posted by Ken Litchfield on Yahoo mushroom

Several references indicate that there are no lookalikes
that have a maple syrup scent or flavor.

According to there are several other reddish Lactarious species
on the west coast.
These are said to have thicker white milk and no maple syrup fragrance.
Furthermore, these others have an acrid, bitter, or hot taste.
These others include
    Lactarius rufus,
    L. xanthogalactus,
    L. luculentus and
    L. subviscidus

Lactareius rubidus
L. rubidus is the species most regularly called Candy Caps

Photo from Daniel Winkler's used with permission
Click Here to go to

Lactarius rubidus

Photo from used with permission
Click Here to go to

Lactarius rubidus

From photos by Alan Rockefeller
Click here to go to


Lactarius rufulus
Also called "The Large Candy Cap"

Has somewhat the same odor as the more normal Candy Cap - L. rubidus; howevber, the oder is less pronounced and more evanescent

Can be distinguished from L rubidus in that the stipe is thicker and mostly solid.
This spedcies usually fruits later in the leason than L. rubidus

Note, some guides erroneously say that this species has no ordor or taste. That is not correct.

Photo from used with permission
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Lactarius camphoratus
L. camphoratus is often called a Candy Cap.
However, this species grows in the East and not on the West Coast

L. camphoratus also grows in Europe.  
In German it is known as Wuerzpilz or
maggi-Pilz, meaning Spice mushroom.

Photo from used with permission
Click Here to go to

Lactarius camphoratus

Photo from - used with permission

Dick B. said 1/15/15
I have found them in the fall in the WA and OR cascades
but I would not say they are common.
Unless it has been dry you probably won't realize what you have found,
although you may suspect.
The aroma doesn't really become noticeable until they have started to dry.--Dick

The most notable differences between L. rubidus, L. fragilis, and L. camphoratus are as follows

L. camphoratus L. rubidus L. fragilis
Pileus shape papilla sometimes present at disc papilla or umbo typically not present umbo sometimes present at disc
Color darker reddish-brown more deep reddish-brown ("ferruginous") lighter reddish-brown to light brown
Lamellae more light yellowish to light orange more light reddish more light reddish
Spores ellipsoid to subglobose; 7.0–8.5 x 6.0–7.5 µm; ornamentation not connected (spines to short ridges) subglobose to globose; 6.0–8.5 x 6.0–8.0 µm; ornamentation semi-connected (broken to partial reticulum) subglobose to globose; 6.0–7.5 x 6.0–7.5 µm; ornamentation connected (partial to complete reticulum)
Odor more curry-like more maple-like; strong only upon drying more maple-like; strong, even when fresh
Distribution Europe, Asia, eastern North America western North America; also reported from Costa Rica eastern North America

from Wikipedia

There is good info on Candy Caps at
Click here to go to

Another Excellent source of information on Candy Caps

Click Here to go to Candy Cap page of Bay Area Myco Society

A comment offered by Debbie V.

the latex of L. rubidus here in CA does change upon exposure to air ... from a pale milky liquid to almost clear. It is quite possible that you don't have the exact same species up in the PNW. Our CA rubidus in the Bay Area occur more frequently under pine; rufulus, which is much more reddish and stocky in appearance, occurs under oak.

The following is from Posts on
Yahoo Discussion Group 1/27/17

-------------------------------------------------------------- Patrick H. said
What I started doing (in addition to discussing those points) is to bring a baggie with fenugreek in it to show folks that smell.
It isn't enough to say it smells like "curry" (as some guides do) or "vaguely spicy" but actually taking a whiff of fenugreek--a main ingredient in most Indian curry powders--brings it all back home. Sort of.
I also describe the smell as "burnt caramel" but without the burnt taste. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Mike said
If the latex is thin and resembles skim milk, the smell is sweet, the flesh is sweet and mushroomy, or at least not acrid, and the cap is rough, then it's a candy cap.
If the latex is thick or bright white, or white changing from white to yellow, or just yellow then it's not. If it's acrid, or even slightly acrid, it's not. If the cap is smooth it's not. If it lacks a sweet or fenugreeky smell then it may not be. ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

On Yahoo Mushroom talk 1/27/17 by "doublegregg"
I've been gathering candy caps for a few years, and can't exactly remember coming upon another Lactarius that looks, to my middling eye, almost exactly like a 'candy cap.' I've never been sure of the exact naming of the two (?) types of candy caps that are available in the bay area.

One seems to prefer pines, and the other oaks. I prefer the piney candy cap, which is much lighter in color and more fragrant.... The mushrooms i'm trying to id here look very much like this candy cap

Here are some photos from my phone (see above). The mushrooms have light colored gills, slightly darker colored stems, which are kind of stout and not holloiw... Everything about them looks similar to a candy cap.

The only way I can tell them apart is a) the latex is white, and doesn't change in color b) there's no nice candy cap odor. And, yeah, I guess the stems in this mushroom seem just slighly stouter and meatier... clumps of them reveal the spores to be white.

I tried tasting a bit of cap, in case it was L rufus. I couldn't tell if it was hot. Sounds like L rufus is VERY hot?? I ruled out L rufus. L substriatus has white milk which turns yellow, as does L xanthogalactus.... L subflammeus?? or something similar?

I'm not even sure I should be concerned with identifying it, other than some 'other' Lactarius... however, I guess i'd hate to mistake it for a candy cap and eat it..................

I'm open to suggestions - mainly, I want to gather my candy caps safely - it would be nice to know exactly what the other look-a-likes are. I have to admit this one has me concerned because it is SO similar. Thank you!

. to me they're almost identical to candy caps.......... jeezus...... in the previous photos one can see what sort of trees they were growing under (some sort of pine thing.... long needles....) ------------------------------------

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