Mycology nerds unite! Please!
July 13, 2013 6:15 PM   Subscribe

I went to visit my folks today, which was great. My dad and mom have a beautiful place in the foothills of the Berkshire Mountains and I noticed a great bloom of very serious mushrooms on one isolated part of their lawn. My 8 year old daughter plays there frequently as does my folks' 4 year old yellow lab (argh, no photos, sorry) and I am concerned and curious about what is growing on the lawn this year. Not only are they awesome and copious, but some of them have bites in them and are rotting and sagging. Any experts care to weigh in? I would like to know what they are, how poisonous they are (or not) and how to get rid of them if they are That below the fold...$5 bill may appear for size comparison.... I am captivated by the sheer variety and number of these guys this year. I just want to know more about them in general and if there are any precautions I need to take. Thank you, guys, as always. Pics below the fold.
posted by lakersfan1222 to Science & Nature (13 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Oh, yay, mushroom pictures during a dry California summer!!

#1 is either a type of Bolete (the family includes porcini) or Suillus (bolete look-a-likes, also known as slippery jacks). Is its cap slimy to the touch at all? If so, it's a Suillus. If not, probably a Bolete. Some members of both families are edible, but you obviously should not eat it. Non-edible/slightly toxic boletes tend to turn red or blue when you bruise their pores. The good news is that there are no deadly Boletes or Suillus species. There are some that will give you 'gastric distress,' yes, but you'd survive it.

#2 also looks like it might be a Bolete, but without seeing the underside of the cap, it's impossible to tell. Does it have gills, like a portabello, or pores (unlike any mushroom you can buy in the store)? Boletes/Suillus have pores. Many other mysterious and dangerous brown mushrooms have gills. Mushrooms with gills are to be treated as toxic, unless you have a positive ID that it's an exception.

#3 is hard to figure. Are those gills, or over-mature pores? Need a closeup of the underside of the mushroom.

#4 isn't necessarily toxic -- it's just old and decaying. It's either a really old Russula, or a really old ______ (whose name I am currently blanking on -- tricholoma?). Both would make you sick at this stage, neither would probably kill you.

#5 is too blurry to identify. It could be a young Bolete (which would have pores), or a young Russula (which would have gills), but it's impossible to know from this shot.

#6 is almost certainly an amanita, and is the deadliest of the North American mushrooms. The partial veil left on the stem and the warts on the cap are the giveaways. Eating this mushroom (which is, by all accounts, tasty) would have no immediate effects, but would lead to quiet liver failure within 2-3 days. Some incredible percentage of mushroom poisonings in the US are from amanita species, particularly phallioides and ocreata -- the death cap, and the destroying angel. No. six looks to be one of those.

You won't get rid of them, and shouldn't try to. Instruct your 8-year-old (and whoever else this might apply to) that mushrooms are fascinating, but that wild mushrooms don't go into the mouth unless they are super-positively identified. Make a spore print for fun, to learn more about them. And pick up copies of David Arora's Mushrooms Demystified. Learn how to follow the keys, and learn how to ID mushrooms. Even if you're not looking to ingest them, identifying mushrooms is a really fun hobby for people with nerdy tendencies.

(I might be one of those people. If you have any other questions and don't want to fill up this thread with them, send me a MeMail.)
posted by mudpuppie at 6:40 PM on July 13, 2013 [26 favorites]

Oh, and by the way, the nibbles are either from deer or snails/slugs/other insects.
posted by mudpuppie at 7:33 PM on July 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

Oh hi! Here I am again, because I am drinking wine and wishing I could go mushroom hunting tomorrow (stupid climate change, there are no mushrooms) and I really have nothing better to do than pet this cat who is staring at me and answer questions about mushrooms!

lakersfan1222, take a look at the trees at your folks' place. They might help you identify the mushrooms there. Boletes/suillus -- at least on the west coast -- are associated with living conifers. Amanitas -- at least on the west coast -- are associated with living oaks. Lots of other mushrooms feast on dead/dying trees.
posted by mudpuppie at 7:43 PM on July 13, 2013 [2 favorites]

I think it's solid practice to instill the "NEVER EAT MUSHROOMS YOU FIND GROWING RANDOMLY IN THE WILD EVER EVER EVER" into your daughter, if you haven't already. Regardless of whether some of those particular mushrooms might under some circumstances be edible. I think eight is old enough to get the message on that and be trusted not to go putting strange things in one's mouth.

