Questions like; Are the mushrooms in my yard poisonous? could mean you are considering harvesting and cooking the succulent, tasty-looking mushrooms that popped up in a corner of your property. Or perhaps, it is simply concern for your kids or pets who might accidentally eat some and get sick or worse.
Chances are, you were told as a kid never to eat mushrooms because they would make you sick. But then you grew up and discovered that folks all around the world make delicious dishes using mushrooms even if some are actually poisonous.
To be clear, even passionate mushroom foragers frequently think life would be much simpler if they can easily identify edible mushrooms from the non-edible, poisonous ones. How to make that distinction is what we would be focusing on in this article.
Hopefully, when you are done reading, you’d be a budding expert on how to identify poisonous mushrooms anywhere you saw them.
Are the Mushrooms in My Yard Poisonous?
Most people, especially those living in cities, think that mushrooms are only found in wild, untamed forests. But this is just one of the misconceptions linked to mushrooms.
Mushrooms can grow in any yard or property where there are decomposing organic materials, such as wood chips, grass, compost pile, mulch, tree stumps, straw, etc. Add a little moisture to the mix and you definitely have mushrooms growing whether you can see them or not.
There are thousands of mushrooms species around the world. Fortunately, the majority of them are not poisonous. But this doesn’t make the job of differentiating between poisonous and edible mushrooms any easier. Fact is, many edible mushrooms have poisonous look-alikes and vice versa.
For instance, the all-white Amanita verna, commonly known as the destroying angel, is one of the most poisonous mushrooms in the country. A small bite of the mushroom can kill a human being. But it is quite easy to mistake it for the edible meadow mushroom (Agaricus campestris) also known as the field mushroom in certain locations.
These are just two examples of mushrooms with similar physical traits but widely differing levels of toxicity to humans and pets. So there is no easy way to tell if the mushroom in your yard is toxic or not.
So far, you are not close to determining if the mushrooms in your yard are dangerous or not. We are going to throw you a bone here and describe some traits to look out for as a guide in the identification of toxic or non-toxic mushrooms.
General Guide to Identifying Poisonous Mushrooms in Your Yard
First off, the guidelines below are not definitive because many non-toxic and edible mushrooms might also possess similar traits. However, you want to fall on the side of ‘non-edible, poisonous mushroom’ if the characteristics outlined below are present in the mushrooms growing in your yard.
Check the gills – The gills are structures found on the underside of the cap. They are usually gill-like in most mushrooms while in others, they are called teeth or veins instead of gills because they look like teeth or veins respectively. But whether gills, teeth, or veins, they are always located underneath the cap.
Mushrooms that are dangerous often spot white-colored gills.
Ring on stem – Similar to plant stems, mushroom stem connects the top cap to the soil or organic matter the mushroom is growing on. However, not all mushrooms have stems, especially those that grow on decomposing wood.
If the mushrooms in the yard have stems, look for rings around the stem. The presence of a ring on the stem is usually indicative of a non-edible or dangerous mushroom.
Does the mushroom have a volva – A mushroom with a volva is likely to be dangerous.
Located at the base of the stem, the volva is typically a bulbous structure buried beneath the surface. So you’d have to uproot the mushroom to discover if it has a volva or not.
Mushroom color – You want to assume that a mushroom with a red cap is dangerous. A similar conclusion should be applied to a mushroom with a red-colored stem.
Again, these are just general guidelines for identifying toxic mushrooms. It is unlikely that any single mushroom would have all those characteristics. Basically, it’s hard identifying mushrooms when there are about 14,000 species to sort through.
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Some Common Mushrooms Found In Yard: Dangerous or Not
Though there are thousands of different mushroom species in the country, only a few grow in any location. Most mushrooms are actually region-specific. So some mushrooms can’t be found or grown in some areas.
Below are common mushrooms that grow in yards. The descriptions would come in handy when trying to identify poisonous or non-poisonous mushrooms in your yard.
Green-spored Parasol (Chlorophyll molybdites)
Also known as false parasol, these are dangerous, common yard mushrooms that can be confused with the edible parasol mushroom because they appear similar. This mushroom spots a little ring around the stem with flecks of tissues at the top of the cap.
Green-spored parasol mushrooms are usually wider than they are tall with the caps dominating the structure. When they appear in the yard, they tend to grow in circles or what is known as fairy rings. At maturity, the gills turn green as they prepare to release the green spores.
Wine Cap Mushroom (Stropharia rugosoannulata)
Also commonly known as the garden giant mushroom, it is a non-toxic, edible mushroom with a burgundy-colored cap and white stem. Like most mushrooms it can grow anywhere there is decomposing organic matter.
The gills are typically whitish at first but later turn grayish before finally turning purplish black. The matured mushroom also spots a cog-like ring around the stem.
Spring Fieldcap (Agrocybe praecox)
These are also non-toxic mushrooms that grow in gardens and in the woods. These prolific growers are medium-sized and brownish with equally brownish spores.
One notable trait can be found on the surface of the cap that develops distinct cracks making them very unmistakable. Though they are not dangerous, not many people eat them.
Death Cap (Amanita phalloides)
This mushroom is notorious for causing the most deaths around the world when ingested. Even a small amount of it can prove fatal.
The caps are typically pale yellow; pale green, bronze, or yellowish-green caps are also not uncommon. The surface of the cap, when wet, is sticky and can easily be peeled off. when young, the mushroom looks like a small egg completely covered by a veil
Jack O Lantern (Omphalotus illudens)
If you have tree stumps or buried wood in your yard, these mushrooms are likely to sprout in the summer or fall. Due to their morphology, they are easily confused with the edible Chanterelle mushrooms. They are bright orange with sharply edged gills growing down the stalk.
The cap has a default convex shape but can later turn flat or take on a funnel shape. The gills running down the stem can be used to differentiate them from the chanterelle. You probably have to make a vertical cut on the stem to notice the gills inside.
Mower’s mushroom (Panaeolus foenisecii)
Also known as the little brown mushroom, it is incredibly common in yards. You’d need to have eagle eyes to spot them because of their small size. Each one has a two-toned colored cap due to changes in moisture levels.
The gills of the matured mushroom are mottled with dark brown spores. They are generally considered dangerous especially to children producing hallucinogen effects when eaten. This is debatable though, as some people believe they can be eaten with no side effects.
These are a few of the common mushrooms you are likely to find in your backyard. The list is not exhaustive by a long shot. But it should spur you to carry out more research into the fascinating world of mushrooms. Becoming some sort of mushroom expert should provide plenty of motivation.
There are no hard and fast rules about how to identify mushrooms that are poisonous or not. The rule of thumb is to treat any mushroom growing in your yard as dangerous. To protect kids and pets, it is advisable to remove and dispose of them immediately.
Fortunately, though there are thousands of mushrooms, only about 5% are dangerous to humans. Thing is though, it is common for a poisonous mushroom to look like an edible one. The best way to make a completely accurate identification is by getting a mushroom expert to help you out.