• Proposed
  • Under Assessment
  • DDPreliminary Assessed
  • 4Assessed
  • 5Published

Hygrophorus goetzei Hesler & A.H. Sm.

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Scientific name
Hygrophorus goetzei
Hesler & A.H. Sm.
Common names
IUCN Specialist Group
Mushroom, Bracket and Puffball
Assessment status
Preliminary Assessed
Preliminary Category
Proposed by
Todd Osmundson
Todd Osmundson
Noah Siegel
Comments etc.
Anders Dahlberg

Assessment Status Notes

We propose a designation of DD based on uncertainty about change in suitable habitat and estimation of subpopulation size

Taxonomic notes

≡Hygrophorus goetzii Hesler & A.H. Sm. (1963)

Note: most herbarium records in MycoPortal (http://www.mycoportal.org) and observation records in Mushroom Observer (http://www.mushroomobserver.org) are listed under the older orthographic variant (and name used in the original description), Hygrophorus goetzii; however, records are also found under the orthographically correct name H. goetzei. Both spellings should be consulted when seeking information about this species.

Why suggested for a Global Red List Assessment?

Hygrophorus goetzei (= H. goetzii), like most of the other so-called “snowbank fungi,” appears to be endemic to the western United States and specific to habitats at the forefront of melting snowbanks. However, H. goetzei appears to have a more limited geographic range than most of the other snowbank-associated species. Within this range, significant decreases in snowpack and spring/summer snow cover due to climate change pose a threat to H. goetzei reproduction and possibly survival.

This species is proposed for assessment due to its limited geographic range, specific habitat requirements, and declines in suitable habitat.

Geographic range

Originally described from Mt. Hood, Oregon under hemlock by Hesler & Smith (1963), Hygrophorus goetzei is reported from the USA from California north to at least Washington, in subalpine coniferous forests with suitable habitat requirements (Hesler & Smith 1963; Miller 1965, 1967). Herbarium records are listed in MycoPortal for the following locations (all in the USA): Alaska (interior), California (Amador, Shasta, Sierra, and Tuolumne counties), Oregon (Clackamas, Deschutes, Klamath, and Lane counties), and Washington (Clallam and Skamania counties). However, the collections from Alaska are noted with hardwood rather than coniferous hosts, and warrant further examination. A single observation is listed from Victoria, British Columbia, Canada (http://mushroomobserver.org/160011?q=2kllI).

Like nearly all of the other “snowbank” fungi (sensu Cooke 1944, 1955; Miller 1965; Smith 1975), H. goetzei appears to be restricted to western North America where suitable habitat is found. The snowbank fungi are not found in open snow-beds in arctic and alpine habitats, and are not associated with glaciers. They have not been reported from the eastern USA as an ecological group (Cripps 2007), and have not been reported from Europe with the possible exception of Hygrophorus marzuolus (Cripps 2009; Moser 2004). In general, snowbank fungi are reported primarily from the Rocky Mountains and Cascade Range, but can occur from southern Canada to northern New Mexico, generally at elevations of 1500 to 3800 m (Cripps 2007). Cripps (2007) reports observing snowbank fungi in Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, and Canada, and cites additional reports from the Pacific Northwest, the Sierra Nevada range (California) and the Wasatch Mountains (Utah); however, Hygrophorus goetzei is reported from the coastal ranges (Sierra Nevada, Cascade) but not from the Rocky Mountains (C.L. Cripps, personal communication). Given the rather extensive observation of snowbank fungi in the Rockies and lack of records of H. goetzei, it appears that H. goetzei has a more restricted geographical range than many of the other snowbank species.

Population and Trends

Herbarium records reflect approximately 30 known sites where H. goetzei has been collected. Basidiomata (mushrooms) can occur singly, scattered, or clustered. Although habitat is limited to the edge of melting snowbanks, the extent to which a subpopulation occurs as a snowbank recedes is unknown, making it difficult to estimate population size.  However, given the specific habitat requirement of H. goetzei for deep, persistent spring/summer snowpack, it is likely that the area of occurrence of this species is diminishing.

