Wild Mushrooms

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For some people the collection of wild mushrooms is simply an adjunct to an enjoyable walk in the countryside, but for others their collection and sale are a profitable hobby or even a full-time business. Anyone who eats or intends to eat wild mushrooms must be knowledgeable about species with unpleasant flavors or textures and, more importantly, species that can lead to serious poisoning or even death.

Some mushrooms found growing in the wild are not actually indigenous but have found their way, whether accidentally or intentionally, from another part of the world. For example, porcini (Boletus edulis) and saffron milk caps (Lactarius deliciosus) found in New Zealand and Australia are certainly not native and have only come to the attention of scientists there within the past few years (Segedin 1987, Segedin and Pennycook 2001, Wang et al. 1995). The same is true of the deadly poisonous Amanita phalloides, which seems to have found its way to North America from Europe (R. Tulloss, personal communication). As a result, the mushrooms included in this section are those that might be found in a whole range of countries. This selection concentrates on important poisonous mushrooms and conspicuous edible species, particularly those with sizeable international markets, although the occasional interesting curiosity is also included. The simple keys in Collecting Wild Mushrooms and the photographs of individual species can be used to help identify the edible mushrooms covered and to distinguish them from the poisonous species. As always, however, only eat a mushroom if you are absolutely sure of its identity. See Collecting Wild Mushrooms for more information on symptoms of various poisoning syndromes and a list of toxic mushrooms.

To provide some structure that will allow for easy navigation, mushrooms have been placed into sometimes artificial groups based on their appearance. The following simple key should help to locate the appropriate section.

1. Mushrooms with gills and a more or less centrally placed stalk; white or pale green spore print, rarely with pale pink or other pale-colored spores (page 124)

2. Mushrooms with gills and a more or less centrally placed stalk; pale pink spore print (page 179)

3. Mushrooms with gills and a more or less centrally placed stalk; brown spore print (page 183)

4. Mushrooms with gills and a more or less centrally placed stalk; purple-brown to black spore print (page 195)

5. Mushrooms with ear-shaped or bracket-like fruiting bodies; stalk either absent or poorly developed and attached to the edge of the cap; spores produced on gills, gill-like folds, or directly on the lower undifferentiated surface of the fruiting body (page 209)

6. Mushrooms with more or less funnel-shaped fruiting bodies (or fruiting bodies triangular in cross section), with the spores formed on the outer surface, either on gill-like folds or simply on a rough surface (page 216)

7. Mushrooms with a central, well-developed stalk supporting the cap and no gills but with many tubes present that give the underside of the cap a spongelike appearance—boletes (page 221)

8. Mushrooms with an undersurface devoid of gills or tubes but with minute spines or elongated, toothlike structures (page 236)

9. Mushrooms with a distinct stalk, a conical or spherical honeycomb-like top, or a folded piece of suedelike material on top of a grooved stalk (page 239)

10. Mushrooms with pulvinate to spherical fruiting bodies that are parasitic on living plants (page 252)

11. Mushrooms lacking stalks or whose stalks are rudimentary and attached to one side, with the spores formed in tubes or on the undersurface of the caps (page 255)

12. Mushrooms with fruiting bodies above or below the ground and more or less spherical—puffballs, truffles, and false truffles (page 262)

13. Mushrooms with fruiting bodies consisting of a simple or branched linear structure growing from decaying wood or arising from an adult or larval insect (page 283)

14. Mushrooms with spindle-, coral-, icicle-, or cauliflower-shaped fruiting bodies (page 286)

15. Mushrooms with basket-shaped fruiting bodies or fruiting bodies with tentacle-like arms hatching from an egg (page 292)

16. Mushrooms with spherical fruiting bodies that open out into star-shaped structures, with the spores contained in a central ball that discharges dry spores through a small central pore—earth-stars (page 293)

17. Mushrooms with more or less cup-shaped fruiting bodies, with the spores produced inside the cup on a feltlike surface or within small egglike structures (page 293)

18. Mushrooms with cushion-shaped fruiting bodies that are at first outwardly slimy, then rather fragile (page 297)

19. Mushrooms with leaflike fruiting bodies that are dark green or nearly black and closely appressed to vertical rocky surfaces (page 299)

1. Mushrooms with gills and a more or less centrally placed stalk; white or pale green spore print, rarely with pale pink or other pale-colored spores

Amanita Species

The genus Amanita contains a few delicious species and, unfortunately, some of the most deadly. Making sure you have the right species before sitting down to dine is therefore absolutely essential. Identification can be rather difficult. Mistaking a poisonous species like A. pantherina or A. virosa for an edible one has led to the demise of a number of keen amateurs and even an occasional professional mycologist. It is therefore appropriate to begin with those white-spored species that fruit on the ground under trees, with which they very likely form ectomycorrhizal associations.

Amanitajacksonii and Amanita caesarea (Caesar's Mushroom)

Caesar's mushroom is so named because it was a favorite of the emperor Claudius and led to his demise when he ate some that had been mixed with poison (Benjamin 1995). It is found throughout eastern North America and the warmer parts of southern Europe in summer and autumn associated with oaks and other deciduous trees. Although the American and European forms of this mushroom are listed under Amanita caesarea in many texts, the former is now considered to represent a different species: A. jacksonii. The combination of an orange cap up to 18 cm in diameter, orange-tinged stalk up to 15 cm high, orange-tinged ring, distinct volva, and orange gills makes this mushroom unlikely to be confused with any other Amanita in North America or Europe, although it is possible that a faded A. muscaria might mislead an inexperienced collector, particularly if the scales have been washed off by rain. The very similar species A. hemibapha is common in East Asia, where it is also highly regarded.

