Decurrent gills

Lactarius deliciosus

Lactarius deliciosus, known as the Saffron milk cap, Red pine mushroom is the one of the best known members of the large milk-cap genus Lactarius in the order Russulales. It is found in Europe and North America and has been accidentally introduced to other countries under conifers and can be found growing in pine plantations.

In the Girona area, this type of mushroom is called a pinatell because it is collected near wild pine trees; they are typically harvested in October following the late August rain. Due to its scarcity it commands high prices.

A fresco in the Roman town of Herculaneum appears to depict Lactarius deliciosus and is one of the earliest pieces of art to illustrate a fungus.

When grown in liquid culture, the mycelium of this fungus produces Anofinic acid, chroman-4-one, 3-hydroxyacetylindole, cyclic dipeptides, ergosterol, and a mixture of fatty acids.


This was known to Linnaeus who officially described it in Volume Two of his Species Plantarum in 1753, giving it the name Agaricus deliciosus, the specific epithet deriving from Latin deliciosus meaning "tasty". The Swedish taxonomist allegedly gave the species its epithet after smelling it and presuming it tasted as good as a Mediterranean milk cap highly regarded for its flavor. Dutch mycologist Christian Hendrik Persoon added the varietal epithet lactifluus in 1801, before English mycologist Samuel Frederick Gray placed it in its current genus Lactarius in 1821 in his The Natural Arrangement of British Plants.

It is commonly known as saffron milk-cap, red pine mushroom, or simply pine mushroom in English. Its Catalan name is Rovelló or Rovellons. An alternate North American name is orange latex milky. Both this and Lactarius deterrimus are known as Çam melkisi or Çintar in Turkey.


Lactarius deliciosus has a carrot orange cap which is convex to vase shaped, inrolled when young, 4 to 14 cm across, often with darker orange lines in the form of concentric circles. The cap is sticky and viscid when wet, but is often dry. It has crowded decurrent gills and a squat orange stipe which is often hollow, 3 to 8 cm long and 1 to 2 cm thick. This mushroom stains a deep green color when handled. When fresh, the mushroom exudes an orange-red latex or "milk" that does not change color.

This mushroom is often confused with Lactarius rubidus which stains green, has red latex, and is also edible.

Distribution and habitat

Lactarius deliciosus grows under the acidic soil of conifers and forms a mycorrhizal relationship with its host tree. It is native to the southern Pyrenees where it grows under Mediterranean pines. Both this fungus and L. deterrimus are collected and sold in the İzmir Province of southwestern Turkey, and the Antalya Province of the south coast.

It can also be found in woodlands in North America as well as having been introduced to Chile, Australia and New Zealand, where it grows in Pinus radiata plantations. Many people of Italian, Polish, Ukrainian and other eastern European ancestry in the states of Victoria and New South Wales, Australia travel to collect these mushrooms after autumn rainfall around Easter time.


Lactarius deliciosus is a widely collected mushroom in the Southern Pyrenees and Majorca and used in Catalan cuisine. One recipe recommends they should be lightly washed, fried whole cap down in olive oil with a small amount of garlic and served drenched in raw olive oil and parsley. The same recipe advised that butter should never be used when cooking this mushroom.

Further north and east it is a feature of Provençal cuisine.


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