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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.

11 Types of Mushrooms in Kentucky (With Pictures)

Kentucky is well-known for its rolling hills, lush forests, and diverse wildlife, but you should also know that the state is home to a diverse range of delicious and nutritious mushrooms. Mushrooms in Kentucky are among the many things that make its forests and fields colorful and interesting. 

In this article, we’ll look at some of Kentucky’s most popular edible and non-edible mushrooms, discussing their habitat, characteristics, and even their distinct flavors.

11 Mushrooms in Kentucky

Did you know that Kentucky has an annual “Mountain Mushroom Festival” in Irvine? This fun-filled event celebrates the beloved morel mushroom, offering forays, cooking demonstrations, and even a morel mushroom auction, attracting mushroom enthusiasts from all over the region.

1. Chicken-of-the-woods

Chicken of the woods
A chicken of the woods | image by pete beard via Flickr | CC BY 2.0
  • Scientific name: Laetiporus sulphureus
  • Average size: 5 to 31 cm 
  • Color: orange and white
  • Can be found: deciduous hardwoods like oaks, ash, elm, and hickory
  • Edible: Yes

Chicken-of-the-woods is an edible fungus distinguished by its bright orange-yellow caps. Their name comes from the fact that their flesh tastes and feels similar to that of cooked chicken. Chicken-of-the-woods is a common plant in forests, parks, and gardens, where it thrives on oak and other hardwood trees. 

The mild taste of these mushrooms is reminiscent of chicken, lobster, or crab, making them a desirable ingredient in a wide variety of dishes. 

2. Jack O Lantern 

Jack O Lantern mushrooms
Jack O Lantern mushrooms | image by GLJIVARSKO DRUSTVO NIS via Flickr | CC BY 2.0
  • Scientific name: Omphalotus olearius
  • Average size: 7 to 20 cm in diameter
  • Color: bright orange to yellowish orange
  • Can be found: base of trees, on stumps, or on buried wood
  • Edible: No

The Jack O’Lantern is a beautiful and dangerous mushroom that grows in Kentucky. Named for their bright orange caps, which resemble pumpkins, these fungi are easy to spot.

The enzyme luciferase found in the mushroom’s gills causes it to glow a bluish-green color when exposed to darkness. Clusters of Jack O’Lanterns can often be found developing on decomposing hardwood stumps or beneath the ground near roots. 

3. Indigo Milkcap

Indigo milkcap mushroom
Indigo milkcap mushroom | image by Eddee (ravenhawkdr) via Wikimedia Commons | CC BY-SA 3.0
  • Scientific name: Lactarius indigo
  • Average size: 5 to 15 cm 
  • Color: indigo blue to silvery-blue
  • Can be found: ground of deciduous and coniferous forests
  • Edible: Yes

The indigo milkcap is a striking mushroom found on the ground in Kentucky’s forests. These eye-catching fungi are characterized by their vibrant blue coloration and the milky blue liquid it exudes when damaged.

The indigo milkcap forms a symbiotic relationship between oak and pine trees that can be found across Kentucky’s deciduous forests. This fungus is safe to eat and can spice up any dish with its unique blend of sweet, nutty, and peppery flavors. 

4. American Cauliflower Mushroom

  • Scientific name: Sparassis americana
  • Average size: 6 to 12 cm in diameter
  • Color: white to cream
  • Can be found: bases of trees and often at the base of decayed oak stumps
  • Edible: Yes

The American Cauliflower mushroom can be identified by the intricate structure resembling a cauliflower. It’s an edible fungus that’s prized for its supple texture, rich umami flavor, and almond-like undertones, and it grows in abundance at the bases of hardwood trees. This mushroom’s color is also similar to cauliflower, which is white to cream, which is why it’s named after the vegetable. 

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5. Oyster mushroom

Oyster mushroom
Oyster mushroom | image by Bernard Spragg. NZ via Flickr
  • Scientific name: Pleurotus ostreatus
  • Average size: 5 to 25 cm in diameter
  • Color: white, gray or yellow-gray
  • Can be found: logs and dead standing trees
  • Edible: Yes

The oyster mushroom is one of Kentucky’s most well-known and adaptable edible fungi. These species, which are known for their delicate, oyster-like shape and mild, savory taste, thrive on decaying wood in hardwood forests.

The name “Oyster Mushroom” comes from the fungus’ resemblance in appearance and flavor to oysters. Because of their high nutritional and culinary value, they’re widely cultivated and highly desired by both foragers and chefs. 

