Cap 4-9 (13) cm broad, convex to plano-convex, maturing to plano-convex to plane to depressed on the disc; surface smooth, subviscid to viscid; color dark rose red to bright red to rose pink, fading to pink or rose pink, often with yellowish blotches; flesh white, unchanging in color when exposed, brittle; odor mild, taste very acrid.
Gills adnate to adnexed, white, close to subdistant.
Stipe 4-10 cm long, 1-3 cm thick, equal or tapering toward the apex or base; surface dry, glabrous, white; stuffed; flesh white, brittle.
Spores 6.7-10.5 x 5.7-8.6 µm, subovoid to subellipsoid with amyloid ornamentation of warts and ridges forming a partial to near complete reticulum. Spore print white.
Solitary to scattered to gregarious in hardwood and conifer hardwood forests, winter.
Poisonous, at least when raw.
According to Dr. Harry Thiers, in his monograph of the genus Russula in California, this species was long misidentified as Russula emetica. The real Russula emetica grows in Sphagnum habitats, has a somewhat different pigmentation, and has not been found in California. In our area, Russula sanguinea is similar, but has a pink stipe and a pale yellow to yellow spore print.