The Western Montana Mycological Association offers several ways to identify mushrooms:
- Key – A step by step guide to identifying a mushroom by its visible characteristics. Following through the key will allow you to determine any type of mushroom listed on this site.
- Mushroom Pictures and Names – If you know or suspect the name of the mushroom, this guide has images to compare. Each family or genus group in the index has a photo of a representative of the group.
Mushrooms of SPECIAL interest:
- Morels - A special section focusing on the ecology, biology, and preparation of morel mushrooms.
- Oyster Mushrooms- Pleurotus. A special section featuring oyster mushrooms: cultivation, identification, preparation
- Truffles- Looking at the dozens of truffles in our area, their ecological and culinary importance.
But…but….how do I FIND
these mushrooms? Wherever you look, mushrooms are shrouded in mystery. Patience and the indulgence of a guru will start you on the path, but the only path of learning is by doing. There are old or bold mushroom hunters, but there are none that lack motivation! The following essays will give you some tips, and a look at the resources and links page will give you some leads to follow. And dont get impatient. If they wont tell you its probably because it isnt knowable. Yet.
The Ethics of Harvesting is a discussion with commercial and recreational pickers, published in Mushroom the Journal of Wild Mushrooming back in the 20th century…
Tips from a Commercial Chanterelle Hunter a rare insight into the workings of a fungus finder, with one of the best minds in the game, Connie Green.
The Tao of Collecting offers some how and why of approaching the elusive fungi.
The Devil and the Deep Blue Sea is a discussion of the pitfalls and shortcuts of mushroom field identification
Ask the Experts
– Mystery mushrooms identified! Search our archives below. If you take a photo of the top and bottom of the mushroom and email it to email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org and we will do our best to identify it for you. Limit your requests to ONE mushroom per email. Research Members receive priority identifications. See membership for details.
Scroll down to see recent questions and answers
Dear Fungal Jungal,
The attached attached photo shows mushrooms I found growing on a log in Southern Ontario in October. It is the only green mushroom I have seen. Coupled with that, it has a beautiful yellow gill set that you would think would make it easy to identify. So far no luck.
You have a Panellus serotinus, also called Pleurotus serotinus in older books. It grows on hardwoods, often birch or aspen, and it is not a bad edible when fresh and young like this.
The golden yellow gills are characteristic, as is the rimose stipe. The olive tones on the cap often develop into a muddy brown as the mushroom ages.
Hi my name is Jeff and I was curious as to what this mushroom is called.
I found these on my farm in Kentucky and had never seen them before. They were moist and flesh like in texture with no distinct smell. Can you identify?
You have a Gyromitra there, probably caroliniana, based on the large size, reddish brown cap, and thick folded stem. Some people eat false morels, you can read more about this under the “Morels” pages on this website.
In the process of playing the part of a ruthless Spaniard overseeing the execution of Tupac Katari in a documentary for Charlie’s psuedo-wife’s daughter, Yomi, I noticed that the pueblito just above El Alto where we did most of our shooting was host to a small pine forest. Before I noticed the pines, I noticed the Boletes growing nearby. I have attached photos in this email. Mary wants to know about the edibility so as to let the members of the pueblo in on their potential new source of food.
This is a Suillus, most likely luteus group, that hitchhiked over on the roots of the pine, with which it is mycorrhizal. It is a food source, yes. I would recommend drying (salting?) it, or cooking it thoroughly. Members of this group contain thiaminase, which may “pass through” your digestive system quickly if consumed fresh. The amazing thing about the introduced Suillus is that there are NO bugs living in them, they have no natural insect associates in South America, and they often dry out in the field. Watch out for associated Trichoderma infections, the blackish spots I see on a specimen cap there, which can be removed by peeling perhaps. The Russians consume huge amounts of these mushrooms pickled. Similar mushrooms are imported dried from Chile, where they are picked from under pine plantations.. the term “Bolete” is all too often used to denote ANY sponge-bottomed mushroom commercially, and this at least is an improvement over the word “wild” that was the commercial descriptor for any unknown edible mushroom before.
Can you tell me what this is? It came up right after it rained, lasted one day only, stunk horribly, attracted small gnats or fruit-like flies, oozed this sort of brown stuff out of the underside and then disappeared. It grew in the Houston/Galveston area. Photo by Don MacFarland.
