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Mushroom misidentification can lead to serious health risks. Always ensure compliance with local foraging laws, including regulations in national and state parks and other government-managed areas.

12 Kinds of Mushrooms in Colorado (Pictures)

Colorado is known for its dramatic natural landscapes. Towering mountains, dense forests, and rare wildlife attract tourists and residents alike. That’s not all Colorado has to offer. Because the state spans two major ecosystems, it’s at the intersection zone of many rare and exotic forms of life. Some of these are fungi known as mushrooms. 

Mushrooms are unique because they are neither plants nor animals. Instead, they are fungi, a form of life similar to plants but with a few cardinal differences. Instead of using the light from the sun to conduct photosynthesis, they glean nutrients from decaying organic matter like trees and soil. 

This article takes a look at some of the most common wild mushrooms in the state of Colorado. You’ll discover edible wild mushrooms and some toxic varieties too. Keep reading to learn more! 

12 Mushrooms in Colorado 

This list contains both edible and non-edible mushrooms. When foraging is your responsibility to ensure that you properly identify the mushrooms on this list. They are clearly labeled and described with pictures and indicators of whether they are edible. 

If you believe you have ingested a poisonous mushroom, seek immediate medical attention. Some poisonous mushrooms have slow-acting toxins.  

Edible Mushrooms 

The mushrooms in this section are safe for human consumption. Remember that all mushrooms must be cooked before eating, and that it’s your responsibility to properly identify a mushroom. If you’re in doubt, don’t eat it! 

1. Porcini Mushroom

Porcini mushroom
Porcini mushroom | image by François CANTE via Flickr
  • Scientific Name: Boletus edulis 
  • Average size: 3 to 12 inches in diameter  
  • Can be found: in mountain forests and woodlands  
  • Edible: Yes

The porcini mushroom is one of the most popular types of mushroom in cuisine. Even though this mushroom is cultivated and sold commercially, they still grow abundantly in the wild. In Colorado, they are most commonly found growing at the base of pine trees. 

Porcini mushrooms have a smooth, dusky brown cap that measures between 3 and 12 inches across. It’s a great addition to vegetable dishes or protein since it adds a unique flavor profile few other spices or foods can offer.

They have been eaten since the time of the Romans. One common dish made with porcini mushrooms is pasta.  

2. Yellow Morel

Yellow morel
Yellow morel | image by GLJIVARSKO DRUSTVO NIS via Flickr | CC BY 2.0
  • Scientific Name: Morchella esculenta
  • Average size: 1 to 3 inches across by 1 to 4 inches tall  
  • Can be found: in cottonwood groves 
  • Edible: Yes

The culinary world prizes yellow morels above most other mushrooms. Their flavor, rarity, and growing time make them extremely valuable.

They’re rare in Colorado. Most sightings happen in cottonwood groves at elevations lower than 8,000 feet. Spot them in spring, unlike other mushrooms! 

Yellow morels have a white stalk and a mustard-colored or light brown cap that averages about 2 inches wide and 2 to 3 inches tall. The cap is crumpled like a honeycomb, with deep folds and pits.

When the mushroom is cut down in the middle, the interior is always hollow. It’s a real treat to find a yellow morel; they’re very versatile on pizza and when stuffed. 

3. Golden Chanterelle 

Golden chanterelle
Golden chanterelle | image by Dr. Hans-Günter Wagner via Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0
  • Scientific Name: Cantharellus cibarius 
  • Average size: 1 to 4 inches in diameter  
  • Can be found: in forests and near recently burned areas  
  • Edible: Yes
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The golden chanterelle might be the most recognizable mushroom in Colorado. It’s a well-known fungus that can be easy to find because it has a strong fruity smell. In Colorado, they grow most often in groves of aspen trees between 7,000 and 11,000 feet of elevation. 

Golden chanterelles have a golden or egg-yolk colored body and a distinct funnel shape. They always have gills. Some toxic mushrooms can be confused for chanterelles if you’re not careful. Remember that chanterelles never grow from trees, smell like apricots, and are funnel-shaped. 

4. Delicious Milky Cap

Delicious milky cap
Delicious milky cap | image by James St. John via Flickr | CC BY 2.0
  • Scientific Name: Lactarius deliciosus 
  • Average size: 1.5 to 5.5 inches in diameter  
  • Can be found: at the base of trees in pine forests  
  • Edible: Yes

The delicious milky cap is an edible mushroom native to Europe and introduced to the United States. In Colorado, you can find it in pine forests, where it has a symbiotic relationship with the trees’ root fungi. 

They have a milky orange cap that measures between 1.5 and 5.5 inches across. The cap is funnel shaped and may have a wavy edge. They’re very popular in Spanish cuisine, where they are fried in olive oil and served with garlic and parsley. 

5. Black Morel 

Black morel
Black morel | image by Thomas Woyzbun via Wikimedia Commons | CC BY-SA 4.0
  • Scientific Name: Morchella angusticeps 
  • Average size: 1 to 3 inches tall 
  • Can be found: in recovering forests and aspen groves  
  • Edible: yes

The black morel is an edible mushroom that looks similar to its relative, the yellow morel. They both are hollow and have highly folded, wrinkly caps. However, the black morel is even rarer than the yellow morel.

In Colorado, this mushroom only appears at elevations over 7,000 feet in the summer months. It grows in areas recovering from forest fires, aspen groves, and evergreen forests.  

This mushroom’s cap is conical, mousy brown, and measures 1 to 3 inches tall. Beginner mushroom foragers often overlook this mushroom because it has a similar appearance to burned and rotting pinecones. 