6. Hen-of-the-woods  

Hen of the woods mushroom
Hen of the woods mushroom | image by Eric Huybrechts via Flickr | CC BY-ND 2.0
  • Scientific name: Grifola frondosa
  • Average size: 2 to 7 cm in diameter
  • Color: dark gray to brown
  • Can be found: base of oak trees
  • Edible: Yes

The Hen-of-the-Woods is well-known for its distinctive appearance, which can be described as multi-capped or ruffled and looks similar to the plumage of a chicken. Usually spotted between early September and late November, this mushroom is most often found at the foot of oak trees. The flavor of this fungus has been described as having a rich, savory, and earthy flavor with a peppery aftertaste. 

7. Lion’s mane 

Lion’s mane
Lion’s mane | image by candiru via Flickr
  • Scientific name: Hericium erinaceus
  • Average size: 10 – 25 cm
  • Color: white
  • Can be found: wood of dead or dying deciduous trees
  • Edible: Yes

The edible lion’s mane gets its name from its long, white, hair-like spines, similar to a lion’s mane. Lion’s manes are common in the diverse forests of Kentucky, especially in the fall. They prefer to grow on hardwood trees like oaks and beeches. 

Not only are they treasured for their use in the kitchen, but also for their possible medicinal properties. According to research, lion’s manes may have neuroprotective, cognitive-enhancing, and immune-boosting properties. 

8. Pear-shaped Puffball

Pear-shaped puffball mushroom
Pear-shaped puffball mushroom | image by Bernard Spragg. NZ via Flickr
  • Scientific name: Lycoperdon pyriforme
  • Average size: 1.5 to 4.5 cm in diameter
  • Color: yellowish brown
  • Can be found: dead wood
  • Edible: Yes 

The pear-shaped puffball takes its name from its unique shape, which resembles a pear. These puffballs are common in the woods of Kentucky during the summer and fall, when they can be found growing on rotting wood.

When young, Pear-shaped Puffballs are edible and have a mild, pleasant flavor. Once fully developed, they’ll have a powdery, spore-filled interior that, when disturbed, will release a cloud of spores. 

9. Morel 

Yellow morel
Yellow morel | image by GLJIVARSKO DRUSTVO NIS via Flickr | CC BY 2.0
  • Scientific name: Morchella esculenta
  • Average size: 2 to 7 cm in diameter
  • Color: light cream to gray to yellowish-brown
  • Can be found: moist woodlands and in river bottoms
  • Edible: Yes

The morel is a well-known species of fungi that can be identified by its cap, which looks like a honeycomb, and its hollow interior. These mushrooms have a flavor that’s described as being rich and nutty, and they’re highly prized as an ingredient in gourmet cuisine due to these characteristics. Morels bloom in Kentucky from late March to mid-May, thriving in moist, wooded areas near elm, ash, and sycamore trees. 

10. Velvet Foot

Velvet foot mushrooms
Velvet foot mushrooms | image by Bernard Spragg. NZ via Flickr
  • Scientific name: Flammulina velutipes
  • Average size: 2 to 10 cm in diameter
  • Color: reddish-brown to tawny
  • Can be found: dead stumps and trunks of deciduous trees
  • Edible: Yes

The velvet foot is an intriguing fungus found in the state of Kentucky. This mushroom has an orange-brown or reddish cap, and it got its name from its stems that develop a velvet covering as they grow.

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This edible mushroom is one of the rare varieties to appear during the winter, where it grows in clusters on deciduous logs. Because of their subtle sweetness and mild taste, they’re frequently used in cooking. 

11. Fly Agaric

Fly agaric mushrooms
Fly agaric mushrooms | Image by Andreas from Pixabay
  • Scientific name: Amanita muscaria
  • Average size: 15 to 20 cm in diameter
  • Color: bright red
  • Can be found: woodlands, parks and heaths with scattered trees
  • Edible: No

Some of the poisonous mushrooms you might find in Kentucky include fly agaric. Although the fly agaric is visually appealing due to its red cap and white spots, it shouldn’t be consumed due to its toxicity. The mushroom gets its name from the ibotenic acid it contains, which serves as both a fly magnet and a fly killer. 

The interesting appearance, rich folklore, and intriguing history of the fly agaric make it a captivating and remarkable part of Kentucky’s diverse mycological landscape.