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Field characters

Pileus: variable; some species with very evident scales, some very viscid
Annulus: usually present membranous to fibrose
Stipe: stout, with scales below the attachment of the annulus, often growing in clusters.
Stature: Armillarioid
Ecology: saprophyte (or parasite?) almost always found on living or dead trees

Micro characters

Basidiospores: smooth, with or without a germ pore
Hyphae: inamyloid with clamp connections
Cystidia: present or absent
Spore Print: rusty brown
Lamellae: variously attached, typically colored like spores.
Lamellar Trama: regular
Pileipellis: various


Originally, Fries put all brown-spored agarics with an annulus in Pholiota. Now, of course they have segregated into different genera based on microcharacters.

Many species have densely scaly caps, and are quite striking. One of the specimens I have illustrated ( P. ablocrenulata) has a viscid cap, which is equally common in our taxa. The slightly scalloped gill edges and water droplets are typical for that species, but I do not know if they are characters often found in other members of this genus.

If you find a brown spored mushroom growing on wood, and it has a scaly cap, it is a Pholiota. In addition, many of our species are colored in some shade of yellow.