As I discussed in my recent article, Fighting Fungophobia (or Mycophobia) …the fear of mushrooms, here is a list of 70 Distinctive Mushrooms.
Seventy Distinctive Mushrooms (Part One: 1-10)
Seventy Distinctive Mushrooms (Part Two: 11-20)
Seventy Distinctive Mushrooms (Part Three: 21-30)
Seventy Distinctive Mushrooms (Part Four: 31-40 )
Seventy Distinctive Mushrooms (Part Five: 41-50)
Seventy Distinctive Mushrooms (Part Six: 51-60)
Seventy Distinctive Mushrooms (Part Seven: 61-70)
This list of mushrooms comes from David Arora, mycologist extraordinaire and author of Mushrooms Demystified and All That the Rain Promises and More. I’ve added photos and a brief paragraph about reported edibility, characteristics, distribution, and habitat. Remember, this is not meant to be an identification guide but rather an introduction to some pretty amazing and representative mushrooms. The mushrooms on this list are all found in the United States (my home), but the majority are also found outside of North America.
A quick note on edibility: I am listing whether the mushroom is considered Edible or Poisonous or Deadly Poisonous. Understand that all mushrooms should be cooked before being eaten. Even edible mushrooms can cause gastrointestinal upset (nausea, vomiting, stomach cramping, and/or diarrhea) if the mushrooms are not cooked. Yes, some people can handle raw mushrooms in small amounts (mainly just the common, grocery store “button mushrooms”), but most will succumb to symptoms if they eat enough raw mushrooms, especially wild mushrooms. Also, note that some edible mushrooms may cause gastrointestinal symptoms for some individuals and none for other individuals. One species may cause some symptoms for one person but not for another. It is variable. If it is your first time consuming a new type of mushrooms, go slow. Eat a little bit one day, and if you do well, then consume a bit more the next day. If you still have no problems, then you can likely eat that type of mushroom with no issues. Finally, note that most anyone has a good chance of getting gastrointestinal symptoms if they eat an excessively large amount of mushrooms of any type. Just like if a person eats a whole pot of bean-laden chili… watch out! Keep it in moderation, but have fun!
Seventy mushroom listings and photographs will take a lot of space, so I am going to break the list up into ten species segments. I recommend reading David Arora’s books as well as some local field guides. Then go outside and get to know the fungus among us… er, you, I mean.
Here are the next ten:
11. Jack-O-Lantern Mushrooms (Omphalotus species)
12. Blewitt (Clitocybe nuda)
13. Man On Horseback (Tricholoma equestre)
14. White Matsutake (Tricholoma magnivelare)
15. Honey Mushroom (Armillariella mellea group)
16. Fairy Ring or Scotch Bonnet Mushroom (Marasmius oreades)
17. Death Cap (Amanita phalloides)
18. Destroying Angels (Amanita ocreata, A. verna, A. virosa, A. bisporigera)
19. Fly Agaric (Amanita muscaria)
20. Ceasar’s Amanita (Amanita caesarea group)
Here is the list again with photos and accompanying paragraph of additional information:
11. Jack-O-Lantern Mushrooms (Omphalotus species): Poisonous. Causes profuse sweating and gastrointestinal distress. Sometimes confused with Chanterlles (Cantharellus cibarius), which we will review later; however, the Chanterelle has white flesh, while the Jack-O-Lantern has flesh about the same color as the cap. These bright orange to yellow-orange mushrooms (with occasional olive tones in the western North American species) often glow in the dark! Cap size: 1.6-6.3 inches (4-16 cm), may get to 9.8 inches (25 cm). Found in forests around the world, on or around hardwood trunks, stumps, or buried wood.
