Comparison of edible and poisonous mushrooms

Comparison of edible and poisonous mushrooms

Certain mushrooms are poisonous and can be fatal for humans when consumed, while others are edible and used widely in cooking.

Biology

Keywords

gilled mushrooms, mushroom, toxic, edible, Agaricus, Macrolepiota, Cantharellus, Clitocybe, Marasmius, horse mushroom, death cap, parasol mushroom, panther cap, Caesar’s mushroom, fly agaric, golden chanterelle, jack-o’-lantern mushroom, fairy ring mushroom, Inocybe rimosa, hypha, forest, biology

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Scenes

Mushrooms in the forest

  • horse mushroom
  • death cap
  • parasol mushroom
  • panther cap
  • Caesar’s mushroom
  • fly agaric
  • golden chanterelle
  • jack-o’-lantern mushroom
  • fairy ring mushroom
  • torn fibrecap

There are numerous species of mushroom that are edible, but some of them are easily mistaken for poisonous mushrooms. Since such a mistake may be fatal, it is essential to seek advice from a certified mushroom expert before consuming mushrooms you pick yourself.

This animation presents some commonly confused types of edible and poisonous mushrooms and offers help to differentiate them.

Horse mushroom – Death cap

  • horse mushroom
  • death cap
  • cap - White in immature mushrooms, brownish-grey in mature mushrooms. It may have scales on top. It size typically ranges between 6–15 cm.
  • gills - Pale pink in immature mushrooms, brown in mature mushrooms.
  • white stalk - It has a bulb at the base.
  • large ring
  • cap - Pale yellowish green, off-white. Its size typically ranges between 5–12 cm.
  • white gills
  • stalk with brown scales
  • large ring
  • large volva
  • immature mushroom - Entirely covered in the universal veil, therefore it resembles an egg.

The horse mushroom (Agaricus arvensis) is widespread in temperate regions throughout much of the world. It is frequent in most of Europe and North America, growing in grassy areas, near woodlands in summer and autumn, especially after rain. The horse mushroom can be easily mistaken for the death cap mushroom (Amanita phalloides) which may cause death when consumed, even in small quantities.

At first glance, the most obvious difference between the two mushrooms is that the gills of the death cap are white, while those of the horse mushroom are pink or brown.

Parasol mushroom – Panther cap

  • parasol mushroom
  • panther cap
  • cap - Pale brownish, with dark brown scales. Its size ranges between 10–30 cm.
  • white gills
  • immature mushroom - Its shape is similar to a drumstick.
  • stalk with brown scales - It is tall (10–40 cm) and has a bulb at the base.
  • movable ring
  • cap - In immature mushrooms, it is hemispherical and 5–10 cm in diameter. Remains of the universal veil form white "warts" on the brown skin.
  • white gills
  • white stalk - It is thin at the top but has a bulb at the base.
  • ring

The parasol mushroom (Macrolepiota procera) is widespread in temperate regions. It is commonly found in pastures and woodlands from early summer till late autumn. This mushroom can be easily mistaken for the panther cap mushroom (Amanita pantherina), which is one of the most poisonous mushrooms found in the deciduous and coniferous forests of Europe.

It is important to know that the cap of the panther cap is brown with white warts, while that of the parasol mushroom is light brown with dark brown scales.

Caesar’s mushroom – Fly agaric

  • Caesar’s mushroom
  • fly agaric
  • red cap - In immature mushrooms, it is domed, later it becomes flattened and grows to about 20 cm in diameter.
  • pale yellow gills
  • large ring
  • yellow stalk - It is not hollow inside and has a bulb at the base. Its height can range between 8–15 cm.
  • sac-like volva
  • immature mushroom - It is entirely covered by the white universal veil.
  • bright-coloured cap - Remains of the universal veil form white "warts" on the red skin.
  • white gills
  • large ring
  • white stalk - It measures 10–20 cm in height. It has a bulb at the base but has no volva.

The edible and highly valued Caesar’s mushroom (Amanita caesarea), which was already known to ancient Romans, is found in oak, pine and sweet chestnut forests, mainly in Southern Europe and North Africa. It can be easily mistaken for the similar-looking but poisonous fly agaric (Amanita muscaria).

These two mushrooms can be differentiated by the colour of their gills and caps. Caesar’s mushroom has yellow gills while the fly agaric has white gills. Both of them have orange-red caps but the cap of the fly agaric has white warts on it.

Golden chanterelle – Jack-o’-lantern mushroom

  • golden chanterelle
  • jack-o’-lantern mushroom
  • yellow cap - It is funnel-shaped, with a wavy edge, 3–10 cm in diameter.
  • ridges - Gill-like, yellow ridges that run down the stalk.
  • stalk
  • cap - It is orange or red, its size ranges between 4–20 cm.
  • gills - Closely spaced gills, orange or red in colour.
  • stalk

The golden chanterelle (Cantharellus cibarius) grows in dense forests in summer and early autumn. It is found mainly in the northern parts of Europe, North and Central America and Asia. This mushroom is very popular thanks to its pleasant taste but it can be easily mistaken for the poisonous jack-o’-lantern mushroom (Omphalotus olearius) which grows in clusters on stumps. The consumption of this mushroom causes severe vomiting.

The most important difference between these two mushrooms is that the golden chanterelle has deep, gill-like ridges while the jack-o’-lantern mushroom has closely spaced gills underneath the cap.

Fairy ring mushroom – Torn fibrecap

  • fairy ring mushroom
  • torn fibrecap
  • cap - It is pale yellow or tan in colour and has an umbo, that is, a raised area in the centre. It measures between 2–6 cm in diameter.
  • gills - Distantly spaced gills, pale tan in colour.
  • thin stalk
  • cap - It is yellow or brown, its margin often splits. Its size ranges between 2–8 cm.
  • gills - Closely spaced gills, pale yellow in colour.
  • thin stalk

The fairy ring mushroom (Marasmius oreades, also called Scotch bonnet mushroom) grows in abundance in fields and pastures, mainly in North America and Europe. This small mushroom has a pleasant taste which makes it very popular. It can be easily mistaken for the highly poisonous torn fibrecap (Inocybe rimosa) which grows in gardens and woodlands.

The most obvious difference between the two mushrooms is that the gills of the fairy ring mushroom are much more widely spaced than those of the torn fibrecap.

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