Amanita citrina (False Death Cap)

Amanita citrina is one of several mushrooms that might be confused with the death cap (A. phalloides). Like the death cap, the cap of A. citrina may have a greenish tint, and the base of the stalk is conspicuously enlarged. However, A. phalloides generally has a cup-shaped volva at the base of the stalk, while A. citrina simply has an

Edible Mushrooms With Large Stalks

Amanita caesarea (Caesar's mushroom) showing the well-formed volva at the base of the stalks. EDIBLE. (Johnson)

Edible Mushrooms The South

Amanita hemibapha from Japan. Note the prominent cup-shaped volva at the base of the stalks. EDIBLE. (Izawa)

Volva Mushroom Stages Pinheads

Amanita citrina (false death cap) with young caps pushing through the soil surface. In this species the volva is reduced to a bulbous base just below the soil surface. EDIBILITY UNKNOWN: AVOID. (Hall)

Introduction Edible Mushrooms Images

Amanita citrina (false death cap). Note the downward hanging veil. EDIBILITY UNKNOWN: AVOID. (Johnson)

expanded base to the stalk, without a distinct volva. Both have a skirtlike ring on the stalk. Fruiting bodies of A. citrina have a cap 4-12 cm in diameter and a stalk 6-13 cm long. Although not nearly as poisonous as A. phalloides, the false death cap should not be collected for the table. It is often very common in oak (Quercus) forests in eastern North America during the autumn.

Amanita muscaria (Fly Agaric)

No introduction should be required for the fly agaric, which can be found illustrated in a host of children's books and is probably the most photographed of all mushrooms. The orange to red cap with white scales and white gills, stalk, and volva make it almost impossible to mistake. The unopened fruiting bodies can be white but gradually turn orange as they develop. When fully expanded the cap can be up to 20 cm in diameter and the stalk up to 20 cm high and 3 cm in diameter. Some specimens lose their white markings and might then be confused with the edible Amanita caesarea (Caesar's mushroom), although the volva of the latter is large and loose, the edge of its cap is striated, and its gills and stalk are a pale orange. In Europe and North America A. muscaria forms mycorrhizas primarily with birch (Betula), pine (Pinus), and spruce (Picea), and in countries where European and North American host trees have been introduced, this mushroom has often moved with

The Base Amanita Mushroom
Amanita muscaria (fly agaric). Note the white ring on the white stalk. The cup-shaped volva is only just visible on the base of the swollen stalk on the fruiting body at left. POISONOUS. (Hall)
Death Cap Mushroom Range

Vertical section of a young fruiting body of Amanita muscaria (fly agaric), the cap and stalk forming inside the surrounding veil. POISONOUS. (Hall)

Edible Mushrooms With Large Stalks

The caps of Amanita phalloides (death cap) exhibit a large range in colors. In this specimen the cup-shaped volva is visible at the base of the stalk of the larger, colored mushroom. The younger, almost white mushroom has just begun to break free of the volva. POISONOUS. (Hall)

Amanita Muscaria Variants
Fully mature fruiting bodies of Amanita phalloides (death cap). POISONOUS. (Hall)
Mature Age Mushroom
Mature fruiting bodies of Amanita phalloides (death cap). POISONOUS. (Buchanan)

its hosts. Occasionally this has resulted in the fly agaric jumping onto new indigenous hosts, such as southern beech (Nothofagus) in Australia and New Zealand (Johnston and Buchanan 1997).

The common name "fly agaric" probably comes from this mushroom's traditional use as a fly killer (Bresinsky and Besl 1990, Cooke 1980, Phillips 1981). After the mushroom is dried, the dried pieces are placed in a bowl of milk. A compound in the cap (1,3-diolein) attracts flies, who feed on the cap, become intoxicated, and either fall into the milk and drown or die from the toxins they consume. They may not die as quickly as they would from a can of fly spray, but the effect is more ecologically sustainable. Amanita muscaria has been used through the ages in religious rites and abused for its hallucinogenic properties, which increase when the cap is dried, due to the conversion of ibotenic acid to muscimol (Benjamin 1995, Bresinsky and Besl 1990, Hobbs 1995). The presence of a number of toxins produces other effects as well, including nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Although muscarine was first found in A. muscaria, this mushroom actually contains relatively little of this poisonous compound compared with the levels found in some species of Inocybe and Clitocybe.

Amanita phalloides (Death Cap)

Amanita phalloides accounts for the great majority of deaths from mushroom poisonings worldwide. In the button stage, the fruiting bodies of the death cap are almost white and have a smooth surface that rapidly turns light green to light brown. In this stage they may resemble a puffball, and this resemblance appears to have led to many accidental poisonings (Buchanan 1995, Cole 1993, 1994, Nicholls et al. 1995). As they open, the cap and stalk gradually turn light brown or pale green to greenish brown, becoming yellow with age and sometimes developing a hint of faint radial markings on the surface of the cap. There is also a variety that remains white at maturity. The caps are 4-13 cm in diameter and strongly convex when young, though flat when fully expanded. The stalk is 5-13 cm high and up to 2 cm thick. The white volva is distinct, even on mature fruiting bodies, but can be below ground level and can therefore be missed if care is not taken. Although the spore print is white, the gills can have a faint greenish color at maturity. The smell is sickly sweet and gets stronger after mushrooms have been picked and stored. The western United States has experienced a recent spate of poisonings from death caps, new immigrants from Asia mistaking them for straw mushrooms (Volvariella volvacea), which they superficially resemble. The consumption of less than 50 g of the death cap, or about one medium fruiting body, is enough to kill. A smaller dose can cause severe poisoning in adults and can kill a child. Even the spores of the death cap are poisonous, and so edible mushrooms that have been stored in the same collecting bag should always be discarded. If you have been

Craft Mushrooms
Amanita pantherina (panther cap). POISONOUS. (Lyon)

handling a death cap, do not put your fingers near your mouth, and always wash your hands before eating anything. After eating a death cap there may be a period of six to twenty-four hours before amatoxin syndrome begins.

Amanita pantherina (Panther Cap)

The panther cap is a pale brownish yellow to light brown mushroom. The cap is up to 10 cm in diameter and has white markings on its surface. The white stalk is up to 10 cm high and 2.5 cm wide, with a prominent ring. The volva is prominent and white. The panther cap can be found in summer and autumn (and occasionally spring) associated with deciduous trees, especially beech (Fagus) in Europe and eastern North America. The toxins it contains produce delirium and a deep coma-like sleep, and consumption may prove fatal. This species might easily be mistaken for Amanita rubescens (the blusher).