This is called Linderia columnata, aka Clathrus columnata, and it resembles other stinkhorns we normally put in this genus. They do have a bit of a smell. Flies will eat the goo off from the red ribs.
I have these two large spheres growing in my yard and would love to know what they are. Some have said they are dangerous and to stay away from them.
They are quite large as mushrooms go. They are 12-15 inches in diameter. They are roughly the size of a volleyball and have no apparent openings in view.
We live in far northern Wisconsin, deep in a mixed hardwoods and pine forest. Soil is sand and clay.
Any ideas what they may be?
Seems you have a Calvatia gigantea, interestingly enough I just got another inquiry from Wisconsin on the same species! They must be up now. If the interior is white, it is edible. When it fades to yellow, olive, and then chocolate brown, it is no longer food.
Two unknown samples from Patrick
1. Did the first specimen have any sort of ring or residue on the stem? This could be important. It would seem to be a member of the campestris species, but I must admit my confidence level is low based only on these images. Secondly, please read about “Mushrooms with Issues” (on the FungalJungal site) about secondary aspects affecting ediblity, such as contamination, since fungi can bioaccumulate background toxins and display them without injuring themselves in the process. Or, as the song goes
Fairy ring Marasmius
The one they call Scotch Bonnet,
But are you Really Really Sure
No Doggie Wee Weed on it?
The Agaricii are a disperse and varied lot of mushrooms. Members of this genus span latitudes and time zones, and shift their biophysiology with the makeup of the ground material they live in, and the plants they live in relation with. Their spores are picked up on open petri dishes anywhere in the world. One specie, the button mushroom, is common to most Americans. I’d reckon at about 200 species of them that are pretty commonly accepted as unique species worldwide, and yet Agaricus bisporus is divided into dozens of unique proprietary strains. In short, the diversity of this genus is immense.
So yes, Patrick, I’d say your first specimen was Agaricus campestris group. It is an edible. To me it looks to be a more squat build than most campestris, the stem is usually thinner. Arora in Mushrooms Demystified mentions albolutescens and this seems in the ballpark with your find. Are there tons of them?
As for the second specimen, here too you seem to have an Agaricus. Cut the base of the stem. Does it yellow? What does it smell like? Is it big? a coin in photo for reference? Do the young specimens have pink or gray gills?
There are a number of things it could be.
If you can stand dealing with a computer program, Matchmaker is pretty good at keying out mushrooms when you get to this next level. And if you want to start eating Agaricus, believe me you want to get to this level of discrimination, because some of the members of this appealing group of fungi will give you a night of spewing. You interact with the program, describe your mushroom, and it gives you a few or a hundred possibilites, depending on how explicit you are with your description.
Determining the identity of a species can often be clued in by factors such as substrate (what is it growing on?) or in association with, perhaps growing under a tree. Some species of fungi hitchhike across the Atlantic on the roots of imported seedlings, like Lactarius torminosus on the weeping birch, an ornamental. Immigrants brought Agaricus rutilescens to Missoula, and it still propagates around compost heaps. Some Agaricus grow through chemically treated lawns, but I wont eat them.
So instead of a straight answer I offer you a challenge: to learn to tell the species of Agaricus apart so that you can safely enjoy them. We must have over a dozen species in the Northern Rockies here somewhere, if we can find them. 3 or 4 will make you sick.. I eat a couple species, including campestris, silvicola, arvensis, subrufescens, and bitorquis. And I can’t completely ignore bisporus.
On Oct 29, 2005,
In a recent fishing trip we found all these mushrooms in tree at first I though a person had thrown them there.
Pretty soon we saw lots of trees with mushrooms on them at different height. Are the squirrel doing this for winter storage, and are the good to eat? Have you ever witnessed this.
Squirrels stash mushrooms in tree branches for midwinter snacks. Ive seen the little buggers carry a mushroom bigger than they are straight up a tree so fast I couldnt stop him!
They eat a lot of stuff that I would not recommend for people. Squirrels, by merit of their size (surface area: volume ratio) have much more efficient filters (kidneys) and can metabolize things that are toxic to humans. Also, some mushrooms have a carcinogenic effect that squirrels don’t suffer from but humans would. So there is no incentive to raid the squirrels’ larder, better to check your favorite riparian zones for oysters and Hericiums. I’m also conducting an ongoing experiment using native Columbia ground squirrels at the Glacier Institute Big Creek Outdoor Education center. We set out a buffet of the mushrooms we have collected, and see if the squirrels select them.
