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Quick facts

Common name: charcoal burner

Scientific name: Russula cyanoxantha

Family: Russulaceae

Fruiting season: July to November

Habitat: broadleaf woodland

What does charcoal burner fungus look like?

Though the species varies in colour, making identification difficult, charcoal burner has a distinctive brittle texture and in the UK never has a ring. It is its crumbly texture which gives this group of fungi the name of ‘the brittlegills’. The crumbly flesh is made up of lots of spherical cells.

Cap: 5–15cm in diameter, starting out as perfectly spherical but over time becoming convex with a slight central depression. Found in a variety of cap colours, from reddish purple to brown and yellow.

Gills: most pliable area of the fungus, densely packed and sometimes forked.

Stipe (stalk): cylindrical, 1.5–3cm in diameter and 5–10cm tall. Mostly white in colour but can be tinged purple.

Spores: white and oval-shaped.

Not to be confused with: Russula xerampelina, which can have a similar cap colour, but has a distinctive fishy odour. There are approximately 160 species of brittlegills (Russula spp.) in the UK, and they can be difficult to identify.

Charcoal burner in woodland habitat

Credit: Aleksandar Milutinovic / Alamy Stock Photo

Where to find charcoal burner fungus

Charcoal burner fungus grows throughout the UK. It is very common and widespread in broadleaf woodland containing oak and beech.

Uses of charcoal burner fungus

Charcoal burner fungi are edible and are popular in cooking as they have a nutty taste and retain their texture.

Did you know?

The charcoal burner is so named because the caps resemble the colours of burning charcoal, and because they are reminiscent of the ruddy faces of the charcoal burners.