Arizona offers a lot of interesting things to see and do, and mushroom hunting is one of them. Even though this state is predominately made up of dry, desert habitats, certain types of mushrooms in Arizona have made their way into the state’s forests and woodlands.
18 Mushrooms in Arizona
Let’s look at some common mushrooms in the state and find out more about them, such as where they grow and whether or not they’re edible. Please always double check anything you pick against authoritative sources before consuming them.
1. Peppery Bolete
Scientific Name: Chalciporus piperatus
The Peppery bolete is one of the mushrooms you can find in or near Arizona’s coniferous, beech, and oak woodlands. This small pored mushroom has an orange-fawn cap that’s sticky when wet and may crack with age. Despite its peppery taste, this fungus isn’t recommended for use in cooking because it contains toxins that may cause gastric symptoms.
2. White king bolete
Scientific Name: Boletus barrowsii
The white king bolete, which is widespread on the West Coast and particularly abundant in Arizona, thrives among ponderosa pines and oaks. It has a gray-white to buff coloration, and it initially has a convex-shaped cap before it flattens out.
This fungus usually emerges after rain and prefers the early autumn months. White king bolete is also one of the harvested mushrooms that humans can consume.
3. Shaggy ink cap
Scientific Name: Coprinus comatus
Common in lawns and waste areas is a fungus called the shaggy ink cap, also called the shaggy mane. You can recognize them by the white fruit bodies that are shaped like cylindrical bells and transform into bell-shaped caps covered in shaggy scales.
The gills of this unusual species of mushroom change color from white to pink to black and eventually dissolve within a few hours of being picked. The best time to eat these mushrooms is when they’re still young, preferably before they turn black.
4. Yellow mushroom
Scientific Name: Floccularia luteovirens
In North America, you can find the Yellow mushroom in aspen and spruce-fir forests. To identify this species, look at its brilliant yellow color and delicate scales. This species is edible and has a mild flavor; some even find the aroma to be sweet.
5. Yellow Jack
Scientific Name: Suillus kaibabensis
Yellow Jack, also called Slippery Jack, is one of the fungi you might encounter in Arizona’s wild. The primary color of this mushroom is yellow, but it can also have shades of brown and white.
The cap can range from flat to convex, and it has yellowish-brown pores that age to a salmon coloration. In the Four Corners region, yellow jacks grow only under Ponderosa pines and have fruiting bodies from July to September.
6. Purple coral
Scientific Name: Clavaria purpurea
The purple coral, also known as the purple fairy club, is one of the more striking fungi you might come across in Arizona. It’s a coral fungus that you can recognize by its thin, cylindrical spindles that can reach a height of 12 centimeters and change color from purple to tan. This species is edible but not very substantial, and it thrives in spruce-fir forests.
7. Conifer Tuft
Scientific Name: Hypholoma capnoides
Conifer Tuft is an edible mushroom that grows in North America, Europe, and Asia. They form dense mats on rotting wood and may look like poisonous sulphur tuft or brick caps. Because of the similarity in appearance between this mushroom and poisonous varieties, it’s important to exercise extreme caution when foraging for this species.
8. Sulphur Tuft
Scientific Name: Hypholoma fasciculare
One species of mushroom that often grows in clusters on dead tree trunks is the Sulphur Tuft. You can tell them apart from other mushrooms by their sulphur-yellow cap with an orange-brown center and a white edge. Despite its attractive appearance, sulphur tuft is bitter and poisonous, containing toxins that cause vomiting, diarrhea, and convulsions upon ingestion.
9. Saffron milk cap
Scientific Name: Lactarius deliciosus
The saffron milk cap is a popular edible mushroom that originated in Europe but can now be found throughout North America. It’s often found near pine trees and has a convex to vase-shaped cap and a carrot-orange color that gets sticky when wet. You can use these mushrooms in various ways, adding either mild or bitter flavor in cooking.
10. Gem-studded puffball
Scientific Name: Lycoperdon perlatum
The gem-studded puffball, also known as the common puffball, is a common edible mushroom that you can find in Arizona. This species has a spherical body that’s covered in spiny bumps and is most desirable for consumption when it’s still young and white on the inside. When a gem-studded puffball reaches maturity, it’ll split open and release brown spores when it’s touched.
11. Velvet-top fungus
Scientific Name: Phaeolus schweinitzii
A mushroom known as the velvet-top fungus is responsible for butt rot in conifers like Douglas-fir and pine. Douglas-fir, ponderosa pine, southwestern white pine, spruce, and true firs are typical hosts for these parasites, which prefer to inhabit the trees’ roots. The edges of these fungi are orange or pale, while the center is a dark brown that darkens as they mature.
12. Deer Shield
Scientific Name: Pluteus cervinus
The Deer Shield fungus is common in eastern North America and Europe, where it thrives on dead and decaying wood. The cap can be anywhere from a pale ochre brown to a deep brown, and the gills will turn pink as the spores mature. Although Deer Shield fungus is edible, it’s not commonly consumed because some people believe the quality isn’t very good.
13. Orange mock oyster
Scientific Name: Phyllotopsis nidulans
Orange mock oyster fungi are common in Arizona and other similar climates in the Northern Hemisphere. While they don’t contain any poison, their pungent smell makes them unfit for human consumption. This species with an orange cap may grow singly or in overlapping clusters on dead or decaying wood.
14. Hedgehog mushroom
Scientific Name: Hydnum repandum
If you were in the Arizona area and saw a mushroom with spines on the underside of the cap rather than gills, the one you saw was probably a hedgehog species, also called a sweet tooth. Since there are no poisonous lookalikes, this species is great for beginners, and many people use it for its sweet, nutty flavor and crunchy texture.
15. Short-stemmed slippery Jack
Scientific Name: Suillus brevipes
One way to identify the short-stemmed slippery jack is by its reddish-brown cap, which turns tan as it ages and is covered in a layer of slime. These mushrooms, which you can often find in the shade of pine trees, are edible but have a mild or slightly acidic flavor. Make sure also to remove their sticky outer layer before consumption.
16. Lobster mushroom
Scientific Name: Hypomyces lactifluorum
Another commonly known edible species that grows in Arizona is the lobster mushroom. This fungus is neither a mushroom nor a crustacean. Rather, it’s a parasitic fungus that gives certain mushrooms lobster-like hues.
It alters the flavor and appearance of species such as Lactarius and Russula after it has successfully invaded them. While it’s safe to eat, ensure that you’re only eating those species with a familiar host to avoid poisoning.
17. Wood mushroom
Scientific Name: Agaricus silvicola
A species of mushroom known as the wood mushroom has a cap that’s light cream in color and, when bruised, turns an ochre yellow. Even though you can eat it, some people have reported having allergic reactions after consuming it. You may also encounter them in deciduous and coniferous woodlands, where they grow singly or in small groups.
18. Yellow staghorn
Scientific Name: Calocera viscosa
In Arizona, you may find a vibrant jelly fungus known as yellow staghorn growing on decaying conifer wood. This species stands out from the rest with its vivid orange, yellow, and sometimes even white coloring. Although yellow staghorn doesn’t contain any poison, the fact that they’re so small, have an unpleasant odor, and have a gelatinous consistency makes them an unappealing food choice.
- “Species List for Arizona Mushroom Society”, Arizona Mushroom Society, August 11-13, 2016, arizonamushroomsociety.org