The Glacier squirrels liked Rhizopogon, pulled in the odd Cortinarius, maybe a Suillus cavipes if it was small, I believe they enjoyed both Elaphomyces and Hysterangium, and this leads me to suspect they find things rooting in the duff that they find edible. They would often take a Russula, one of the reddish capped ones, or maybe a couple different red-capped species of Russula, also Gomphidius subroseus.
Other species of squirrel were seen to eat truffle-like species of Hymenogaster, Melanogaster, Geopora, and Gautieria and several Russula species often end up in tree branches. I once saw a pika dig up and carry back to its burrow what appeared to be a Rhizopogon rubescens from the soft bank near a trailside under a lodgepole.
In Banff, the squirrels liked the Hydnum repandum, ignored the shaggy manes, and took Russulas.
In Alaska the small gray squirrels will take Paxillus, or Leccinum, whole or in pieces, and whisk them up a tree so fast you can’t believe it. The little guys love King Boletes, and usually demolish them within a few days of discovery. Of course they like nut fudge too. They have no interest in morels, generally but would occasionally steal one from the dryer, and later drop it.
They also carried the green-capped Russula occidentalis group off in no time. Never saw them take a similarly colored Tricholoma saponaceum, though.
Legend has it that the origin of the tradition of decorating the Yule Tree came from seeing this sign of the squirrels readying for winter.
Date: October 30, 2005
Subject: strange thing growing
Hi I found this growing in my neighbors yard. Have lived in this area Northern IL. all my life and have been in the horticultural field for 20 years and have never seen anything like this before. Is this a pre mushroom bud or something like that? I do not know about mushrooms but have noticed more different types of them growing this summer than I have ever seen before. I appreciate any info.
This is a species of fungus known as a stinkhorn. This is a photo of a beautiful fresh specimen. It must have reeked. Its name is Mutinus caninus. It is edible.
Subject: Can you identify this?
I found this growing in my basement can you ID it? Thanks!
This is an ascomycete, a relative of the morel, probably Peziza vulgaris or domiciliana. Both tend to eat wood (seems they are built into particle board) wo when the wood gets wet the Peziza moves in. Solution: dry wood.
From: Doug & Kelley Gowland
Subject: Emailing: Mushroom
Four hours before this picture was taken, the “head” was a dark brown. There was a lacy skirt below the head. There were light things almost like scales on the head part. Also, it was about 1 1/2 inches shorter four hours earlier.
This is a Dictyophora indusiata, a pan global sub tropical species that seems to be moving north into temperate areas of North America. Notice the remains of the skirt that the stinkhorn “deployed” 4 hours earlier.
Date: November 1, 2005
These have sprung up in my garden…keeping my baby girl away from them but curious as to what they are?
Torquay, Devon UK
Date: November 20, 2005
Subject: Fungi Identification
Please find attached Photo of a fungus that has appeared in my landscape rocks for the last two years it is approximately 14″ inches across. It first appears as a white foam (like whipped cream out of a can oozing out from between rocks), then within weeks it changes to what you can see in the attached photo.
Looks to me like you have a Ganoderma in the lucidum group. It must be growing on a stump or buried wood. It is a valued medicinal used for immune enhancement and other purposes. Id say you were pretty lucky to have such a fine mushroom come up in your yard. do you use herbicides or insecticides in the area? if you don’t, I’d say you have a good supply of medicine. Harvest it when it has stopped growing and is stilll shiny. Depending on the size of the root it is growing on, it may return for three or four years or even more. A piece about the size of a fingertip makes a tea with healthful effect. Discuss with your physician or naturopath if you are using coumarin or other blood thinners before trying this, as one of the effects of this fungus can exaggerate its effect.
Nov 21, 2005, at 12:57 PM, fred lightfoot wrote:
Thank you for your promptness in getting back to me I really appreciate it. I now feel good about this, Can I keep it in the dried form for use over a longer period?