6. Giant Western Puffball 

Giant western puffball 
Giant western puffball  | image by Peter Stevens via Flickr | CC BY 2.0
  • Scientific Name: Calvatia booniana 
  • Average size: 6 to 12 inches across  
  • Can be found: in grassy areas, meadows, lawns  
  • Edible: Yes

The giant western puffball is an extremely noticeable mushroom. Its bright white color, round shape, and penchant for growing in the middle of exposed lawns and fields make it an easy find. In Colorado, these mushrooms can be found in suburban yards, unbrowsed rangeland, and alpine meadows. 

They should be harvested when they are completely solid and about 6 to 12 inches in diameter. There are superficial warts on its outer surface. This mushroom is well-known in the cuisine of multiple cultures. 

7. Aspen Oyster Mushroom 

Aspen oyster mushroom 
Aspen oyster mushroom | image by Silver Leapers via Flickr | CC BY 2.0
  • Scientific Name: Pleurotus populinus  
  • Average size: 1.5 to 6.5 inches in diameter  
  • Can be found: at the foot of quaking aspen trees  
  • Edible: yes

The Aspen oyster mushrooms are delicate and must be cooked and eaten soon after harvesting. Despite this time constraint, they’re still a favorite among foragers.

In Colorado, the aspen oyster mushroom’s range is limited to groves of quaking aspen. This specialization of habitat occurs due to the mushroom’s symbiotic relationship with the fungi living in the trees’ root systems. 

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This mushroom grows a variable cap of 1.5 to 6.5 inches across, which is punctuated by ripples and dips. It’s almost always fan-shaped and light tan or white. Like most oyster mushrooms, the texture is smooth and the flesh is solid throughout. 

8. Hawk’s Wing 

Hawk’s wing mushrooms
Hawk’s wing mushrooms | image by tomasz przechlewski via Flickr | CC BY 2.0
  • Scientific Name: Sarcodon imbricatus 
  • Average size: between 2 and 9.5 inches in diameter  
  • Can be found: in spruce and fir forests  
  • Edible: yes

The hawk’s wing mushroom is one of the largest-growing mushrooms in Colorado. Thanks to its symbiotic relationship with Engelmann spruce trees and regular rainfall in high-altitude forests, it can grow to astronomical sizes! 

Hawk’s wings are large mushrooms with caps that measure between 2 and 9.5 inches across. The texture of the cap is rough because of the pronounced scales that cover the entire cap. This is a great choice for beginner foragers because it doesn’t have any poisonous look-alikes. 

Non-Edible Mushrooms 

These mushrooms cannot be eaten. Some are inert and can’t be eaten, but some are toxic and have the potential to cause hallucinations or even death. Do not eat any of the mushrooms on this part of the list. 

9. Destroying Angel Mushroom 

Destroying angel   mushroom 
Destroying angel   mushroom  | image by Mark Nenadov via Flickr | CC BY 2.0
  • Scientific Name: Amanita bisporigera 
  • Average size: 1 to 4 inches in diameter  
  • Can be found: Meadows, forests, and lawns 
  • Edible: No. TOXIC

The destroying angel mushroom is considered one of the most poisonous mushrooms on Earth. It’s found throughout most of Colorado in lawns, forest meadows, and on the forest floor. They usually grow in small clusters. 

Misidentification is the biggest reason behind deaths from the destroying angel mushroom. They can be confused with young giant puffballs. This is one reason it’s crucial to bring along a guide when foraging and to never harvest a puffball under 4 inches in diameter. 

10. Fly Agaric

Fly agaric
Fly agaric | image by Bernard Spragg. NZ via Flickr
  • Scientific Name: Amanita muscaria 
  • Average size: 2 ¾ to 8 ¼ inches in diameter  
  • Can be found: in forests  
  • Edible: No. TOXIC

Even though the appearance of the charming Amanita muscaria mushroom has been memorialized in video games and television, it should never be handled or eaten. Their infamous reputation began in Europe, where they were used by indigenous peoples to trigger hallucinations and spiritual trips. 

You’re most likely to spot an Amanita muscaria on a hike west of Denver. They prefer the alpine forests and cooler temperatures of the mountains. Shade is also important to these fungi; they can’t grow in full sunlight. 

11. Japanese Umbrella Mushroom 

Japanese umbrella mushroom 
Japanese umbrella mushroom  | image by Peter O’Connor aka anemoneprojectors via Flickr | CC BY 2.0
  • Scientific Name: Parasola plicatilis 
  • Average size: ⅓ to 1 ⅓ inch across  
  • Can be found: on lawns and pristine meadows  
  • Edible: No. 

The Japanese umbrella mushroom is an endearing, somewhat ‘decorative’ mushroom that graces lawns and lightly-trafficked fields after rainstorms. They are very short lived; they only last about a day or two. Spot them during the summer and fall. 

The cap of the Japanese umbrella mushroom is usually less than an inch in diameter. They are thin and delicate; groups have extremely skinny stalks capped with a tiny umbrella. Most grow in small clusters of 2 to 5 individuals. 

12. Panther Mushroom 

Panther mushroom
Panther mushroom | image by xulescu_g via Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0
  • Scientific Name: Amanita pantherina 
  • Average size: 1 to 7 inches in diameter  
  • Can be found: near conifers and pines  
  • Edible: No. TOXIC
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The panther mushroom is a toxic, hallucinogenic mushroom that’s best looked at, not handled. You might notice it has white scales and a round, hemispherical cap. It shares these traits with its highly poisonous relative, Amanita muscaria. 

In Colorado, you’re most likely to spot this mushroom on a hike or in rural parks. It likes to grow near evergreen trees. The presence of a panther mushroom is a good indicator that the ecological area is dominated by pines and coniferous trees

Anna Lad

About Anna Lad

Anna is a wildlife biologist who graduated from Texas A&M in 2020. She enjoys studying and learning about wild birds and wildlife of all types.