Amanita rubescens (The Blusher) and Amanita excelsa

The mature caps of the blusher are 5-15 cm in diameter, brown with a pinkish tinge, and have white to pinkish, irregularly shaped patches

Edible Mushrooms
Amanita rubescens (the blusher). EDIBLE WHEN COOKED. (Hall)
Stomping Wild Mushroom The Park
Amanita excelsa in Hagley Park, Christchurch, New Zealand. EDIBILITY UNKNOWN: AVOID. (Hall)
The young fruiting body of Amanita excelsa has the superficial appearance of a small puffball. EDIBILITY UNKNOWN: AVOID. (Hall)

on the surface. The stalk is 5-14 cm high and white when young, becoming marked with pink patches as it ages. There is a prominent white ring, but the volva, so characteristic of other species of Amanita, is usually little more than a ridge at the top of a swollen

Amanita virosa (destroying angel). POISONOUS. (Izawa)

base to the stalk. The flesh of the cap and stalk is white when young but gradually becomes pink when cut and exposed to air. Amanita rubescens may be eaten, but only if it is first thoroughly cooked. This process renders the mushroom safe to eat, although it can still produce an adverse reaction in some people. Because of the difficulty in distinguishing A. rubescens from A. pantherina and other poisonous Amanita species, many experienced mycologists will not take the risk of eating it. Amanita excelsa is similar to A. rubescens, and while this mushroom is considered edible in Europe (Phillips 1981), in Japan it is regarded as poisonous (Hongo et al. 1994).

Amanita virosa (Destroying Angel)

The caps of the destroying angel are often bulbous when immature but expand to 5-12 cm in diameter. The stalk is 10-20 cm high, and the volva often occurs just below soil level and is easily missed. The destroying angel fruits from early summer to early autumn in the eastern United States. It is rather uncommon in the United Kingdom (Harding et al. 1996), which is probably why it causes fewer fatalities there than the death cap (L^ssoe and Del Conte 1996). This probably also explains why there is some confusion over its habitat, which in different texts is given either as mixed or hardwood forests (Phillips 1981) or conifer forests (L^ssoe and Del Conte 1996). The destroying

Alabama Puffball Mushrooms
Amanita vaginata (grisette). AVOID. (Izawa)

angel and the white form of the death cap are the most dangerous poisonous mushrooms. This is not because they contain more toxic compounds than other poisonous species but because they can be mistaken for edible white-capped species. Like other species of Amanita, the destroying angel can be easily confused with Volvariella species. It has a pleasant smell and is reputed to taste quite good. Great care should always be taken when collecting white mushrooms near trees or when picking what appear to be puffballs but which actually may be disguised, unopened caps of an Amanita. Amanita abrupta, which is common in eastern North America, is another example of a white, highly toxic species (Imazeki et al. 1988).

Amanita vaginata (Grisette)

Some of the names that have been applied to members of the genus Amanita are known to refer to a complex of several morphologically very similar species and not just to a single biological entity. This is certainly the case for A. vaginata, which occurs throughout temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere. Unlike the other species of Amanita described, A. vaginata lacks a ring on the stalk, though it does have a prominent volva. The cap is gray, 5-10 cm in diameter, and has a conspicuously striate margin. The stalk is white, smooth to finely fibrous, 10-20 cm high, and 10-15 mm thick. This mushroom occurs in hardwood as well as coniferous forests. Though not poisonous, it is best avoided because of possible confusion with other deadly species of Amanita.

Armillaria mellea (Honey Mushroom)

Over the years taxonomists have come to recognize that Armillaria mellea is actually a complex of species that share a similar appearance. The caps of A. mellea proper (sensu stricto) are 3-12 cm in diameter and light to dark brown, sometimes tinged olive. The gills are white or off-white. The stalks, which taper slightly toward the base, are up to 15 cm high and paler at the top, though similar in color to the cap at the base. There is a prominent, cottony, thick, off-white ring toward the top of the stalk. These mushrooms can be found from summer to early winter throughout temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere, where they occur on stumps, logs, at the bases of dead but still standing hardwoods or conifers, or on buried wood around the trunks of trees that have become parasitized by the

Grey Armillaria

Armillaria mellea (honey mushroom). Members of the Armillaria mellea sensu lato species complex display a great variability in form. EDIBLE WHEN COOKED. (Johnson)

Edible Fungus

Armillaria mellea (honey mushroom) growing on a rotting stump in northern Italy. EDIBLE WHEN COOKED. (Hall)

Edible Mushrooms

Armillaria mellea (honey mushroom) from the eastern United States. EDIBLE WHEN COOKED. (Johnson)

Mushroom Colonies Conifers
Armillaria novaezelandiae (bootlace mushroom), a species similar to the more widespread A. mellea. EDIBLE WHEN COOKED. (Hall)

fungus. The fungus spreads from one infected tree to another by long, dark gray to black, shoestring-like hyphae called rhizomorphs (Brasier 1992). Armillaria mellea causes gastric upsets when eaten raw or poorly cooked, and for some consumers even after cooking— a feature it shares with several dozen fungi. Armillaria novaezelandiae (bootlace mushroom) and A. tabescens (ringless honey mushroom) are also edible (Miller 1981, Hood 1992), but it would also be advisable to cook these mushrooms before eating.

Calocybe gambosa (St. George's Mushroom)

The fruiting body of St. George's mushroom has a white to off-white cap and a mealy smell. It can have a cap up to 15 cm in diameter, with a stalk up to 6 cm high and 1-3 cm thick. It is often found fruiting in rings in grasslands, along roadsides, in lawns, and at the edges of woodlands. The caps do not stain red when bruised. The common name for this mushroom stems from the likelihood of first finding its edible fruiting bodies on or about St. George's Day in the Northern Hemisphere (23 April). Its French name, mousseron, is probably the

Edible Mushrooms The
Calocybegambosa (St. George's mushroom) growing in grasslands in the United Kingdom. EDIBLE. (Lyon)

source of the English word "mushroom." This species might be confused with the brown-spored, red-staining Inocybe patouillardii, which is very poisonous. St. George's mushroom has white gills, but it has neither volva nor ring, and it fruits in spring rather than autumn. It is therefore unlikely to be confused with any white Amanita.