Yep, you can. You can just let it dry in the sun, or slice it. Be careful of green mold growing on it. Slice the thing to see if the flesh is white or brown inside. The brown is stronger, but they are both considered medicine, called ReiShi in Japanese, or Ling Zhi by the Chinese. You can probably look up all kinds of stuff on the web using those names. You’ll see, it is pricey. It is used to ease ageing. Since it is the “mushroom of immortality” in Chinese, it makes sense to take just a little every day. A huge fruiting body like the one that found you is a huge amount, and you can be generous and let your friends live forever too. The fruiting bodies are annual, And when you harvest it, it will usually break off at a point as you are tugging on it. It is better to leave a bit so it will regrow next year.
On Nov 14, 2005, at 9:47 PM, Bob wrote:
Here’s the photo of the shroom. Do you know the name?
Thats a Hygrophorus speciosus you have there. It is an unappreciated tasty edible and pretty as a wildflower. It is pretty common and several species of mammal feast on these things: you find them in tree branches, placed there by squirrels, deer nibble them, etc. and then there are the snails. The fungus is mycorrhizal with conifers, exchanging water and nutrients for carbohydrates and fruitings can be quite common one or two weeks a year.
On 11/10/2005, Kevin Cook submitted this image (copyrighted), and asked for a confirmation of the species.
The mushroom growing from old branch stubs is Hypsizygus tessulatus (old name Pleurotus ulmarius) – loves box elder and American elm. Hope this helps
I consider all parts of this one to be OK; just use common sense if the stems appear too tough. The good news is that it appears so late that it is seldom “buggy.” As with all wild edibles, don’t eat a large portion the first time, and save a small amount uncooked for ID purposes should you have an extremely rare allergic reaction. This is a mushroom I recommend to people as a good edible for beginners since there is no poisonous look-alike, it has a unique habitat, and the texture is good. Hope you enjoy it. ADP
Thanks for your e-mail, and for sharing your pics. Yes, that looks like Hypsyzigus ulmarius to me, too. It ought to be a safe edible, though I of course make no guarantees about edibility through pictures and e-mail. Dr. Michael Kuo, MushroomExpert.Com.
I find them to dry quite nice, and hope they reconstitute well. I am really intrigued by your method for rehydrating morels with the sink sprayer, and that microwave notion, BRILLIANT, I can’t wait to try this! I printed the 2 pages (along with the dried mushroom soup recipe) to pass to a friend at work, for a fellow that offers them at $20 a pound in the spring he doesn’t appear that bright. He suggests partially frying, then freezing and boasts they keep for 6 months in the freezer, a friend of his tried to dry some and thought that reconstituted they had little flavor. I wonder if he washed them to much first? I still have some from spring of 2004 and I tossed one into a bowl of “poor man’s soup” (fried hamberger, potatoes, carrots, celery, chicken broth) and much to my delight 20 mins in this mixture turned this soup into something quite nice indeed!
On Nov 21, 2005, Kevin wrote:
This one was found in the woods of the Pacific Northwest. Whatcom County, Washington, USA. The photo was from about 3 feet distance.
This looks to be a Sparassis crispa, (aka radicata) the western Sparassis. This is called the cauliflower mushroom for some reason. Looks more like undersea life to me. It is an interesting edible with a unique texture.
Think clear noodles. If you wish to harvest this mushroom, cut off the outer perimeter, but leave the central root-like stuff alone, and it will return year after year. Pull it up by the roots and it is gone forever. You been told.
This is not a common mushroom, and it likes old growth habitat, so its continued existence is probably threatened. It would be a prime candidate for cultivation, but I know of nothing being done.
On Nov 20, 2005, at 8:02 PM, Bill wrote:
Can you kindly id my friend’s mushroom? I could not get a spore print.
This is Lepiota naucina I’d say. It was growing in a lawn, yes? The spore print will be white. The ring on the stem will be such that it can roll up the stem like a napkin ring.
It has a pleasant flavor and odor when cooked up. I only enjoy them from places where no herbicide or insecticides have been used. Identification must be very confident, as this mushroom resembles deadly Amanita species.
Note the bulbous base with no volva. There are also reports that L. naucina may cause gastrointestinal upset, but my belief remains that this very capable decomposer is simply accumulating toxins from the local environment that cause it no harm, but prove toxic to people.
Hello, I encountered the attached fungus while walking on Sanibel Island, FL in October 2005. Can you tell me the common and scientific name?
It is a nice pic of Clathrus rubra, a stinkhorn.