Population Trend: Uncertain

Habitat and Ecology

H. goetzei occurs at the margin of melting snowbanks in high-elevation subalpine conifer forests in spring and early summer, and can initiate fruiting beneath snow cover (Cripps 2009; Hesler & Smith 1963; Miller 1965, 1967). Stable isotope data suggest that Hygrophorus is ectomycorrhizal (Seitzman et al.); although H. goetzei was not included in that study, it is likely that the species is ectomycorrhizal. The species is reported from California at elevations of 1960-2438 m in California, 1478-2179 m in Oregon, and 518-1646 m in Washington (MycoPortal.org). Associated plants recorded in herbarium records include mixed pine/fir forests, mixed Pinus murrayana / Tsuga mertensiana forests, Lodgepole pine, Abies sp. (possibly A. lasiocarpa or A. procera), Tsuga mertensiana, and Tsuga sp (MycoPortal.org).  Two records from Fairbanks, Alaska report H. goetzei in a mixed Populus / Betula / Picea / Alnus forest. Herbarium records from 1966 to 1999 report H. goetzei occurrence primarily from early June through mid-August, with one record (Victoria Island, Canada; http://mushroomobserver.org/160011?q=2kllI) from mid-March, one (from the lowest elevation Washington site, 518 m) from late April and one record (California, Sierra Nevada) from mid-November (MycoPortal.org).

Miller (1967) reports basidiome production of H. goetzei as follows: “Button are initiated under the snow or are seen beneath a few to several inches of ice at the margin of the snowbank. As the button expands a small hole melts around it. Mature sporophores are often seen standing completely in snow with only the top of the pinkish cap visible at the surface of the snow. As the snow melts and retreats the sporophores are found in the damp area near the snowbanks.”

Cripps (2007) summarizes the ecology of snowbank fungi as follows: “The ‘Snowbank fungi’ are well-distributed where certain conditions are met. They proliferate in regions of high elevation with short, cold summers where snowbanks remain until July. Sufficient elevation is necessary for a deep snowpack in mature forests suffused with downed logs and abundant litter and woody debris. Spring and summer nights must be cool enough to retain the snowbanks, and days warm enough to provide melt water for the fungi which fruit as the soil warms and dries. The fungi can occur on steep slopes or level ground, but snowbanks persist longer on northern slopes and in deep shade where fruiting is protracted. Fruiting can stretch into July and August at higher elevations. The ‘Snowbank fungi’ are associated mostly with the spruce-fir zone (mixed conifers), and particularly with Engelmann spruce (Picea engelmannii Engelm.), subalpine fir (Abies lasiocarpa [Hook.] Nutt.), and lodgepole pine (Pinus contorta Laud.), although they also occur in mixed whitebark pine (Pinus albicaulis Engelm.) forests. It is this particular set of trees that provides enough shade to protect against a quick snowmelt (unlike larch or other deciduous trees at high elevations). These trees are also associated with the mycorrhizal ‘Snowbankers’ such as certain species of Hygrophorus and Cortinarius and they provide woody substrates for the saprobic species as well.” 

Many collections of H. goetzei appear to be associated with Tsuga species; it is possible that H. goetzei exhibits some degree of host specificity (unlikely to be exclusively, however, on the basis of herbarium specimens reported with other conifer trees), and/or is restricted to the types of montane habitats with moderate to high precipitation where Tsuga mertensiana and T. heterophylla occur (Means 1990; Packee 1990).


Boreal ForestTemperate Forest


Hygrophorus goetzei is associated specifically with melting snowbanks in subalpine coniferous forests, and requires a sufficiently deep snowpack that persists into mid to late summer, and mature forests with abundant litter and coarse woody debris. Major threats to H. goetzei therefore include reduced snowpack, fire, and any land use activity that reduces the amount of litter and coarse woody debris.

Diminishing snowpack and snow cover related to climate change are the major threats to Hygrophorus goetzei. Significant, consistent decreases in April snowpack (amount or thickness of snow accumulation) have been observed at more than 90 percent of sites measured in the western United States over the period 1955-2015. Although an aggregate average decrease of 23 percent was observed, the most prominent decreases have been in Washington, Oregon, and the northern Rockies, and all but three stations in the Pacific Northwest states of Idaho, Oregon, and Washington have experienced decreases (US EPA 2016a). Within the known geographic range of Hygrophorus goetzei within the USA (northern California to northern Washington), nearly all sites exhibit declines in snowpack, with declines up to 60-80 percent at some sites (Mote et al. 2005; Mote & Sharp 2015; US EPA 2016a). The average extent of snow cover in North America decreased at an approximate rate of 3,100 square miles (8,029 square kilometers) per year between 1972 and 2014, and decreased by approximately 4 percent between the most recent decade (2005-2014) and the measurement period 1972-1981 (US EPA 2016b). Decreases in snow cover have occurred predominantly in spring and summer (US EPA 2016b), the critical time for basidiome production (and therefore, production of reproductive meiospores) for Hygrophorus goetzei.