Clitocybe Species

The strongly funnel-shaped edible caps of Clitocybe geotropa are up to 20 cm in diameter and have stalks up to 15 cm high and 3 cm thick. The caps are buff when young but turn pale peach with age. The gills are the same color as the caps and extend down the stalk. Clitocybe gibba (common funnel cap), a species common in eastern North America, is smaller and has gills that are white to buff. Both species are found in autumn under deciduous trees or in mixed woodlands and consequently are unlikely to be confused with the smaller mushrooms of the deadly poisonous ivory clitocybe (C. dealbata) and C. rivulosa, which are usually found in grassy areas such as lawns and roadsides. Clitocybe gibba, C. maxima, and C. robusta are all edible

Funnel Caps Critoeybe Species Images
Clitocybegibba (common funnel cap). EDIBLE. (Izawa)
Edible Mushrooms Canada
A Clitocybe species of unknown edibility grows beneath a Douglas fir. (Hall)

species eaten widely in China and Japan. The edibility of a number of other species is unknown.

Because the small, white to buff, flat to slightly funnel-shaped fruiting bodies of the ivory clitocybe (Clitocybe dealbata) have no ring on the stalk, have gills that extend down the stalk, and are only 4 cm in diameter and 4 cm high, it is unlikely that this species would be confused with field mushrooms growing in the same habitat. However, the ivory clitocybe could easily be confused with the edible fairy ring mushroom (Marasmius oreades), with which it is sometimes associated. Great care, therefore, needs to be taken when picking fairy ring mushrooms. Other poisonous Clitocybe species such as C. nebularis can be found in mossy or grassy areas, on litter in hardwood and conifer forests, or in heathland.

Collybia dryophila (Oak-Loving Collybia)

Few other woodland mushrooms are as common and widespread in North America as Collybia dryophila, whose fruiting bodies can be found scattered or in small clusters from late spring through autumn. Although especially common in oak (Quercus) forests, the species also

Collybia dryophila (oak-loving collybia). AVOID. (Johnson)

occurs in other types of hardwood forests, as well as in those dominated by various conifers. The cap is 1-7 cm in diameter and has a smooth surface that is dark reddish brown to yellow-brown when young but soon fades to orange-brown or tan, with the central portion darker than the margin. The stalk is 3-9 cm high and 2-8 mm thick, smooth, hollow, and distinctly cartilaginous. The gills are crowded, white to pale yellow, and produce a white spore print. Collybia dryophila is often confused with C. butyracea, though the latter has a pale pink spore print. Both species resemble the fairy ring mushroom (.Marasmius oreades) but differ in that they occur in forests while the fairy ring mushroom is found in grassy areas. While edible, the thin caps and tough stalk make C. dryophila not worth eating.

Flammulina velutipes (Enokitake)

Fruiting bodies of enokitake growing wild on decaying logs look nothing like those of the cultivated mushroom. The caps are smooth and gelatinous, up to 10 cm in diameter, and light tan to light orange-brown toward the center but with pale yellow edges. The tops of the stalks are similar in color to the edges of the caps, but the stalks are dark brown at the base and, unlike the cultivated strains, rarely more than 4 cm high. The gills do not run down the stalk and are pale yellow. The common name is Japanese and comes from enokitake's habit of fruiting on tree species such as Japanese hackberry (Celtis sinensis). It is also known as winter mushroom due to its habit of fruiting from late autumn to early winter. Enokitake is even capable of freezing, thawing out, and then continuing to grow (Stamets 2000).

Hygrocybe conica (Witch's Hat)

Hygrocybe conica belongs to a group of small, waxy, brightly colored mushrooms usually referred to as waxy caps. Members of the group characteristically have gills that are thick, soft, and waxy in appearance, much like a wax crayon. This is quite unlike the appearance of the gills in most other gilled fungi. The witch's hat is typical for the group in that it occurs on the ground in moist places on the forest floor, usually (but not always) under conifers. The cap is 3-8 cm in diameter and sharply conic to bell-shaped, often with a prominent raised center, called an umbo. The surface of the cap is smooth, slightly sticky when moist, and scarlet-red to red or orange. The stalk is 2-20 cm long, 0.5-1.5 cm thick, the same color as the cap toward

Edible Mushrooms That Grow Tree Stumps

Flammulina velutipes (enokitake) growing on the stump of a tree has a completely different appearance than the cultivated mushroom. EDIBLE. (Hall)

Hygrocybe conica (witch's hat). EDIBILITY UNKNOWN: AVOID. (Johnson)

the apex but white toward the base, and appears twisted. When bruised, the flesh of the witch's hat turns black. There is some question as to the edibility of this mushroom. As such, it is best left alone.

Laccaria laccata (The Deceiver)

This edible, highly variable, deceptive mushroom (hence the common name) is often found in clusters under deciduous and coniferous trees in late summer and autumn throughout temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere. The caps, which are 1.5-6 cm in diameter and have widely spaced gills, are usually reddish brown with peach tones when moist, yellowish brown when dry. The caps are dome-shaped and shiny when young but become flattened with a depression in the center, or funnel-shaped with a wavy edge, as they mature. With age the caps may become dry and dull. The stalks and gills are a similar color to the caps. The stalks are typically 5-10 cm high (though this may be highly variable), 0.5-1 cm thick, and often somewhat compressed or twisted. Moreover, the stalk may have a constant diameter throughout or taper toward either the apex or the base. Laccaria laccata sometimes resembles poisonous species.

Laccaria laccata (the deceiver). EDIBLE. (Wang)

Laccaria amethystea (Amethyst Laccaria)

The edible and rather common amethyst laccaria is found from late summer to early winter in coniferous or deciduous forests. Its distinctive color, lack of a cortina, and white spores make it unlikely to be confused with a brightly colored poisonous species of, for example, Cortinarius. The caps are 1-6 cm in diameter and dome-shaped when young, becoming flattened or depressed in the center as they mature. Like the deceiver, the gills are widely spaced and the stalks are 4-10 cm high, tough, and often twisted.

Lactarius Species

Members of the genus Lactarius share many of the same features noted for species of Russula, which is not surprising since the two genera are very closely related. In both genera, fruiting bodies have a brittle, granular texture and what could be considered a rather simple overall structure, with no evidence of such features as a ring on the stalk. Moreover, in the majority of species the gills and stalk are white. Lactarius and Russula are among the more important mycorrhizal

Wild Edible Mushrooms
Laccaria amethystea (amethyst laccaria). EDIBLE. (Hall)
Lactarius camphoratus (aromatic milky). EDIBLE. (Izawa)

mushrooms, forming ectomycorrhizal associations with many different kinds of trees in the forests of the world. The most important difference in the two genera is the presence of a latex in the fruiting bodies of Lactarius that is absent in those of Russula. The latex, which can be clear, milky, or colored, is exuded when the flesh of either the gills or stalk is bruised or cut.

