The fruit body is a mushroom with a cap atop a central stem. The cap is often 5-10 centimetres in diameter; convex to flat (perhaps with a central depression); smooth (and slimy in a few species); dull (cream, grey or brown) or bright (yellow, red, green, blue or purple). In some species with bright shades, the colour may become blotchy with age or look washed out after rain. Gills are mostly white but pale yellow or brown in some species. The stem is fairly stout (often 4-8 centimetres long and 1-2 wide), smooth and the most common colour is white but may also be one of the colours noted above.
There is neither a partial nor a universal veil.
Spore print: almost always white (but creamy-yellowish to pale yellow-brown in some species).
They appear on the ground, near trees, in a wide variety of habitats.
Until you seen a number of Russulas, you are likely to make mistakes. If you see a mushroom on the ground (in a treed area), with a brightly coloured cap, white gills and a stout, smooth, featureless stem then Russula is a reasonable guess (but not always correct). There is more scope for confusing the others with various genera.
The best way of increasing you chances of a successful identification is not visual, but physical, via the...
The fruit bodies are brittle. Mostly, when you bend a mushroom stem it will eventually break messily and partially. The usual analogy is to say it breaks like a celery stalk where, invariably, some unbroken strands remain when you try to snap it. A Russula stem breaks cleanly, like a stick of chalk. Russula shares this snappiness with Lactarius s.l., but lacks the bleeding found in the latter.
Warning: The snap test works best when the mushroom has not dried and is not grub-chewed.
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Russula sp. has been recorded at: