Quick facts

Common names: wood blewit, blue hat, blue cap, blue leg

Scientific name: Clitocybe nuda, sometimes recorded as Lepista nuda

Family: Tricholomataceae

Fruiting season: September to December

Habitat: coniferous and deciduous woodland

What does wood blewit look like?

This edible mushroom can be quite chunky looking, with a blue-lilac tinge on the cap and a bluer hue to the gills and stalk – especially when young.

Cap: stocky, 6–15cm in diameter with a blue-violet tinge.

Gills/spores: gills are crowded and grow into the stalk, in young mushrooms they have a blue-lilac colour but the gills turn brown as the mushroom matures. Spores are pale pinkish.

Stipe (stalk): 15–25mm in diameter and 5–10cm tall. It may have a swollen base. Blue tinged, especially when young.

Not to be confused with: species from the Cortinarius genus, especially as some of these also have a blue-lilac tinge. But they have a rather unpleasant smell and their gills are brown.

Credit: Chris O'Reilly / Alamy Stock Photo

Where to find wood blewit

Wood blewit is widespread and common in the UK, Ireland and mainland Europe and in many other parts of the world, including North America. Look for it in the leaf litter in coniferous and deciduous woodland and under hedgerows.

Did you know?

Blewits only start to appear when the temperature drops to below 17 degrees as they like the cold and will survive a frost quite easily.

Mythology and symbolism

The wood blewit’s occasional habit of growing in rings, called fairy rings – a tendency seen in a number of fungi species – has long been part of European folklore. Some believe the rings symbolised a place where fairies, pixies or elves danced in the woods. Others believe that the rings were a portal between the fairy world and the human world. However, most cultures considered them dangerous places for humans. Many myths warned that anyone entering a fairy ring was likely to die young and would either become invisible to the mortal world, unable to escape the ring, or be transported instantly to the fairy world.

The rings are actually a natural phenomenon resulting from the way the mycelium grows underground. Starting at a single point it grows outwards in a circular motion, searching for more nutrients. Over time, the circle of fruiting bodies above ground will appear in an ever widening circle, reflecting the mycelium beneath.

Credit: Blickwinkel / Alamy Stock Photo

Uses of wood blewit

Wood blewits are generally regarded as edible mushrooms as long as they're cooked thoroughly. It has a distinctive, strong flavour and smells faintly of aniseed, and is good in stews, omelettes or fried in butter. However, there are cases of it causing allergic reactions when eaten raw, and in some people even when it's cooked.  It can also be used as a dye, resulting in a green-grass colour – not purple or pink as might be expected.

Did you know?

According to records, wood blewit was eaten by people as early as the 18th century.

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