Lactarius camphoratus (Aromatic Milky)

Lactarius camphoratus can be recognized by the combination of a reddish brown cap, reddish brown gills, and a fragrant odor much like that of sweet clover. The aromatic milky is a relatively small mushroom, with a cap 1.5-5 cm in diameter and a stalk 1.5-6 cm tall and 0.3-1.0 cm thick. The cap is at first convex, becoming depressed with age, often with an umbo at the center. The latex is watery white and does not change color. Lactarius camphoratus occurs scattered or in groups, usually under or near conifers, in forests throughout temperate

Inverted Mushroom
Young fruiting bodies of Lactarius deliciosus (saffron milk cap) display the characteristic darker-colored orange blotches on the stem and cap and the orange latex oozing from the cut on the inverted cap. EDIBLE. (Hall)
Saffron Milk Cap Storage

Lactarius deliciosus (saffron milk cap) fruits prolificacy under Pinus radiata (Monterey pine) in Victoria, Australia. EDIBLE. (Hall)

Calocybe Orange

Young Lactarius deliciosus (saffron milk cap), some just showing the green markings that appear on old or damaged caps and stems. EDIBLE. (Hall)

regions of the Northern Hemisphere. This is an edible mushroom. When dried and powdered it is used as a flavoring in some parts of Europe (Philips 1981).

Lactarius deliciosus (Saffron Milk Cap)

Young saffron milk caps have a small depression in the center of the cap that gradually deepens so that mature caps become funnel-shaped. Both the caps and stalks are pale orange, with darker orange blotches arranged in concentric rings on the surface of the cap. Similarly colored blotches are also found on the stalk. Green stains develop on the caps and gills as the caps mature or if they are bruised. The gills, which are bright orange in young caps and dull carrot-orange in mature caps, are attached to the stalk and extend a short way down it. All species of Lactarius exude a sticky latex when young caps are broken. In the saffron milk cap, the latex is carrot-orange to bright orange. This mushroom is found in late summer and autumn under spruce (Picea) and pines (Pinus) throughout Europe, Asia, and North America as well as under pines in southern Australia. It is widely eaten in Europe, particularly in Spain, and is one of the few wild mushrooms collected commercially in Australia. The morphologically rather similar hatsudake (L. hatsudake) is widely consumed throughout East Asia.

Lactarius indigo (Indigo Milky)

Few other species of Lactarius are as distinctive as L. indigo. Its fruiting body is dark indigo-blue in fresh specimens, pale gray-blue in older ones. The latex is also dark blue at first but slowly turns green. The indigo milky is a moderately large mushroom, with a cap 5-15 cm in diameter and a stalk 2-8 cm high and 1-2.5 cm thick. This mushroom is found on the ground in oak (Quercus) and pine (Pinus) forests in eastern North America. It is edible but has been reported to have a slightly bitter taste.

Poisonous Lactarius Species

Three poisonous European species—Lactarius torminosus (woolly milk cap), L. chrysorheus, and L. zonarius—might be confused by a novice for the edible L. deliciosus (saffron milk cap). However, these other mushrooms do not have the green markings characteristic of the

Wild Edible Mushrooms
Lactariuszonarius. POISONOUS. (Hall)
Lactariuspubescens. POISONOUS. (Hall)

saffron milk cap, and they have a bitter taste and white latex. As a general rule, it is unwise to eat a Lactarius that does not produce red or orange latex immediately after the cap is broken. Lactarius blennius, which is commonly found under beech (Fagus) in Europe; L. pubescens, a species with white latex; and the Australian species L. piperatus (Cribb 1987) are all poisonous.

Lepiota, Macrolepiota, and Chlorophyllum Species

The parasol mushroom (Macrolepiota procera) can have caps up to 40 cm in diameter, but it typically reaches only half this size. When young, the caps are egg-shaped, cream to light brown, covered with darker brown scales, and borne on a stout stalk. As the cap opens, it becomes at first umbrella-shaped and then flattened with a raised central portion without scales. The flesh does not change color when bruised. The covering of scales gives the edge of the cap a somewhat irregular appearance. The hollow stalks are up to 30 cm high, have a prominent ring, and are covered with small scales. The gills are free from the stalk and white at first but eventually turn light brown. Although there is often a swollen base to the stalk, there is no volva. In Europe and eastern North America, parasol mushrooms are found in late summer and autumn on the edges of woods and in grasslands. These mushrooms have a sweet and pleasant taste, are widespread, and are ranked very highly by some.

The shaggy parasol (Macrolepiota rachodes) has many features in common with the parasol mushroom, but the scales on the cap are chestnut-colored and the cap turns orange-red when cut. Some people develop intestinal problems after eating the shaggy parasol (South-cott 1974). Chlorophyllum molybdites can closely resemble the edible M. rachodes since it has a similar shape and size, white gills when young, a ring on the stalk, distinct scales on the cap, and no volva. It can, however, be distinguished by its pale green to lime-green spore print and the green color of the gills in mature fruiting bodies. Poisoning from this mushroom begins one to three hours after eating, with severe abdominal pain that progresses to vomiting, diarrhea, and dehydration. It can be fatal.

Like Macrolepiota, species of Lepiota typically have rings on the stalk, white gills and spores, gills not attached to the stalk, and no volva. Some species like L. cristata are poisonous, with symptoms similar to those caused by Amanita (Southcott 1997), and consuming L. brunneoincarnata may be fatal. However, these species have a quite

Macrolepiota Comestible
Macrolepiota rachodes (shaggy parasol). EDIBLE. (Hall)
Johnnys Kitchen Lyon
Lepiota cristata. POISONOUS. (Lyon)

different appearance from the edible species M. procera and M. rachodes and are unlikely to be confused with them. Good illustrations of the suspect and poisonous species can be found in a number of books (see L^ssoe and Del Conte 1996, Lincoff and Nehring 1995, Phillips 1981).

Leucopaxillus giganteus (Giant Clitocybe)

As with the giant puffball, the most obvious feature of the giant clitocybe is size: mature funnel-shaped caps can be up to 40 cm in diameter with stalks 4-15 cm high and 4 cm thick. The caps and gills are creamy white, but the caps can develop light brown stains as they age. The cream gills are tightly packed together and extend down the stalk. When young, the edges of the caps are rolled downward. The giant cli-tocybe often forms very large fairy rings in pastures but can also be found in other grassy areas such as along roadsides. The smell and taste of this mushroom can be mild and pleasant but is sometimes truly disgusting. Occasionally consumption results in stomach cramps and diarrhea.

Grossest Edible Mushrooms
Leucopaxillus giganteus. EDIBLE. (Wang)

Lyophyllum shimeji (Honshimeji)

Honshimeji is a mycorrhizal mushroom that grows in association with various hardwood trees in Japan and other parts of eastern Asia. The caps resemble those of a Russula and are 2-8 cm in diameter and buff to light brown or occasionally mid brown. They are strongly convex when young, becoming flattened with age, occasionally with a small depression in the center. The stalks are white to off-white, 2-7 cm high, and somewhat swollen at the base when young. The gills are white to slightly pastel pink or brown. This mushroom is very highly regarded in Japan, where it commands high prices. Researchers there have recently selected a strain of Lyophyllum shimeji that is capable of growing saprobically (Fujita et al. 1990, Ohta 1994). This development may eventually result in commercial cultivation of honshimeji.

Marasmius oreades (Fairy Ring Mushroom)

This small fairy ring mushroom has light brown caps that are 2-5 cm in diameter, often with a raised, more darkly colored center portion.

White Mushroom Wide Spaced Gills
Lyophyllum shimeji (honshimeji). EDIBLE. (Izawa)

When fully opened the edges of the caps turn up, revealing widely spaced white, cream, or light brown gills. The tough, fibrous stalks are 2-10 cm high and white at first but turning off-white. The smell is characteristically that of fresh sawdust.

Marasmus oreades can be found in grassy areas such as lawns and pastures from late spring to late autumn. As the fungus grows through the soil it releases nutrients that stimulate the growth of the plants above the ground, often causing them to be a deeper green. As the fungus continues to grow through the soil, nutrients become depleted, toxins are released by the fungus, and the soil becomes somewhat water-repellent, so that plant growth is reduced. However, the fungus only occupies the soil while the nutrients it requires to grow are present; eventually the fungal hyphae die and plant growth returns to normal. Other species that grow in grassy areas and can produce fairy rings include Agaricus arvensis, A. campestris, Clitocybe dealbata, and Hygrocybe pratensis, although only the latter two have white spores.

Are Fairy Ring Mushrooms Edible
Marasmius oreades (fairy ring mushroom). EDIBLE. (Hall)
Marasmiussiccus (orange pinwheel). EDIBILITY UNKNOWN: AVOID. (Johnson)

Although the fairy ring mushroom has a pleasant flavor that can make a useful addition to soups and stews, it can also be confused with the deadly poisonous Clitocybe dealbata and C. nebularis, which are often found growing with it.

Marasmius siccus (Orange Pinwheel)

The fruiting bodies of most species of Marasmius are smaller than those produced by M. oreades and occur in situations where they are less likely to be as easily noticed. Most members of the genus are associated with decaying leaves, pine needles, twigs, and various other smaller bits of plant debris found on forest floors. The fruiting body of a typical species of Marasmius is unusual in that it can dry out and become shriveled but then revive and regain the appearance of a fresh specimen when adequate moisture becomes available. Marasmius siccus is one of the most colorful and distinctive species in the genus. The rust-orange to rose-colored cap, which looks like a miniature parasol, is pleated, bell-shaped to convex, and 0.3-3 cm in diameter. The flesh is very thin, and the widely spaced gills are white. The stalk, which is white to blackish brown, is very thin (0.2-1.0 mm thick) and relatively long in relation to the size of the cap. Marasmius rotula (horsehair mushroom) has a smaller, white cap and a long, shiny black stalk. Moreover, it is more likely to be found on dead twigs and small roots than on dead leaves, the usual habitat for M. siccus. Though not known to be poisonous, the fruiting bodies of these and other species of Marasmius are much too small to be considered for the table.

Mycena haematopus (Bleeding Mycena)

One of the more distinctive members of the genus Mycena is M. haematopus, the bleeding mycena. This mushroom is so named because the stalk exudes a deep blood-red latex when broken. Found throughout North America and Europe, the bleeding mycena is common on well-decayed wood, where it occurs in small clusters. The cap is red-brown at the center and reddish gray toward the margin, conical to bell-shaped, and 1-5 cm in diameter. The stalk is 4-10 cm high, 2-3 mm thick, hollow, and typically hairy to strigose at the base. Mycena haematopus is edible but hardly worth collecting because of its small size.

Mycena leaiana (orange mycena). EDIBILITY UNKNOWN: AVOID. (Johnson)

Mycena leaiana (Orange Mycena)

Mycena is a large genus that contains a diverse assemblage of mostly relatively small, largely nondescript mushrooms. Only a few species are large enough to be easily noticed or to be considered for the table. One prominent example is M. leaiana, which occurs in dense clusters on the decaying wood of various hardwoods throughout central and eastern North America. It is particularly common on beech (Fagus). The caps are bell-shaped, 1-5 cm in diameter, smooth, and slightly slimy A conspicuous bright reddish orange when young, the caps become more yellow as they mature. The gills are crowded, relatively thick, and yellow to pink with bright red-orange edges. The stalk is 3-7 cm high, 1-3 mm thick, and tough, with a base covered in dense, coarse hairs. The edibility of most species of Mycena is not known. Although M. leaiana is probably not poisonous, there would seem to be little food value in this small species.

Russula aeruginea (Green Russula)

Species of Russula are some of the easiest mushrooms to identify, as they have a granular texture when broken, regularly arranged brittle

Mushrooms Avoid Wilde
Russula aeruginea (green russula). EDIBILITY UNKNOWN: AVOID. (Johnson)

gills, and usually brightly colored caps. When young the caps are dome-shaped, usually with a small depression in the top. As they mature they flatten out and the depression in the cap deepens. The stalks have a constant diameter throughout and are often rounded at the base. There is no ring on the stalk and no volva. All species of Russula form mycorrhizal associations with hardwoods or conifers.

Though the fruiting bodies of fungi come in an assortment of colors, some colors are much less common than others. For example, there are relatively few green mushrooms. One prominent member of this underrepresented group is Russula aeruginea, rather appropriately called the green russula. Widely distributed in both North America and Europe, R. aeruginea typically occurs under oak (Quercus), aspen (Populus), and birch (Betula). The dull green to dark green cap is 3-9 cm in diameter and convex at first but becomes flattened or slightly depressed in mature specimens. The surface of the cap is smooth and slightly sticky when moist. The stalk is 4-8 cm high, 1-2 cm thick, and white or faintly yellow. The green russula is regarded as edible by some authors but probably is best avoided (Arora 1986). Edible species of Russula include the wine-colored R. vinosa, yellow R. violeipes, and greenish R. virescens.

Edible Russula Mushroom Identification
Russula emetica (the sickener). POISONOUS. (Hall)

Poisonous Russula Species

The poisonous Northern Hemisphere species Russula emetica (the sickener), R. mairei (beechwood sickener), and R. luteotacta have red or faded red caps along with white stalks and gills. It is highly unlikely that these would be confused with Amanita caesarea (Caesar's mushroom), particularly as the latter has a prominent volva at the base of the stalk. The Japanese species—R. foetens, R. japonica, R. omiensis, R. senecis, and R. subnigricans—are also toxic (Imazeki et al. 1988). Unless you know a Russula species to be edible, do not eat it. Do not eat red, pink, or pink-tinged varieties such as R. atropurpurea or those with a hot, bitter, or peppery taste when raw.

A number of species of Russula are extremely variable in appearance. To correctly identify these requires careful examination of the color of the spore print, colors of the cap, details of the cap edge, taste, smell, whether the surface layers of the cap can be peeled away, the reaction of the flesh of the fruiting body to various chemicals, and certain microscopic details.

Russula Atropurpurea
Russula atropurpurea. EDIBILITY UNKNOWN: AVOID. (Hall)
Edible Mushrooms South Africa

The fruiting bodies of Termitomyces eurrhizus (termite mushroom) grow from the fungal garden tended by the worker termites. EDIBLE. (Izawa)

Termitomyces eurrhizus (Termite Mushroom)

Most termites, which feed on dead plant material such as wood and leaf litter, are only able to digest cellulose and lignin because they have symbiotic protozoa and bacteria living in their intestine. However, the most advanced species in the Macrotermitinae found in Africa, Madagascar, India, and much of Southeast Asia do not have these symbiotic protozoa and bacteria. Instead they rely on their food being processed by one of two dozen mushroom species in the genus Termitomyces (Wood and Thomas 1989). These termites forage for food and then deposit fecal pellets on a spongelike "garden" of Termitomyces that may be up to 50 cm in diameter. These gardens, which are tended by the worker termites, are inside mounds up to 6 m high and 3 m across and are equipped with air shafts that keep them aerated and cool. Clusters of fungal spores, called sporodochia, develop on the fungal garden and are eaten by the workers, with the king, queen, soldiers, and nymphs living off the salivary secretions of the workers.

When rainfall exceeds about 2 cm per day, Termitomyces produces long-stalked, edible mushrooms above the ground that are considered a delicacy. They are widely used as food throughout much of Africa (Rammeloo and Walleyn 1993). Although it is possible to grow Termitomyces in culture, all attempts to cultivate these mushrooms commercially have been unsuccessful.

Tricholoma flavovirens (Canary Tricholoma)

The distinguishing feature of the canary tricholoma is the pale yellow to sulfur-yellow color of the cap, gills, and stalk. The caps are usually 5-10 cm in diameter and the stalk is 3-7 cm high. This species can be found as solitary fruiting bodies or in clusters on the ground under conifers and in mixed forests throughout temperate regions of North America and Europe. It typically fruits in late summer and autumn. Tricholoma flavovirens is often listed as edible. However, some people develop an upset stomach after eating it, and a few cases of poisoning have been reported. For this reason, it should be avoided.

Tricholoma matsutake (Matsutake)

When young and unopened, the fruiting bodies of matsutake (literally "pine mushroom") are somewhat club-shaped and 10-30 cm long. They are creamy white with a light brown top and brown

Mushroom Important
Grade-one fruiting bodies of Tricholoma matsutake (matsutake), the most important edible mushroom in Japan. EDIBLE. (Hall)

blotches along the sides. At this immature stage the mushrooms are mostly below ground, with perhaps only the tops showing through cracks in the soil surface. As they open, the fruiting bodies take on a more conventional mushroom shape. When fully expanded, the caps

Grade-three fruiting bodies of Tricholoma matsutake (matsutake) are at the stage of growth just before the cap opens. EDIBLE. (Hall)

are creamy brown with prominent brown markings and can be 10-30 cm in diameter. The stalks are typically 10-20 cm high and have a ring toward the top and coloring similar to that of the caps.

In Japan matsutake is primarily associated with Pinus densiflora (Japanese red pine), an early colonizer of bare or disturbed soil, although it is also associated with a range of other conifers. This mushroom forms distinctive white, compact fungal colonies in the soil, called the shiro. These occur just below the litter layer and can be up to 25 cm thick. Volatile antibiotics produced in the shiro eliminate most soil microorganisms (Ogawa 1977, Ohara and Hamada 1967). Fruiting normally begins when the host trees are about twenty years old and 4-5 m high. Production peaks in forty- to fifty-year-old forests and can reach 100 kg per hectare. It then gradually declines over the following thirty to forty years as the litter layer builds up and Japanese red pine is replaced by other trees such as deciduous oaks.

Matsutake is more than just a food in Japan: it is a symbol of autumn and a special part of Japanese culture. Such is the status of this mushroom that many presentation packs of matsutake are never eaten but are instead kept as symbols of autumn and friendship. It is quite an expensive mushroom too, however, and so many people succumb to the temptation of trying it in their favorite dish. Thinly slicing the fruiting bodies lengthwise and then cooking slivers in

Roasting Tricholoma matsutake (matsutake) over a charcoal fire, Yamagata Mura, Japan. (Hall)

A typical Tricholoma matsutake (matsutake) forest in Japan with about 75 percent canopy cover and limited understory plants. The positions of previously collected matsutake have been marked by colored flags and show the approximate extent of the shiro. (Hall)

Shiro Matsutake

A small tunnel house, called a "Hiroshima tunnel," is used to stimulate the fruiting of Tricholoma matsutake (matsutake) in Japan. (Hall)

miso soup is one way to enjoy matsutake. One of Ian Hall's most memorable experiences in Japan was eating this mushroom in a thatched cottage in Yamagata Mura at the northern end of Honshu. There, surrounded by good company and lubricated with more than adequate quantities of sake, matsutake was simply roasted over a charcoal fire.

