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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.

10 Types of Wild Mushrooms

The diverse landscapes of the United States are home to an array of wild mushrooms, with thousands of species thriving across its varied ecosystems. From the towering forests of the Pacific Northwest to the humid swamplands of the Southeast, these fascinating fungi come in a range of shapes, colors, and sizes. This article delves into the types of fungi that produce mushrooms and provides examples of common mushrooms found throughout the nation, highlighting both edible and non-edible or toxic varieties.

As an integral part of the ecosystem, mushrooms play a crucial role in breaking down organic material and recycling nutrients. However, foraging for wild mushrooms requires caution and expertise, as the distinction between edible and toxic species can be subtle. The following sections of this article will explore the taxonomy and characteristics of several commonly encountered mushroom species, aiming to provide readers with a comprehensive understanding of their diversity and significance.

Types of fungi

The following 5 are among the most well-known and studied groups of fungi. However, there are additional phyla that have been recognized by mycologists, as fungal taxonomy is a complex and evolving field.

As research advances and new molecular techniques are applied to the study of fungi, it is likely that more phyla will be identified, and our understanding of fungal diversity will continue to grow.

  1. Basidiomycota
  2. Ascomycota
  3. Zygomycota
  4. Chytridiomycota
  5. Glomeromycota

Of these, Basidiomycota and Ascomycota are the two primary phyla of fungi that produce mushrooms.

Basidiomycota, also known as club fungi, includes a wide range of mushrooms such as the well-known edible species like Agaricus bisporus (white button mushroom) and toxic species like Amanita phalloides (death cap). This group is characterized by the production of spores on club-shaped structures called basidia.

Ascomycota, or sac fungi, also produce a variety of mushrooms, though they are generally less common than Basidiomycota. Ascomycetes produce their spores in sac-like structures called asci. Examples of Ascomycota mushrooms include Morchella (morels) and Tuber (truffles).

Zygomycota, Chytridiomycota, and Glomeromycota generally do not produce the typical mushroom structures. These phyla consist of fungi with different reproductive and growth habits, such as mold and other microscopic fungi.

Examples of 10 types of wild mushrooms

1. White button mushroom

White button mushroom
White button mushroom | image by Mike Licht via Flickr | CC BY 2.0
  • Scientific name: Agaricus bisporus
  • Average size: 1 to 3 inches in diameter
  • Color: White to light brown, with smooth or slightly scaly cap
  • Can be found: Grassy areas, lawns, and gardens
  • Edible: Yes

The white button mushroom is one of the most common edible mushrooms found in the United States. It has a mild, nutty flavor and is often used in cooking.

It is typically found in grassy areas, lawns, and gardens, and can be identified by its white to light brown cap, which is smooth or slightly scaly. The stem is often thick and white, and the gills underneath the cap are pink when young and turn dark brown as the mushroom matures.

2. Chanterelle

Chanterelle mushroom
Chanterelle mushroom | image by GLJIVARSKO DRUSTVO NIS via Flickr | CC BY 2.0
  • Scientific name: Cantharellus cibarius
  • Average size: 2 to 4 inches in diameter
  • Color: Yellow to orange, with a wavy cap
  • Can be found: Forests, particularly near conifers
  • Edible: Yes

The chanterelle is a prized edible mushroom known for its delicate, fruity flavor and meaty texture. It is typically found in forests, particularly near conifers, and can be identified by its yellow to orange color and wavy cap. The stem is often thick and yellow, and the gills underneath the cap are shallow and forked.

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3. Morel

Morel mushroom
Morel mushroom | image by Peter Stevens via Flickr | CC BY 2.0
  • Scientific name: Morchella spp.
  • Average size: 2 to 4 inches in height
  • Color: Light to dark brown, with a honeycomb-like cap
  • Can be found: Forests, particularly near deciduous trees
  • Edible: Yes

The morel is a popular edible mushroom with a distinctive honeycomb-like cap. It is typically found in forests, particularly near deciduous trees, and can be identified by its light to dark brown color and tall, slender stem. The cap is often deeply pitted or ridged, and the interior is hollow.

4. Oyster mushroom

Oyster mushroom
Oyster mushroom | image by Bernard Spragg. NZ via Flickr
  • Scientific name: Pleurotus spp.
  • Average size: 2 to 8 inches in diameter
  • Color: White to gray or brown, with a fan-shaped cap
  • Can be found: Growing on dead or dying trees
  • Edible: Yes

The oyster mushroom is a common edible mushroom with a delicate flavor and velvety texture. It is typically found growing on dead or dying trees and can be identified by its fan-shaped cap and white to gray or brown color. The stem is often short and thick, and the gills underneath the cap are white to cream-colored.

5. Porcini

Porcini mushroom
Porcini mushroom | image by François CANTE via Flickr
  • Scientific name: Boletus edulis
  • Average size: 2 to 10 inches in diameter
  • Color: Brown to dark brown, with a bulbous stem and cap
  • Can be found: Forests, particularly near conifers and deciduous trees
  • Edible: Yes

The Porcini mushrooms, also known as cepes, are a highly prized edible mushroom with a meaty texture and nutty flavor. They are typically found in forests, particularly near conifers and deciduous trees, and can be identified by their brown to dark brown color and bulbous stem and cap. The pores underneath the cap are white to yellow and turn brown with age.

6. Shaggy mane

Shaggy mane mushroom
Shaggy mane mushroom | image by Bernard Spragg. NZ via Flickr
  • Scientific name: Coprinus comatus
  • Average size: 2 to 8 inches in height
  • Color: White to gray, with a shaggy cap
  • Can be found: Grassy areas, lawns, and gardens
  • Edible: Yes

The shaggy mane is an edible mushroom with a delicate flavor and unique appearance. It is typically found in grassy areas, lawns, and gardens and can be identified by its white to gray color and shaggy cap. The stem is often long and slender, and the gills underneath the cap are white when young and turn black as the mushroom matures.

7. 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: 6 to 12 inches in diameter
  • Color: Grayish-brown to dark brown, with overlapping fan-shaped caps
  • Can be found: At the base of oak trees and other hardwoods
  • Edible: Yes

The hen of the woods is a highly regarded edible mushroom with a rich, earthy flavor and firm texture. It is typically found at the base of oak trees and other hardwoods and can be identified by its grayish-brown to dark brown color and overlapping fan-shaped caps. The stem is often short and branched, and the pores underneath the caps are white to cream-colored.

8. Chicken of the woods

Chicken of the woods
Chicken of the woods | image by pete beard via Flickr | CC BY 2.0
  • Scientific name: Laetiporus sulphureus
  • Average size: 2 to 20 inches in diameter
  • Color: Bright orange to yellow, with a flat, fan-shaped cap
  • Can be found: Growing on dead or dying hardwood trees
  • Edible: Yes

The chicken of the woods is a popular edible mushroom with a tender, meaty texture and a taste reminiscent of chicken. It is typically found growing on dead or dying hardwood trees and can be identified by its bright orange to yellow color and flat, fan-shaped cap. The pores underneath the cap are yellow to sulfur-colored.

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9. Turkey tail

Turkey tail mushroom
Turkey tail mushroom | image by stanze via Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0
  • Scientific name: Trametes versicolor
  • Average size: 1 to 4 inches in diameter
  • Color: Multicolored, with concentric bands of varying colors
  • Can be found: Growing on dead or dying hardwood trees
  • Edible: No, but used for medicinal purposes

The turkey tail is a visually striking mushroom with a leathery texture and is primarily used for medicinal purposes. It is typically found growing on dead or dying hardwood trees and can be identified by its multicolored, concentric bands of varying colors and fan-shaped cap. The pores underneath the cap are white to cream-colored.

10. Fly agaric

Fly agaric
Fly agaric | image by Bernard Spragg. NZ via Flickr
  • Scientific name: Amanita muscaria
  • Average size: 3 to 10 inches in diameter
  • Color: Red to orange with white spots, with a rounded cap
  • Can be found: Forests, particularly near conifers and deciduous trees
  • Edible: No, toxic

The fly agaric is a toxic mushroom known for its iconic appearance and psychoactive properties. It is typically found in forests, particularly near conifers and deciduous trees, and can be identified by its red to orange color and rounded cap, which is adorned with white spots. The stem is often white and thick, and the gills underneath the cap are white.

Edible mushrooms: helpful tips, things to know

Mushrooms have been a popular culinary ingredient and an essential part of many traditional cuisines for centuries. They are highly versatile and can be used in various dishes, offering unique flavors, textures, and a variety of health benefits.

However, not all mushrooms are edible, and some can be highly toxic. Therefore, it is crucial to have a basic understanding of the different types of edible mushrooms and how to identify them safely.

Identification and Safety

One of the most important aspects of foraging for mushrooms is learning to identify them correctly. A good rule of thumb is to never consume a wild mushroom unless you are absolutely certain of its identity.

Many edible mushrooms have toxic look-alikes, so it is essential to consult with an experienced forager or reference guide before consuming any wild mushrooms.

It is also worth noting that the edibility of some mushrooms can vary depending on the individual’s reaction, so it is always best to err on the side of caution.

Common Edible Mushrooms and Their Characteristics

Mushroom Characteristics Culinary Uses
White Button White or pale brown, smooth cap, firm texture Salads, pizza, pasta, stir-fries
Cremini Brown cap, similar to white button but more flavorful Grilling, sautéing, roasting
Portobello Large, brown cap, deep flavor, meaty texture Burgers, grilled, stuffed
Shiitake Brown cap with white spots, rich umami flavor Stir-fries, soups, stews, sautéing
Oyster Fan-shaped cap, delicate flavor, soft texture Stir-fries, sautéing, soups, stews
Chanterelle Yellow to orange, trumpet-shaped, fruity aroma Sautéing, sauces, soups, pasta
Morel Honeycomb-like cap, earthy and nutty flavor Sautéing, sauces, pasta, stuffing
Porcini Brown, bulbous cap, intense flavor, firm texture Risotto, pasta, soups, roasting

Tips for Cooking Edible Mushrooms:

  • Clean mushrooms gently with a damp cloth or a soft brush to remove dirt and debris.
  • Avoid washing mushrooms with water, as they can absorb excess moisture and become soggy.
  • Cook mushrooms at a high temperature to evaporate any moisture and develop a rich flavor.
  • Remember that cooking times and techniques may vary depending on the type of mushroom.
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By familiarizing yourself with the different types of edible mushrooms, their characteristics, and proper identification techniques, you can confidently and safely enjoy the culinary and health benefits that mushrooms have to offer.

Foraging tips

Foraging mushrooms
Foraging mushrooms | image by minka6 via Flickr | CC BY 2.0
  • Always positively identify mushrooms before consuming them.
  • Use a field guide or consult with an expert if you are unsure about a mushroom’s identification.
  • Avoid picking mushrooms from polluted areas or areas treated with pesticides.
  • Only pick mushrooms that are in good condition and free from mold or decay.
  • When cutting mushrooms, take a knife and make a cut where the stem joins the cap, ensuring a clean and even slice without causing any damage to the delicate cap.
     

Disclaimer: This information is for informational purposes only and is not guaranteed to be accurate; consuming toxic mushrooms is dangerous, and it’s recommended that you consult a professional before foraging or consuming wild mushrooms.