Reddening Lepiota

Family: 
Agaricaceae
Description: 

Large, reddish brown mushroom with scaly cap and ring on stalk; bruises dark red. Single or in clusters on mulch or dead wood. June–October. Cap convex to flat, with a definite knob in the center; whitish with pinkish scales when young, ages reddish brown; bruises dark red; flesh white, bruising yellowish orange when young, red with handling or with age; texture scaly. Gills broad; spacing close; white, turning reddish; attachment free. Stalk widening toward the middle, then tapering toward the bottom; white at first, staining reddish brown with handling or age; texture smooth; has a ring. Partial veil leaving a white, skirtlike ring on the upper stalk. Spore print white. Spores magnified are elliptical, smooth, colorless, with a pore at the tip.

Lookalikes: Green-spored lepiota (Chlorophyllum molybdites) has white gills that turn grayish or greenish, green spores, and it does not bruise red. Parasol (Macrolepiota procera) does not bruise red and has a scaly stalk.

Size: 
Cap width: 1–6 inches; stalk length: 3–5 inches; stalk width: ¼–¾ inch at the top.
Habitat and conservation: 
Grows singly or in clusters in mulch piles, waste areas, and around stumps. The reddening lepiota can often be found in large groups, enough to make a good dinner.
Distribution in Missouri: 
Statewide.
Status: 
A good edible—with caution. Don’t confuse this with the poisonous green-spored lepiota. It's best to take a spore print before eating.
Life cycle: 
Mushrooms exist most of the time underground or within rotting logs as a network of cells (mycelium) connected to tree roots, rotting material, and the soil. When ready to reproduce, the mycelium sends up the mushroom, which is the reproductive structure. 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: 
Humans have eaten mushrooms for thousands of years, in many cultures, for various purposes. Sometimes they are eaten for their nutritional and culinary value; sometimes they are considered medicinal. Be absolutely sure of your identifications before you consume wild mushrooms!
Ecosystem connections: 
Fungi and their fruiting bodies, mushrooms, are part of our natural environment. Their importance in forest ecosystems is monumental. Besides nourishing forest trees through symbiosis, they are also the wood rotters of the natural world.