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Lactarius

Field characters

Pileus: often colored, convex to funnel shaped
Annulus: none
Stipe: usually substantial, may be quite brittle (chalky)
Stature: Tricholomatoid, Naucorioid, Clitocyboid
Ecology: Mycorrhizal

Micro characters

Basidiospores: often globose with amyloid ornamentations
Hyphae: with sphaerocytes in the cap and stipe trama
Cystidia: cheilo- and pleurocystidia present or absent (always present according to www.mycokey.com)
Spore Print: white to cream
Lamellae: often alternating with Lamellulae, subdecurrent to decurrent (Singer, 1986); attached in various manners (Largent and Baroni, 1988)
Lamellar Trama: subregular
Pileipellis: variable

Notes

Lactarius and Russula are clearly closely related and are the two members of the Russulaceae. While some microcharacters are different, in the field Russula gills tend to break cleanly when rubbed - they contain sphaerocysts), while in Lactarius they are more soft and pliant (they do not).

Of course the big difference is that Lactarius produces latex. The problem is that old specimens often do not, at which time they can be confused with Clitocybe. A quick examination of the spores will reveal if the specimen is a Lactarius.

Pay attention to the color of the latex when freshly cut, and if it turns a different color upon exposure to the air. Many keys to species are based, partly, on this character.

Lactarii are used for food in many countries in Europe, Asia and North Africa. Russians are particularly fond of pickling them.