12. Blewitt (Clitocybe nuda): Edible (very good). Distinct purple hue that is more subdued in North American varieties. Color is darker in mature speciments, lighter in younger ones. Said to have an odor reminiscent of frozen orange juice concentrate. Cap size: 1.6-5.5 inches (4-14 cm), but can get to 7.1 inches (18 cm). Common in Europe and North American, and also in Australia where it was been introduced. Found growing in organic matter (woods, brush, compost piles), commonly in leaf litter. Often growing in an arc or ring (a.k.a. Fairy Ring).
13. Man On Horseback or Yellow Knight (Tricholoma flavovirens or T. equestre): Deadly Poisonous. Traditionally, this was a highly regarded mushroom, very popular in Europe. David Arora states it is excellent and flavorful in his book… written 25 years ago. In the last fifteen years, there have been some reports of poisoning after ingesting this mushroom, including a few deaths, all in Europe. How can a mushroom that has been eaten, and prized, for so long suddenly start killing people?
– It could be that people were dying from this mushroom for a long time, but it was though to be something else… the people who died from this mushroom got sick 3-4 days after ingestion.
– It could be that the poisoning was wrongly attributed to this mushroom… this is unlikely, as I found the medical journal articles discussing these poisonings, and the mushrooms were reported to be positively identified.
– It could be that the people had allergic reactions and not a “poisoning”… again, unlikely, as these patient had well documented poisoning, not allergic reactions.
– It could be that only some people react to a compound in this mushroom while others do not… this is possible, as the specific toxin has not been identified.
– It could be that sometimes this mushroom produces a compound that is poisonous and sometimes it does not… this possibility is most worrisome, but also not likely.
– It could be that the mushroom produces a compound that is not significant when consumed in small amounts… very possible, as all the victims consumed three consecutive meals of the mushrooms; maybe our body just cannot handle too much of this compound.
Bottom line, there are too many questions. I will just avoid this mushroom as there as so many others that are edible and not controversial! Cap size: inches 1.6-3.9 inches (4-10 cm), but can get to 7.9 inches (20 cm). Common in Europe and North America, at least. Found in grassy, sandy, or shrubby areas typically with Pine (Pinus species), but has been found with Aspen (Populus species) and Madrone (Arbutus species).
14. White Matsutake (Tricholoma magnivelare, previously Armillaria ponderosa): Edible (highly prized in Asia). Likely the same species as the Japanese Tricholoma matsutake, which can sell for $2,000 per kilogram (roughly $1,000 per lb)! The appearance is a rather non-descript (to my non-professional eyes), large, white mushroom. The odor is the key to identification, and it is caused by the production of methyl cinnamate and 1-octen-3-ol… most people just say they smell like Red Hots and dirty socks! Cap size: 2-7.9 inches (5-20 cm), but can get to 13.8 inches (35 cm). Common in Asia and in the Pacific Northwest of North America, but can be found throughout northern North America all the way to the east coast (including Cape Cod). Found growing in forests, thickets, and in pine barrens, under mixed conifers, second-growth Douglas Fir, or under acid-loving (ericaceous) shrubs.
15. Honey Mushroom (Armillaria mellea group): Edible. There are a number of closely related species here known as the Honey Mushrooms, for their color, not their taste. Some consider them a nice substitute for Shiiitake mushrooms. These mushrooms can have a lot of shapes and colors, but there are six relatively constant identifiers: (1) they have a veil (the structure attached to the stalk that originally covered the gills). (2) a tough, fibrous stalk. (3) small, dark hairs on the cap. (4) bitter taste when raw. (5) it grows only on wood, although sometimes the wood is buried under the soil. (6) white to faintly yellow spores, a dusting of white spore dust will be seen on the mushrooms at the bottom of a cluster. Also, the mycelium may glow at night, which can may cause a tree or stump to glow… this is one cause of the phenomenon known as “Fox Fire”. Cap size: 1.2-5.9 inches (3-15 cm). Found almost all around the world. Always found growing on wood, stumps, logs, and even living trees (it can be a parasite to good trees). Found on a wide range of timber, nut, fruit, and garden trees and shrubs.
