Virginia’s diverse ecosystems and temperate climate provide an ideal environment for the growth of a wide variety of mushrooms. The mushrooms in Virginia can provide culinary delights as well as potential dangers. This is because some mushroom species are not edible and can even pose a health risk to those who consume them. That is why it is important to note that foraging for wild mushrooms can be risky, and it is vital to accurately identify the mushrooms before consuming.
7 Edible Mushrooms In Virginia
Morels, Hen-of-the-Woods, and Chanterelles are just a few of the edible mushrooms in Virginia. This state offers foragers and mushroom hunters the chance to enjoy these wild culinary delights. However, caution is required when harvesting wild mushrooms as many of them are toxic and can pose a risk to your health.
- Scientific Name: Cantharellus spp.
- Average Size: 2 to 6 inches in diameter
- Found: Near pine, oak, and beech trees
These edible mushrooms feature a vibrant golden color and give off an aroma that many have described as apricot-like. They are typically found in the summer and early fall and can be spotted by their funnel-shaped cap and gill-like ridges. They are another popular wild mushroom used for culinary purposes, often making their way into soups.
2. Morel Mushroom
- Scientific Name: Morchella spp.
- Average Size: 2 to 10 inches tall
- Found: Near ash, poplar, and elm trees
The Morel mushrooms are a popular wild mushroom that is priced for their unique appearance and delicious earthy flavor. They are most often found in the spring and are easy to spot thanks to their honeycomb or sponge-like appearance. They have a cone or oblong shape, and their cap can range in color from a light tan to dark brown.
- Scientific Name: Grifola frondosa
- Average Size: Caps can reach up to 12 inches in diameter
- Found: At the base of oak trees
The Hen-of-the-woods, which is also known as Maitake mushrooms, is a bracket fungus that is most commonly found in the forests of Virginia during the fall months. They have large caps that are brown to gray in color and overlap one another. These wild mushrooms have a robust, earthy flavor and are often used in soups, risotto, and stir-fries.
- Scientific Name: Laetiporus sulphureus
- Average Size: 2 to 12 inches in diameter and up to ¾ inch thick
- Found: On the trunks or logs of hardwood trees, particularly cherry and oak
The Chicken-of-the-woods produces large, fan-shaped clusters that often reach more than a foot in diameter, and have an appearance similar to chicken meat. They are yellow or bright orange and are often found during late summer and early fall. They have a slight lemon-like flavor and are commonly used as a meat substitute in vegan and vegetarian recipes.
5. Oyster Mushrooms
- Scientific Name: Pleurotus ostreatus
- Average Size: 2 to 8 inches in diameter
- Found: On decaying wood, especially hardwood trees like maple and oak
The Oyster mushrooms are one of the most commonly found edible fungi in the state of Virginia, and its found throughout the year. These fungi have pale to dark gray caps that look similar to an oyster shell. They have a mild flavor and are commonly used in pasta dishes and stir-fries.
6. Parasol Mushrooms
- Scientific Name: Macrolepiota procera
- Average Size: 3 to 12 inches tall with a 3/8 to 5/8 inch thick stem
- Found: In pastures and grassy areas
These edible fungi have large caps that resemble a parasol. They thrive in well-drained soils and can grow in groups or in fairy rings. Parasol mushrooms are most often found in pastures and grassy areas, but can sometimes grow in woodlands. This mushroom is safe to consume raw, and are often cooked by sautéing them in butter.
7. Turkey Tail Mushrooms
- Scientific Name: Trametes versicolor
- Average Size: Caps range in size from less than an inch to a little over 3 inches wide
- Found: On dead hardwood
This shelf mushroom features various colors in hues of gray, brown, orange, white, and cream that give it a turkey tail-like appearance. While the turkey tail mushrooms are not poisonous, they are too tough to be consumed. They have historically, however, been used in Chinese medicine.
3 Poisonous Mushrooms In Virginia
Because Virginia is home to more than a couple of poisonous mushrooms, including the notorious Death Cap mushroom, it is crucial for foragers to be well-informed and exercise caution when they are hunting for mushrooms.
1. Amanita Mushrooms
- Scientific Name: Amanita spp.
- Average Size: Varies from one species to the next, but can be anywhere from less than an inch up to 12 inches in diameter
- Found: A wide array of habitats, including hardwood forests and grassy areas
The Amanita genus consists of about 600 different species of mushrooms, many of which are toxic and grow in Virginia. These mushrooms often have white gills, a prominent ring on the stem, and a bulbous base.
The infamous Death Cap (Amanita phalloides) and Destroying Angel (Amanita bisporigera) belong to this genus. They are responsible for the majority of mushroom poisonings worldwide and should be avoided at all costs.
2. False Morels
- Scientific Name: Gyromitra spp.
- Average Size: 3 to 7 inches tall, but can vary depending on the exact species
- Found: In hardwood and coniferous forests
These toxic mushrooms are often mistaken for true morels, which are popular wild mushrooms. They have an irregular, wrinkled cap, and are often found ground in wooded areas near decaying wood.
One way to tell the difference between true morels and false morels is that the impostor is a bit larger than the real ones. Additionally, true morels are found in the spring, while false morels can pop up at any time during the year.
3. Jack O’Lantern Mushrooms
- Scientific Name: Omphalotus illudens
- Average Size: 2 to 8 inches tall and a cap that is 2 to 6 inches wide
- Found: On decaying stumps or at the base of hardwood trees
This toxic mushroom has a bright orange or bright yellow color that looks similar to a pumpkin. They are often found growing in clusters on decaying wood and are typically seen in the fall. While this mushroom isn’t usually deadly, it can cause gastrointestinal distress when consumed.
- The Deceptive Mushroom: Accidental Amanita muscaria Poisoning, Francesca Irene Rampolli, Premila Kamler, Claudio Carnevale Carlino, and Francesca Bedussi, National Library of Medicine, Feb 2, 2021, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov