South Carolina, known for its warm weather, humid subtropical climate, and rich biodiversity, is perfect for mushroom enthusiasts wanting to forage for their own fungi. This state offers a wide array of mushrooms, both edible and potentially toxic. Keep reading to learn more about the mushrooms in South Carolina, including where to find them and how to help identify the species.
Just remember, however, that this article is a general guide to mushrooms in South Carolina and you should always consult comprehensive field guides, attend mushroom identification class, or speak to an experienced mycologist when foraging for wild mushrooms.
12 Mushrooms In South Carolina
South Carolina is a beautiful state filled with unique geographic and climate features that make it a haven for mushrooms. While foraging for mushrooms can be a fun and rewarding activity, care must be taken at all times to ensure the safety of you and all who could potentially consume the mushrooms. This is because there are both edible and poisonous mushrooms commonly found throughout South Carolina.
Edible Mushrooms In South Carolina
- Scientific Name: Cantharellus spp.
- Average Size: About 2 inches tall and 2 inches wide.
- Found: In conifer forests among the ivy.
Chanterelles are golden-colored mushrooms that are a favorite of chefs and foragers in South Carolina, and you can find several species of them in the state. These types of mushrooms have a trumpet-like shape with gill-like ridges on the underside of the fungi. They have a fruit aroma with a light nutty flavor.
2. Oyster Mushrooms
- Scientific Name: Pleurotus spp.
- Average Size: Caps can be 2 to 8 inches wide.
- Found: Commonly found on decaying hardwood logs.
The Oyster mushrooms are typically either fan-shaped or have an oyster-like appearance. Their caps can measure between 2 and 8 inches in diameter, and while their color can vary, they are usually pale to light brown and have a smooth, slightly shiny surface. These types of mushrooms have stems that are thick, short, and often off-center, and their gills, which are located on the underside of the cap, are closely spaced together and run down the stem.
- Scientific Name: Grifola frondosa
- Average Size: Two to 10 inches in diameter.
- Found: At the base of oak trees.
Also known as maitake mushrooms, hen of the woods is a large fungus that features clusters of overlapping fan-shaped caps. These caps can range in size from 2 to 10 inches in diameter. They are brownish-gray to a pale beige color and are often frilled or wrinkled at their edges. The underside of each cap has numerous pores instead of gills.
4. Lion’s Mane
- Scientific Name: Hericium erinaceus
- Average Size: Ranges from a few inches to over a foot in diameter.
- Found: In various hardwood areas, and often found growing on the trunks of maples and oaks.
This mushroom is compact and round, with a globular shape that resembles a clump of white or creamy cascading spines that gives this fungus a mane-like appearance. Lion’s Mane mushrooms are white but can start to develop a yellowish or beige tinge as they age.
The Lion’s Mane does not have the traditional gills or pores that most other mushrooms have. Instead, they have a tooth-like structure on the underside of their spines, which is where the spores are produced.
5. Turkey Tail
- Scientific Name: Trametes versicolor
- Average Size: One to 4 inches in diameter.
- Found: In fallen logs or tree stumps, or growing on the trunk of living hardwood.
The Turkey Tail mushrooms grow in a fan-like shape. Its cap varies in color in shades of gray, brown, orange, cream, and yellow, which gives this fungus a turkey tail appearance. It is typically found in hardwood forests in South Carolina, growing in clusters on decaying logs and the trunks of dead trees.
6. Honey Fungus
- Scientific Name: Armillaria mellea
- Average Size: Two to 10 inches in diameter
- Found: Growing on decaying stumps and wood, as well as at the base of hardwood trees.
The honey fungus can vary in color, from pale yellow to dark brown. When this mushroom is fresh, it can have a somewhat sticky appearance, which can resemble honey. The surface of this mushroom’s cap is covered in small fibers or scales, and its gills, which can run down its stem, are white.
Something to keep in mind before foraging for this mushroom is that while some Armillaria species, such as the honey fungus, are edible, there are others that can cause gastrointestinal distress when consumed.
7. Chicken of the Woods
- Scientific Name: Laetiporus spp.
- Average Size: Two to 10 inches in diameter.
- Found: At the base of both living and dead trees.
Also known as a sulfur shelf, the chicken-of-the-woods mushrooms grow in large, shelf-like clusters, producing overlapping fan-shaped caps in vibrant colors. The caps are typically yellow to orange, and have a texture that resembles chicken meat. Underneath the caps are tiny pores that are closely spaced together.
Poisonous Mushrooms In South Carolina
It can be difficult to distinguish a poisonous mushroom from a non-poisonous one, especially when you realize that many of these non-edible fungi resemble ones you can safely consume. That is why it is important to only eat mushrooms that you are a hundred percent certain are completely safe to eat.
1. Jack O’Lantern
- Scientific Name: Omphalotus olearius
- Average Size: Typically about 4 inches in diameter, but can range from 2 to 7 inches in diameter.
- Found: At the base of decaying stumps and growing on buried roots.
The Jack O’Lantern mushrooms are bright orange to yellow and often grow in clusters. They contain toxins that can cause gastrointestinal distress. These mushrooms may look appealing, but they should never be consumed.
2. Green-Spored Parasol
- Scientific Name: Chlorophyllum molybdites
- Average Size: Three to 11 inches in diameter.
- Found: In lawns and garden beds.
The green-spored parasol has an oval-shaped cap that is smooth and white. The center of this mushroom’s cap may feature a noticeable bump. Like some other mushroom species, this fungi has gills that are spaced closely together and white.
However, these gills will begin to turn green as the mushroom matures. This toxic mushroom is often found in lawns, gardens, and other grassy areas, often growing in groups or fairy rings. If consumed, the green-spored parasol can cause severe gastrointestinal distress.
3. Destroying Angel
- Scientific Name: Amanita virosa
- Average Size: One and a half to almost 5 inches in diameter.
- Found: Along the edge of deciduous or mixed woodland forests.
This dangerous white mushroom is one of the most lethal fungi in the Amanita genus. It has a smooth, convex cap with a slight creamy color to it. The stem can grow between 10 and 15 centimeters tall and has a skirt-like ring and bulbous base. The gills of this toxic mushroom are white and spaced closely together underneath its cap.
4. False Death Cap
- Scientific Name: Amanita citrina
- Average Size: One and a half to almost 4 inches in diameter
- Found: In mixed woodland forests on neutral or alkaline soil.
The false deathcap is another toxic mushroom in the Amanita genus. It is a small to medium-sized mushroom that has a pale yellow to yellow-green cap that is often covered in white or yellowish scales or warts. The stem is white, slender, and has a ring and swollen base. The gills are located under the cap and are white with a distinctive mushroom smell.
5. Carolina False Morel
- Scientific Name: Gyromitra caroliniana
- Average Size: Six to 8 inches tall and 2 to 5 inches wide.
- Found: In hardwood forests.
The Carolina false morel has a wrinkled, brain-like appearance and can vary in color from light brown to a reddish brown. The stem is pale in color and swollen at its base. This can look similar to the edible and much sought-after morel mushroom.
However, the toxic Carolina false morel is typically more red, purple, or brown in color, while true morels are more tan, gray, and yellow. Additionally, false morels are usually stockier than true morels.