Sunday, January 10, 2016

Are Those Mushrooms in Your Yard Edible or Poisonous?

Are Those Mushrooms in Your Yard Edible or Poisonous?
Possibly Toxic Amanita Mushrooms on my Property
 © B. Radisavljevic
During our wet weather in January, it's likely you will find mushrooms growing in your lawn, among the weeds in your flower beds, or under your trees. If you're anything like me, you may be wondering  if those mushrooms in your yard are edible or poisonous. It is very difficult, unless you are an expert, to tell the difference between poisonous mushrooms and edible ones.

I'm still wondering because I'm not brave enough to take a chance without a lot more knowledge. This is one of those instances where a just little knowledge can be dangerous. Look at these mushrooms in the photo above for example, taken in mid-January 2011.

These photos show the other end of the mushrooms after I pulled them from the ground.  They were growing under evergreen and oak trees on my property. These mushrooms are most common in oak forests.

Are Those Mushrooms in Your Yard Edible or Poisonous?
Cap Down View of Possibly Toxic Amanita Mushrooms on my Property
 © B. Radisavljevic

Are Those Mushrooms in Your Yard Edible or Poisonous?
Cap Down View of Possibly Toxic Amanita Mushrooms on my Property
 © B. Radisavljevic


After a bit of research this afternoon and watching numerous videos, I am pretty sure the mushrooms you see here are deadly Amanita mushrooms, perhaps Amanita phalloides, commonly known as the Death Cap, but might also be to be Amanita ocreata. These two mushroom varieties account for almost all deaths from eating wild mushrooms in coastal California. Both can be found during the winter and spring on the Central Coast. I don't believe I will try adding these to my recipes because it could be fatal.


I love the way this video compares three different Amanita species visually -- two poisonous, including Amanita ocreata, the Destroying Angel, with one edible mushroom that looks similar. When I took my photos, I didn't exactly know what to look for, so I did not cut a cross-section to see if the stipe (stem) was hollow. Now, after watching this video, I know I should have.


One of the best sites I found for identifying toxic mushrooms in our area is Toxic Fungi of Western North America. When reading books or websites on mushroom identification, it is helpful to learn the parts of the mushroom. I found several diagrams of labeled mushroom parts on this page, and enlarged the one I personally found most useful. Even with all these sources, I would not yet feel safe eating a mushroom I found in my yard unless I was with an expert I could trust and he ate one first. How about you?

If you're anything like me, you have a curious mind and want to know if the mushrooms in your yard or that you see in parks or vacant lots are edible or toxic. It would be really handy to be able to identify those that are safe to harvest and eat.

There is a lot to be learned online, but most experts I've found in my online research suggest having more than one field guide with you if you plan to do any foraging. The field guides below are some of the most highly recommended. Why not get one or more now? I plan to do the same.