Peppery Milky

Lactarius piperatus

White cap; gills densely crowded; bleeds white; has a spicy-hot taste. Grows scattered in deciduous woods. July–September. Cap convex, developing a sunken, funnel-shaped center; white to cream-colored, becoming tan with age; flesh white; texture smooth to slightly wrinkled. Latex white and abundant, tasting spicy-hot. Gills narrow; spacing crowded; white to pale cream; gills attached. Stalk straight, sometimes tapering at the base; white; texture dry with a white bloom. Spore print white. Spores magnified are elliptical, ornamented.

Lookalikes: Other white Lactarius species.

Cap width: 2–6 inches; stalk length: ¾–3½ inches; stalk width: ½–1 inch.
Habitat and conservation: 
Grows scattered in deciduous woods. Eating raw wild mushrooms is never recommended, but if you think you might have a Lactarius piperatus (that is, if your mushroom fits the description), you can tear off a tiny piece of the cap, taste it, then spit it out. If it is spicy-hot, you have a peppery milky!
Distribution in Missouri: 
Considered edible. While this is an edible mushroom, it is really too peppery to eat and enjoy. However, it can be dried and ground to a powder to use like pepper.
Life cycle: 
This species is mycorrhizal: It exists most of the time as a network of cells (mycelium) connected to tree roots, in a symbiotic relationship with the tree. (Many trees fare poorly without their fungal partners.) When ready to reproduce, the mycelium sends up the mushroom—this is the reproductive structure. Spores are produced in these structures and are released to begin new mycelia elsewhere. The mycelium of a mushroom can live for decades.
Human connections: 
Humans have eaten mushrooms for thousands of years, in many cultures, for various purposes. Sometimes they are eaten as food or for medicinal properties. This mushroom can be used as a seasoning. Be absolutely sure of your identifications before you consume wild mushrooms!
Ecosystem connections: 
This is one of many fungus species that help nourish forest trees through symbiosis. The netlike fibers of the fungus cover the surface of a tree’s roots, increasing the surface area and the roots’ ability to absorb water and nutrients. In return, the tree shares nutrients with the fungus.
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