Conservation Actions

Although the major threats to Hygrophorus goetzei result from large-scale changes in climate, maintaining adequate site-level conditions where sufficient snowpack exists should benefit this species. Hygrophorus goetzei and other “snowbank fungi” often form basidiomata (reproductive structures, a.k.a., mushrooms) on north-facing slopes with sufficient conditions for spring/summer snowbank persistence including shading from canopy trees and suitable microclimates provided by a thick duff layer and abundant coarse woody debris. Maintenance of these conditions is likely to provide benefits to H. goetzei.

Research needed

Research is needed to document the occurrence of summer snowpack persistence in suitable habitat sites for H. goetzei, and whether H. goetzei is able to produce basidiomata earlier in the season on recorded occurrence sites.  A further understanding of the elevational extent of subpopulations as a snowbank recedes would contribute to more accurate estimates of the number of mature individuals within a subpopulation.

Population size, distribution & trendsLife history & ecologyPopulation trends


Cooke, W. Bridge. 1944. Notes on the ecology of the fungi of Mount Shasta. American Midland Naturalist 31: 237-249.

Cooke, W. Bridge. 1955. Subalpine fungi and snowbanks. Ecology 36(1): 124-130.

Cripps, C.L. 2007. Snowbank fungi of western North America: Cold but not frozen. Botanical Electronic News 377 (April 12, 2007) [URL: http://www.ou.edu/cas/botany-micro/ben/ben377.html]. Accessed 29 April, 2016.

Cripps, C.L. 2009. Snowbank fungi revisited. Fungi 2(1): 47-53.

Hesler, L.R. & Smith, A.H. 1963. North American Species of Hygrophorus. University of Tennessee Press: Knoxville, TN. 416 p.

Means, J.E. 1990. Tsuga mertensiana. In: Burns, Russell M., and Barbara H. Honkala, tech. coords. 1990. Silvics of North America: 1. Conifers. Agriculture Handbook 654. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Washington, DC. [URL: https://www.na.fs.fed.us/spfo/pubs/silvics_manual/Volume_1/vol1_Table_of_contents.htm]. Accessed 29 April, 2016.

Miller, O. K., Jr. 1965. Snowbank mushrooms in the Three Sisters Wilderness Area. Mazama 47: 38–41.

Miller, O. K., Jr. 1967. Notes on Western Fungi. I. Mycologia 59: 504–12.

Moser, M. 2004. Subalpine conifer forests in the Alps, the Altai, and the Rocky Mountains: a comparison of their fungal populations. Pp. 151-158. In: Cripps, ed., Fungi in Forest Ecosystems: systematics, diversity and ecology. Bronx, NY: New York Botanical Garden Press.

Mote, P.W., A.F. Hamlet, M.P. Clark, and D.P. Lettenmaier. 2005. Declining mountain snowpack in Western North America. Bull. Amer. Meteor. Soc. 86(1):39–49.

Mote, P.W., and D. Sharp. 2015 update to data originally published in: Mote, P.W., A.F. Hamlet, M.P. Clark, and D.P. Lettenmaier. 2005. Declining mountain snowpack in Western North America. B. Am. Meteorol. Soc. 86(1):39–49.  See US EPA (2016a)

Packee, E.C. 1990. Tsuga heterophylla. In: Burns, Russell M., and Barbara H. Honkala, tech. coords. 1990. Silvics of North America: 1. Conifers. Agriculture Handbook 654. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Washington, DC. [URL: https://www.na.fs.fed.us/spfo/pubs/silvics_manual/Volume_1/vol1_Table_of_contents.htm]. Accessed 29 April, 2016.

Seitzman B.H., A. Ouimette, R.L. Mixon, E.A. Hobbie, and D.S. Hibbett. 2011. Conservation of biotrophy in Hygrophoraceae inferred from combined stable isotope and phylogenetic analyses. Mycologia 103(2): 280-290.

Smith, A.H. 1975. A field Guide to Western Mushrooms. Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press. 280 p.

US EPA (United States Environmental Protection Agency). 2016a. Climate Change Indicators in the United States. Snowpack. [URL: https://www3.epa.gov/climatechange/science/indicators/snow-ice/snowpack.html]. Accessed 29 April, 2016.

US EPA (United States Environmental Protection Agency). 2016b. Climate Change Indicators in the United States. Snow Cover. [URL: https://www3.epa.gov/climatechange/science/indicators/snow-ice/snow-cover.html]. Accessed 29 April, 2016.

Known distribution - countries

Regional Population and Trends

Country Trend Redlisted