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12 Types of Mushrooms in Pennsylvania 

Mushrooms abound in Pennsylvania’s forests, meadows, and swamps. Much of this forested state is in the northern Appalachian Mountains, a biodiversity hotspot known for its abundant plant, animal, and fungal life.  You’re in for a treat when you go mushroom hunting in Pennsylvania. Mushrooms abound in old agricultural fields, forest edges, and deep within hardwood forests. Make sure you bring a guidebook with you, since there are several toxic doppelgangers for edible mushrooms here. 

This list will teach you about 12 of Pennsylvania’s mushrooms. Even though there are thousands of species in the state, we’ll concentrate on just the most common edible and toxic fungi. Keep on reading to learn about their appearance, growth habit, and, if applicable, their uses in food and cuisine. 

12 Mushrooms in Pennsylvania 

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. 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

The golden chanterelle is the most common mushroom that foragers look for. It’s easy to spot because it’s bright yellow-gold against a dark forest floor. It also gives off a delicious citrusy odor. In Pennsylvania, golden chanterelles are on the rare side. 

The cap of the golden chanterelle is between 1 and 4 inches across. It’s a trumpet-shaped mushroom that looks like a folded cone of paper, albeit with wavy edges. They’re a great find because they cook up well in sauces, side dishes, and on their own. 

2. Short-stemmed Russula 

Short-stemmed russula 
Short-stemmed russula  | image by Katja Schulz via Flickr | CC BY 2.0
  • Scientific Name: Russula brevipes 
  • Average size: 2 ¼ to 7 ¾ inches across  
  • Can be found: under needles in coniferous forests, esp. Douglas Fir 
  • Edible: yes

The short-stemmed russula is a large-bodied white mushroom that tends to grow browner over time. Pennsylvania’s rocky soil isn’t well-suited for this mushroom since it grows best in sandy soils in forested locations.

Although it prefers conifers, it’s not super choosy. It has a symbiotic relationship with the root fungi of conifers and hardwood trees. 

Mature caps of short-stemmed russulas are 2 ¼ to 7 ¾ inches in diameter. They have a divot in the middle like a small funnel. The underside is usually white but the tops are mouse brown. 

3. Oyster Mushroom 

Oyster mushroom
Oyster mushroom | image by Bernard Spragg. NZ via Flickr
  • Scientific Name: Pleurotus ostreatus
  • Average size: 1 to 6 ½  inches in diameter 
  • Can be found: in hardwood tree-dominant forests  
  • Edible: Yes

The Oyster mushrooms are easy to recognize and simple to harvest. They abound on the trunks of living trees as well as fallen logs and stumps.

Most grow in clumps and have little to no stems visible at all. Look for them growing from hardwood trees’ trunks in forests. You may have more luck looking in older forests. 

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The cap of an oyster mushroom measures between 1 and 6 ½ inches across. It has little to no stem, and is crescent or wedge-shaped, not circular. They are thin and best chopped and used to flavor dishes. 

4. King Bolete 

King bolete mushroom 
King bolete mushroom  | Image by Pexels from Pixabay
  • Scientific Name: Boletus edulis 
  • Average size: 3 to 12 inches in diameter 
  • Can be found: i​n alpine forests and woodlands
  • Edible: Yes

The king bolete mushroom is more commonly known as the porcini mushroom, especially when it is sold commercially in grocery stores. In Pennsylvania, it can be found throughout most of the state. They’re one of the more common wild mushrooms that grow here. 

The cap is a warm brown that’s mostly smooth. It measures anywhere from 3 to 12 inches across. King boletes can grow very large in the right habitat.

They prefer high humidity and moisture, which works well in the mist-ensconced Smoky Mountains. Look for them during the late summer and fall. 

5. Sulfur Shelf

Sulfur shelf
Sulfur shelf | image by Blondinrikard Fröberg via Flickr | CC BY 2.0
  • Scientific Name: Laetiporus sulphureus
  • Average size: 2 to 12 inches in diameter 
  • Can be found: growing on oaks and hardwoods in forests
  • Edible: Yes

The Sulfur Shelf (also spelled sulphur) goes by another creative name: Chicken-of-the-Woods. It gets this catchy moniker from its flavor profile. Many mushroom enthusiasts say it tastes just like chicken. In Pennsylvania, find it in hardwood forests growing on living or dead deciduous trees. 

The cap of this mushroom grows to be about 2 to 12 inches across, and is light orange or a golden yellow color. If you plan on eating a sulfur shelf, it’s essential to identify what kind of tree the mushroom has sprouted from. Sulfur shelves on conifer trees should never be eaten. 

6. Shaggy Mane

Shaggy mane mushroom
Shaggy mane mushroom | image by Bernard Spragg. NZ via Flickr
  • Scientific Name: Coprinus comatus 
  • Average size: 1 to 6 inches in diameter 
  • Can be found: on exposed ground, even on lawns
  • Edible: Yes

The Shaggy mane mushrooms are some of the most striking and interesting fungi you can find wild in Pennsylvania. The gills seem to melt off of the cap in long, gooey black strings. It’s a gross factor that doesn’t stop foraging aficionados

Look for them along road edges and ATV trails in midsummer and fall. They really like disturbed habitats where the ground has been recently turned over.

