Pine Ring mushroom (Lactarius deliciosus)

The premise with pine rings (Lactarius deliciosus) is simple: visit a pine plantation in South Africa, containing the right host Pinus tree species, a few days after a heavy and continued bout of rain, and there’s a good chance you’ll encounter some of these orange, gilled mushrooms. They can flush in good numbers, however, attention should be paid to the features of L. deliciosus because there are a few other fairly similar-looking mushrooms that occur in our pine woods.

Like the various other introduced mycorrhizal fungi, L. deliciosus mycelium forms exclusive bonds with trees, and as you’ve already guessed in this case, the underground root systems of introduced pines trees such as Pinus radiata and Pinus pinaster. Other species that may act as indicators to the presence of L. deliciosus include Slippery Jacks (Suillus luteus) and Fly Agaric (Amanita muscaria). They begin to appear during cooler, wet weather and can be flush abundantly a few days after heavy rain, sometimes as soon as 48 hours later if conditions have been right. Look around the base of pine trees on soaking forest floors and you’ll strike it lucky: you’ll never find pine rings growing out of logs, stumps and other pieces of wood, this species is terrestrial and grows from the ground.

A basket of fresh Pine ring mushrooms (Lactarius deliciosus). © Beverley Klein

Characteristic of Lactarius mushrooms is the milk-like “latex” which they exude. They never grow from wood and other decaying substrates, only terrestrially near their host tree. True L. deliciosus has orange latex, that can be seen if the stipe or gills are sliced. While some other fruitbodies of other fungi in the Lactarius section of Deliciosi may appear very similar, the section contains only edible species. Pine ring lookalikes that are also mycorrhizal with various Pinus may include L. deterrimus, L. quieticolor and L. sanguifluus.

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