Blewit

Family: 
Tricholomataceae
Description: 

All parts of this mushroom—cap, gills and stalk—are violet to tan. Grows scattered in open areas, in mulch piles, and along paths. August–October. Cap convex to flat, margin inrolled at first, becoming wavy and upturned; violet-lilac, becoming tannish; texture smooth. Gills: broad; spacing crowded; violet-lilac, fading to tan; attachment notched. Stalk often bulbous toward base; violet-tan, fading to tannish brown; texture dry, scaly; solid. Spore print pinkish buff. Spores magnified elliptical, smooth, colorless.

Lookalikes: The silvery-violet cort (Cortinarius alboviolaceus) has a cobwebby veil when young, and its gills turn brown as it matures. Look for a dusting of rusty spores on the stalk—but there's no guarantee you'll see this. Use all features when identifying any mushroom!

Size: 
Cap width: 1½–6 inches; stalk length: 1–3 inches; stalk width: ½–1 inch.
Habitat and conservation: 
The blewit grows scattered in open areas, in mulch piles, and along paths. A blewit mycelium can produce several crops per season. If you find a nice batch, check that spot again later.
Distribution in Missouri: 
Statewide.
Status: 
Considered a choice edible. Blewits are strong and delicious mushrooms. Look for them in the fall in mulch piles, and sauté them for dinner. Young specimens can be fairly easy to identify, but there can be a lot of variation in color as they age, so double- and triple-check! Remember, "when it doubt, throw it out."
Life cycle: 
This species exists most of the time as a network of fungal cells (mycelium) within rotting leaves and other forest litter. The mycelium obtains nourishment by digesting, and rotting, these organic materials. When ready to reproduce, the mycelium develops mushrooms, which are reproductive structures. Spores are produced in the gills and are released to begin new mycelia elsewhere. The mycelium of a mushroom can live for decades.
Human connections: 
The common name (blewit) is thought to be a contraction of Old English "blue hat." If you're eating a blewit for the first time, sample only a small amount at first, since some people are simply allergic to certain chemicals in certain fungi. Make sure they are cooked, too.
Ecosystem connections: 
This is one of the many fungus species that live on decaying forest litter. It and other such saprotrophic fungi play an important role in breaking down the staggering amount of leaves produced each year and helping their nutrients to return to the soil.