16. Fairy Ring or Scotch Bonnet Mushroom (Marasmius oreades): Edible (highly prized in Europe). While often growing in rings in grass, this mushroom doesn’t have to grow in a complete ring. It may grow in an arch (half-ring); also, other mushrooms grow in rings! Interestingly, the outer border of the ring will be filled with lush green grass as the mycelium spreads and helps provide nutrients to the grass; however, on the inside of the ring, the grass will often be growing poorly because the nutrients have all been consumed. This mushroom is a bit harder to identify due to its smaller size and non-unique appearance, but the cap has an umbo (or raised center… hence the name Scotch Bonnet) which will help identify it. Cap size: 0.4-2 inches (1-6 cm), but usually 0.8-1.6 (2-4 cm). Found extensively throughout North America and Europe in Summer and Autumn. Found in grass, lawns, and meadows.
17. Death Cap (Amanita phalloides): Deadly Poisonous. It is taught that every person should be able to identify the Death Cap before they eat any mushroom with gills. So here are the telltale charactersistics: (1) white gills. (2) white spores. (3) partial veil covering the gills, then breaking to form a skirtlike ring or annulus near the top of the stalk. (4) membranous white sack (a.k.a. the “volva”) at the base of the stalk. (5) margin of the cap is not striate. This may sound a bit confusing, but once you see them illustrated in a good guide book, they are easy to identify in nature. Older mushrooms will have a very bad odor (“odor of death”). Interestingly, these mushrooms apparently taste good, but 6-24 hours after ingestion, symptoms can occur and may be deadly. This mushroom is the number one cause of mushroom-related deaths worldwide. Cap: 1.6-6.3 inches (4-16 cm). Found pretty much across the globe, but originating in Europe. Found in woods or grass near trees.
18. Destroying Angels (Amanita ocreata, A. verna, A. virosa, A. bisporigera): Deadly Poisonous. There are a number of species with the common name Destroying Angel. Fortunately, they are all very similar – they are all entirely white (but can discolor with age), they have a fragile ring (annulus) around the stalk which often shreds, and they have a membranous white sack (a.k.a. the “vola”) at the base of the stalk. After reading about the Death Cap (above) and the Destroying Angels, unless you are a mushroom expert, just avoid eating any white, gilled mushroom with an annulus and a volva. Cap: 1.6-6.3 inches (4-16 cm). Found all over the world. Typically found in or near the edges of forest or woodlands (broadleaf and conifer, especially oaks), but can be found in grass, lawns, and meadows near trees or shrubs.
19. Fly Agaric (Amanita muscaria): Poisonous. This is the classic “mushroom” almost everyone thinks about or draws as a child. It is one of the easiest mushrooms to identify. While this mushroom only rarely causes death (one report states that no human deaths have occurred in modern times), people frequently get sick from it because it is considered one of the hallucinogenic mushrooms, and many people try experiment with it. The results are variable based on season, region, growing conditions, and a persons’ metabolism… not a good mushroom to play with. There are other, safer psychoactive mushrooms. Cap: 2-11.8 inches (5-30 cm), but can get to 15.75 inches (40 cm). Native to deciduous and conifer forests of the Northern Hemisphere, it has also been introduced to South America, Africa, Australia, and New Zealand.
20. Ceasar’s Amanita (Amanita caesarea group): Edible (highly prized in Europe). This is considered the safest Amanita mushroom to eat due to its bright orange color. The color can fade with age, sunlight, and heavy rains… so just don’t eat those! Cap: 2.8-7.9 inches (7-20 cm), but can get to 9.8 (25 cm). Found in northern Africa and southern Europe. In North America it is found in Arizona and New Mexico as well as in Mexico and Central America. There are a few very closely related species found in the eastern United States (The American Ceasar’s Mushroom, Amanita jacksonii is a common one),but some say they do not taste as good as the European species. Found with oak and conifers.Subscribe to TCPermaculture.com and receive updates whenever a new article is posted!