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  • Under Assessment
  • NTPreliminary Assessed
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Hygrophorus vernalis A.H. Sm.

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Scientific name
Hygrophorus vernalis
A.H. Sm.
Common names
IUCN Specialist Group
Mushroom, Bracket and Puffball
Assessment status
Preliminary Assessed
Preliminary Category
NT A3c...or use C2ai?
Proposed by
Noah Siegel
Noah Siegel
Comments etc.
Anders Dahlberg

Assessment Notes

ANDERS TO NOAH; It could be listed as A3c - if we can find support for projected decline of its habitat in 50 years, or as C2ai, if was can state the size of the population to be less than 15000 mature individ (NT)  and that it experience an ongoing decline.


Hygrophorus vernalis is a rare “snowbank” fungus forming ectomycorrhiza with conifers in high elevation forests in the Olympic, Cascade and Rocky Mountains in western North America. It produce fruitbodies in the spring and summer on the edges of melting snowbanks. Climate change is causing warmer and drier winters with elevated and lessened average snowfall and is projected to cause a gradual loss and deterioration of appropriate habitat for this species.

Taxonomic notes

Described by Smith (1941) from a collection made at Dear Lake, in Olympic National Park, Washington, USA.

Why suggested for a Global Red List Assessment?

Hygrophorus vernalis is a rare snowbank fungus, ectomycorrhizal with conifers in areas with deep winter snowpack in the Pacific Northwest mountains.

Currently known from seven locations, and experiencing decline in suitable habitat.

Geographic range

Confined to Western North America and known from Washington and Idaho in USA and from British Columbia, Canada. Two collections were made at Mount Shasta in northern California but the identity of these collections are questionable.

Population and Trends

Described from the Olympic Peninsula in Washington. It is currently (MyCoPortal 2021) known from seven sites in total: in the Olympic Range, Washington Cascade Range, one in eastern Washington, one in Idaho and one in British Columbia, Canada. Two collections were made at Mount Shasta in northern California; the identity of these collections are questionable. It is confined to old growth high elevation conifer forests. These forests are affected by changing climate; with warmer and drier winters that have elevated and lessened the average snowfall. Stoelinga et al. (2010) state that Cascade Range spring snowpack declined 23% during 1930-2007, and models suggest that the rate of snowpack decline with increase substantially by the end of the century (Rhoades et al. 2018).

This snowpack fungus has only been recorded a few times and is considered as a rare fungus albeit certainly over-looked within its habitat restricted geographic distribution. The total number of locations is conservatively not considered to exceed 500 corresponding to less than 15000 mature individuals.

Population Trend: Decreasing

Habitat and Ecology

Hygrophorus vernalis is an ectomycorrhizal fungus occurring in high elevation forest with Pinaceae, maybe also associating with hemlock. Fruiting in late spring or early summer, when winter snowpacks melt.  The fruitbodies occur scattered on melting snowbanks; often growing up through the snow, or on the immediate edge of banks. Ectomycorrhizal fungal mycelia is perennial and may live for several decades and potentially much more than a century with a continuous presence of living trees in appropriate habitats.

Temperate Forest


Hygrophorus vernalis is a rare mycorrhizal snowbank fungus dependent on thick winter snowpacks to fruit. Snowbank fungi, unique to the western North American mountains, occur in areas with ample snowpack. They fruit in the spring and summer, as the snow melts and recedes. As the climate changes, warmer and drier winters have elevated and lessened the average snowfall.  Climate change, continued loss of habitat, decline in area of old growth forests, and hotter, stand replacing fires are detrimental to this species. 

Snowpack decline in the western North American mountains has been well documented (Mote et al. 2005, Mote et al 2018, Zeng et al. 2018, Stoelinga et al. 2010). Stoelinga et al. (2010) state that Cascade Range spring snowpack declined 23% during 1930-2007, and models suggest that the rate of snowpack decline with increase substantially by the end of the century (Rhoades et al. 2018).

Increase in fire frequency/intensityClimate change & severe weatherHabitat shifting & alterationDroughts

Conservation Actions

Protect known populations from logging and development.

Site/area protection

Research needed

Attempts should be made to identify the ectomycorrhizal associate/s of this species. Identify habitat this species occurs in, and survey for additional populations.

Population size, distribution & trendsLife history & ecologyPopulation trends

Use and Trade

None known.


Castellano, M., Smith, J.E., O’Dell, T., Cázares, E. and Nugent, S. 1999. Handbook to Strategy 1 Fungal Species in the Northwest Forest Plan. General Technical Report PNW-GTR-476. United States Department of Agriculture.

Cooke, W.B. 1955. Subalpine fungi and snowbanks. Ecology 36: 124–130.

Fyfe, J. C. et al. 2017. Large near-term projected snowpack loss over the western United States. Nat. Commun. 8, 14996 doi: 10.1038/ncomms14996.

Hesler, L.R. and Smith, A.H. 1963. North American Species of Hygrophorus. University of Tennessee Press, Knoxville.

Mote, P.W., Hamlet, A.F., Clark, M.P. and Lettenmaier, D.P. 2005: Declining mountain snowpack in western North America. Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society 86, 39–49.

Mote, P.W., Li, S., Lettenmaier, D.P. et al. 2018. Dramatic declines in snowpack in the western US. npj climate and atmospheric science 1, 2 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41612-018-0012-1

Rhoades, A.M., Jones, A.D. and Ullrich, P.A. 2018. The Changing Character of the California Sierra Nevada as a Natural Reservoir. Geophysical Research Letters. DOI: 10.1029/2018GL080308

Siegel, N. 2017. United States Forest Service R5 rare species assessment. Draft internal document. 

Smith, A.H. 1941. Studies of North American agarics -I. Contributions from the University of Michigan Herbarium. 5: 1–73.

Stoelinga, M.T., Albright, M.D. and Mass, C.F. 2010. A new look at snowpack trends in the Cascade Mountains. Journal of Climate 23: 10. 2473–2491. https://doi.org/10.1175/2009JCLI2911.1

Country occurrence

Regional Population and Trends

Country Trend Redlisted