The taxonomy of Cortinarius subgen. Phlegmacium sect. Phlegmacioides (= Variecolores) in Europe is emended to include 18 species, classified in three subsections: Subsect. Variecolores: C. variecolor (emended to include C. nemorensis sensu R. Henry, Mos.), C. violaceomaculatus, C. spadicellus (= C. amigochrous), C. largus (= C. nemorensis sensu J.E. Lange, C. lividoviolaceus), C. coalescens, C. patibilis var. patibilis, C. patibilis var. scoticus, C. kuehneri and C. russus; Subsect. Balteati: C. balteatus (= C. subbalteatus), C. durus var. durus, C. durus var. chamaesalicis, C. balteatotomentosus, C. balteatoalbus var. balteatoalbus (= C. crassus sensu J.E. Lange), C. balteatoalbus var. areni-silvae, C. vacciniophilus (= C. latus sensu Mos.), C. acidophilus, C. balteatocumatilis (=C. violaceocinctus), C. hysginus (=C. latobalteatus) and C. borgsjoeensis; Subsect. Serarii: C. serarius (= C. eulepistus). Nine taxa have not been previously included in taxonomic treatments of the group.
The species delimitations are discussed, and the diagnostic characters and their differentiation are studied. Species descriptions are provided. Two large species complexes were recognized, the C. variecolor and the C. balteatus complexes, the taxa of which had a large degree of overlapping character variation, frequently with only one, discontinuously varying character. The species have different and often less strict edaphic requirements than found elsewhere in the subgenus. Most species are rare and with a limited distribution, many of them belonging to a Picea or Betula-associated, ± northern, boreal element. A few species have a broad range of mycorrhizal hosts and a very wide distribution in Europe.