Are these vulnerable mushrooms actually vulnerable?

So I’ve just noticed that the crimson waxcap has recently been listed as “vulnerable globally”, citing the IUCN red list, which explains how in Europe, it grows in unimproved grasslands which are on the decline. However, it mentions nothing about the status of the species in North America. Where I live in Ontario, it grows in forests and is one of the most common waxcaps (mycoquebec even lists it as “very common”). Perhaps I’m missing something here, but it seems reasonable that it should just be listed as vulnerable in Europe. I don’t know if anything should/can be done about this…it doesn’t necessarily affect anything negatively that I can think of, but I don’t think it’s accurate.

One important criterion for red lists is decline in number of individuals, habitat or area. This means that a species, which might still be common in some parts of its range, can be listed as vulnerable (or in an even worse category) as it is loosing individuals, habitat or area in other regions.

Well seems the IUCN assumes that the crimson waxcap is either not present or not native in North America. You are sure you have the same species and it is native in North America?

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I think the general consensus is that the name is probably being employed in a broad sense all over the world, but that we’ll keep using it until solid evidence comes along suggesting separation into different species. This is one of the things I’m wondering about; maybe this has been done and I’m not aware?

And you bring up a good point about its origins, I cannot find any information on whether it is native in N.A. I think most people just probably assume it (or whatever we have here) is.

Well it seems the people who wrote the assessment for the IUCN think the same - it might well be that several species are lumped under the name of “crimson waxcap”. The assessors therefore took a cautionary approach and assessed the European populations only.

I don’t know about IUCN, but some of the determinations on NatureServe make me roll my eyes. It lists Euphorbia serpens as critically imperiled for Canada. This is a worldwide weedy species that excels in human-disturbed habitats.

In my opinion, these kinds of determinations really distract and divert time and energy away from the truly imperiled species of the world. If it is a unique population worth protecting, it should be published as a new taxon (varieties and subspecies apply to unique populations that aren’t entirely distinct enough to be called species). If there is no evidence to support that, then it should really be left alone as ranking often makes the organisms harder to study, not easier. I get that we need to protect native lands, but we have to be honest and accurate about how we are going about it or the lists become essentially meaningless.


Ah…so now we are faced with a discrepancy. Should iNat treat the species as just occuring in Europe? To me it doesn’t make sense to revert all of our Hygrocybe punicea back to Hygrocybe sp. unless we can prove they’re not, but maybe that’s just my overzealous nature, wanting everything identified and done with.

That’s something I hadn’t thought of. It would worry me if this were something other than a fungus. But it’s fine. No one pays any attention to fungi.

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That will probably still take a while.

Yes you are totally right … in the very strictest sense the IUCN said nothing about the populations in the US and Asia that are currently assigned to Hygrocybe punicea. These populations might get their own assessments in the future, in case they are found to be separate species. Or they will be included back into the future IUCN assessments of Hygrocybe punicea - we do not know yet.
Until some taxonomists resolved this, we iNaters might have to live in a slightly imperfect world ;).

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Probably best to flag the taxon itself, in general that’s the place to discuss a taxon’s geoprivacy settings. Not too many users are on the Forum.


A lot of common European fungi have counterparts in North America that are not necessarily the same species. I wouldn’t doubt that “crimson waxcaps” falls under that category too.

Here’s the only paper addressing molecular phylogeny of Hygrocybe that I could find:

This study examines specimens collected in Hungary, so it doesn’t paint a global picture. But it is likely what you encounter in Quebec isn’t the same phylogenetic species as what is on the red list!

Oh, and it gets slightly imperfecter every day . . .

Probably just gonna let this lie until we get some new studies. I have since educated myself about flagging but I don’t think it would be any more productive at this point

As far as I’m aware there is no recent revision of the group in North America. There are however some North America sequences labelled H. punicea. One of them is a clear misidentification and represents a species near H. reidii. The other two are not the same as the European species and closer to one deposit labelled H. splendidissima from Europe (but not the same as another labelled splendidissima which is H. punicea). There isn’t much doubt that the North American use of the name refers to (at least one) undescribed but related species. There are hundreds of similar incorrect uses of European fungal names, especially in North America. It will be a long time before these historical misapplications are resolved. In this case the issue is known, which is why Noah Siegel and Christian Schwarz in their ‘Mushrooms of the Redwood Coast’ called their version H. punicea sensu California. However iNat doesn’t allow these kinds of annotated names.

I don’t have a solution. On the one hand calling something H. punicea is better than just ‘Hygrocybe’ even though we know it is not strictly the ‘real one’ but is related/similar. On the other hand the incorrect use of names makes distribution mapping difficult, which is critical for assessing the threats to fungi and their habitats, which are every bit as important as any other group of organisms.


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