The caps measure between 1 and 6 inches across. They’re curved like tiny umbrellas. They do grow in chemically-contaminated conditions, so make sure the area you’re foraging in is safe before picking shaggy mane. 

7. Horn of Plenty

Horn of plenty
Horn of plenty | image by Dr. Hans-Günter Wagner via Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0
  • Scientific Name: Craterellus fallax 
  • Average size: ½ inch to 2 inches in diameter 
  • Can be found: in hardwood forests at the base of trees 
  • Edible: Yes

It might surprise you that this dark, wrinkly mushroom is edible! In Pennsylvania, spot it in broadleaf forests only.

It has a symbiotic relationship with the root fungi that live in trees that shed their leaves every year. They are gregarious and usually grow together in clusters.

The cap is untraditional and funnel shaped, similar to the golden chanterelle. It measures between a ½ inch and 2 inches across. They’re better as a seasoning instead of as a main course or meal. 

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8. Giant Puffball 

Giant puffball mushroom 
Giant puffball mushroom  | image by Peter O’Connor aka anemoneprojectors via Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0
  • Scientific Name: Calvatia gigantea 
  • Average size: 8 to 10 inches across 
  • Can be found: In fields, lawns, and open woodlands 
  • Edible: Yes

You may have fond memories of kicking a giant puffball to see a cloud of white spores explode from the hollow inside. Did you know this mushroom is good for food as well?

It must be harvested while the interior is still solid, but it’s one of the most prolific mushrooms in the United States. In Pennsylvania, find it at the edges of forests at the end of September into October. 

There is no clear stem; just a spherical cap, which can reach over 10 inches in diameter! This mushroom makes a great side dish and garnish.

Remember to harvest giant puffballs only when they’re over 4 inches across. You’ll avoid toxic look-alikes that way. 

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. False Morel Mushroom 

False morel mushroom  
False morel mushroom | image by Michael Mortensen via Flickr | CC BY 2.0
  • Scientific Name: Gyromitra esculenta
  • Average size: 2¼ to 6 in diameter  
  • Can be found: underneath conifers 
  • Edible: No. TOXIC

The false morel is one of the first lookalikes a beginning mushroom forager will encounter. In Pennsylvania, they sprout in the spring, just like true morels. There are some tips to make sure you’re getting the right type of mushroom.

First, false morels’ crumpled caps look more like a brain than a honeycomb. Second, they’re redder, not brown or yellow like a true morel. Lastly, they are solid inside, not hollow. 

A false morel’s cap measures between 2 ¼ and 6 inches across. When consumed, they interact negatively with the digestive system.

If you are in question about whether a mushroom is a true or a false morel, don’t eat it. Ask an experienced forager instead. 

10. Death Cap Mushroom 

Death cap mushroom 
Death cap mushroom  | image by Lukas Large via Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0
  • Scientific Name: Amanita phalloides
  • Average size: 2 ¼  to 6 inches in diameter 
  • Can be found: Oak forests  
  • Edible: No. TOXIC

The death cap mushroom is one of the most lethal mushrooms worldwide. It’s located in Pennsylvania’s hardwood forests, where it grows around the base of trees. A good clue to tell that this mushroom is part of the toxic Amanita genus is by way of the skirtlike growth around the base. 

The death cap’s cap is about 2 ¼ to 6 inches across. The stalk has a ring around it, another sign that it’s poisonous and inedible.

If you see this mushroom in the wild, take note, but don’t touch it. Poisoning from a death cap is often incurable. 

11. Fly Agaric 

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

Thanks to its bright red cap, cute white scales, artists have memorialized the fly agaric in media for decades. You might be aware of its popularity in video games, movies, and tv, but did you know it was the original ‘toadstool’ depicted in children’s fairy tales? This mushroom is no fairy tale, however. 

Look for it in Pennsylvania’s forests. It pops up after a rain in the summer and fall months, especially in mixed forests.

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Caps start out small, but usually reach between 2 and 8 inches across. If you spot one, stay away! 

12. Deadly Galerina 

Deadly galerina mushroom
Deadly galerina mushroom | image by jacinta lluch valero via Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0
  • Scientific Name: Galerina marginata 
  • Average size: ½ to 1 ½ inch in diameter  
  • Can be found: on dying trees (both deciduous and coniferous)   
  • Edible: No. TOXIC

The deadly galerina makes mushroom foraging very difficult. It’s small, brown, and looks very similar to edible mushrooms. We recommend sticking to recognizable fungi until you have a clear understanding of your area and what toxic mushrooms grow. 

In Pennsylvania, deadly galerina grows on rotting logs in large groups. They have pancake-shaped caps that measure just ½ to 1½ inches across. Sometimes they grow year-round, but are limited to summer and fall in climates with defined seasons. 

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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.