If you are invited to a Japanese home for dinner during autumn, a suitable present would be a small presentation pack of unopened grade-one matsutake. But beware: Because of the shape of unopened fruiting bodies, in past times the word "matsutake" became synonymous with the male organ. Consequently, in polite company the word was dropped in favor of "the take." When Ian visited a wholesaler near Hiroshima, a packer went into a fit of giggles when asked to bring out specimens of grade-one matsutake, and his interpreter showed distinct discomfort when asked to hold one while he took a photograph. As previously mentioned, this is a pricey mushroom, so when you go out to buy your presentation package take plenty of money. At the start of the fruiting season, in late August, prices for unopened grade-one matsutake can be up to 160,000 yen ($1250) per kilogram, with prices reflecting grade, quality, origin, and availability.

In the early 1940s about 12,000 tons of matsutake were harvested each year in Japan, but since then production has gradually fallen to about 1000 tons (Wang et al. 1997). Another 2000 tons of matsutake, white matsutake (Tricholoma magnivelare), and European matsutake (T. caligatum) are imported from Canada, China, Korea, Morocco, Taiwan, and the United States, but demand still exceeds supply, which is why matsutake commands very high prices. The estimated annual retail market for matsutake in Japan is worth $250 to $500 million.

All attempts to produce matsutake-infected plants and establish new matsutake forests have failed. However, considerable progress has been made in Japan in developing methods to maximize production in forests where matsutake occurs naturally (Ogawa and Ito 1989). Surveys show that production is greatest when the canopy provides only 75 percent cover, the shrub layer is relatively sparse, the soil is moist but not wet, and the litter layer is about 3 cm deep. It has also been found that production can be increased by raking the litter layer to reduce the depth to 3 cm, and by removing some of the shrubs and large trees to ensure adequate aeration and to allow sufficient sunlight onto the forest floor (Ogawa and Ito 1989). Modifying the soil humidity and temperature by erecting irrigated tunnels over shiros, the so-called Hiroshima method, has also been found to stimulate

Matsutake Wild

Tricholoma magnivelare (white matsutake) is slowly gaining favor in Japan. It can fruit in Canada right up to the first snowfall. EDIBLE. (Hall)

fruiting (Iwase et al. 1988, Tominaga 1975, Tominaga and Komeyama 1987). In South Korea plastic tunnels have been replaced with small plastic hoods or caps to cover shiros or individual fruiting bodies.

Tricholoma terreum

Tricholoma terreum is fairly common throughout temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere, where it can be found fruiting in late summer and autumn. The caps are light to dark gray, often with a slight violet hue when young, and 4-10 cm in diameter. The gills and stalks are white. The stalk is up to 8 cm high and has no ring. The gills are attached to the stalk but do not extend down it. The taste of this mushroom is pleasant but not outstanding.

Other Tricholoma Species

Like Lepiota, some species of Tricholoma are either suspect or known to be poisonous. Tiger tricholoma (T. pardinum) causes severe intestinal symptoms and in the early 1900s was responsible for about 20 percent of all poisonings in Switzerland (Bresinsky and Besl 1990).

Wild Very Similar Species Danger
Tricholoma terreum. EDIBLE. (Hall)
Tiger Tricholoma

The fruiting bodies of Tricholoma pessundatum under Pinus radiata (Monterey pine). POISONOUS. (Wang)

Tricholoma ustale (burnt tricholoma) is a common cause of poisoning in Japan, presumably because of its similarity to T. bakamat-sutake and T. matsutake.

While Tricholoma pessundatum has been consumed by some without ill effects, others have experienced twenty-four hours of moderate stomach upsets. It is possible, however, that the ill effects were caused by the presence of bacteria in old, decaying mushrooms rather than by the mushrooms themselves. Symptoms of diarrhea, sweating, difficulty in focusing, and restriction of the pupils have also been reported after ingestion of an unidentified species of Tricholoma (Southcott 1997).

Hypomyces lactifluorum (Lobster Mushroom)

Hypomyces lactifluorum is a parasitic fungus that infects species of Lactarius and Russula. The infection of the mushroom by this fungus distorts the shape of the fruiting body, producing a funnel-shaped structure 10-15 cm wide and 7-15 cm high with a stalk 5-10 cm thick. The infected mushrooms are characteristically bright orange. They can be found from midsummer to midautumn and are very popular in North America, where they are frequently available in markets and featured widely on restaurant menus.

Hypomyces Lactifluorum
Hypomyces lactifluorum (lobster mushroom). EDIBLE. (Hall)

2. Mushrooms with gills and a more or less centrally placed stalk; pale pink spore print

Entoloma Species

The fruiting bodies of Entoloma species can be confused with those of edible Lepista species because they have pink spores and pale lilac to buff to lilac-brown gills that are attached to the stalk. Some species of Entoloma are edible; others, such as E. rhodopolium, are poisonous. The novice would be wise to avoid species in this genus.

Lepista Species

Species of Lepista produce a pale pink spore print. When the spores are observed under a microscope they are found to be elliptical and covered with minute spines, particularly if stained with cotton blue, a dye commonly used by mycologists. It is very important to make a spore print when identifying species of this genus, as it is possible to

Edible Mushrooms
Entoloma rhodopolium. POISONOUS. (Izawa)
Lepista aff. luscina. EDIBLE WHEN COOKED. (Hall)

mistake some for brown-spored species of Cortinarius, which may be poisonous. Many species of Lepista have the odor of a sweet perfume and the general shape of a Tricholoma. No species of Lepista appears to be toxic, provided it is cooked first (Benjamin 1995).

Lepista nuda has lilac-tinged gills when young, but these turn pale pinkish brown as the mushroom ages. The caps are at first conical, later becoming flattened with a raised portion in the center, and are 6-12 cm in diameter. The stalks are 5-9 cm high, sometimes with a bulbous portion at the base. This mushroom has a very powerful, attractive smell. In Europe and North America it is found in woodlands, hedgerows, and gardens in late summer to autumn and occasionally throughout

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  • alyce vega
    Is matsutake mushroom edible when fully mature?
    3 years ago