Dog, I have no idea, though I think it's probably not such a problem unless this dog has a habit of eating strange flora in the wild.
posted by Sara C. at 7:58 PM on July 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

My kid is thoroughly schooled on wild whatevers, her mom (!) ate one of those mushrooms at age 2 and the rescue story is legendary....
posted by lakersfan1222 at 8:32 PM on July 13, 2013

The first two look like the BAD boletus kind, as they are too purple. The very last one which is white with dots is super bad for you.

Also, as a person who does mushroom pick in the wild, I agree: don't ever eat a wild mushroom until you're 100% certain it's ok to eat. BUT there are some incredibly delicious mushrooms, like the famous boletus, so if you have a chance to go with a local mushrooming group, I highly recommend it.

As to dogs: I grew up near a mushroom producing forest, and our multiple dogs never ate any mushroom that caused any distress, so I assume they can smell what's bad for them.
posted by Yavsy at 9:07 PM on July 13, 2013

#3 Looks like it has pores to me, so boletus.

#4 and 5, I presume mudpuppy accidentally switched these.

#6 Yeah, do not eat this. It's an Amanita of some sort.
posted by Tsuga at 11:59 PM on July 13, 2013

First off, you should not eat any of these mushrooms, or any other wild mushrooms, because you haven't been taught how to identify the good ones. And just for information, it's pretty unusual for a dog to take any interest in mushrooms, but little kids might think they're pretty and grab one to check it out. One other point is that there's an old song and dance that says that if a mushroom has a bite taken out of it it's probably safe, but that's absolutely not true, so don't ever use that as a guide.

No. 1 is a bolete - very likely a King Bolete (Boletus edulis) - one of the most delicious wild mushrooms of all. Boletes have pores instead of gills like your store-bought mushrooms. Most are edible, some are perfection indeed, most are blah. The rule of thumb is don't eat any boletes with red or orange pores, especially if they bruise blue - most good boletes have yellow or white pores. The only trouble with boletes is that insects love them and usually by the time they get big enough to notice they're insect-ridden to the max. Still, your (probable) King Bolete is a beauty.

No. 2 is also a bolete, but I can't tell what kind - it would depend on the size of the stalk (notice how fat the King Bolete's stalk is) and the color of the pores. Again, it's probably buggy, but very doubtfully poisonous.

No. 3 is what's left of a bolete in old age. The pores are yellow and may have started out yellow or white, but that's fine, and the stalk looks pretty fat - it could actually be the decrepit remains of another King Bolete. It's not poisonous, just on its way out.

No. 4 is blurry and I can't tell for sure what it is. I suppose it could be a bolete, but it looks more like a Russula to me - just can't tell from that picture. Russulas aren't poisonous, but many have a very acrid taste and are nasty - no one would take a second bite, other than a mouse or squirrel. It's really just best to avoid the Russula family (usually pretty mushrooms, very white gills (no pores), very brittle flesh).

No. 5 is another case where the mushroom is at the end of its days and difficult to name. It's probably a Suillus - similar to a bolete, with pores, but usually with a somewhat slimmer stalk and more raggedy looking than the pretty boletes. Too far gone to matter, though, but not likely to be poisonous.

No. 6: This is an Amanita, dangerous if not deadly. I'd get rid of it (dig it up so you get the base of it as well) and throw it in the trash, then wash your hands. Keep your eyes out for more of the same - white, a little flap hanging around the middle of the stem, bumps/checkers on top when the mushroom is fully opened up. They start out as very pretty, round, ball-shaped mushrooms with no bumps or spots on the cap, just pretty as can be. Though a few varieties are edible, Amanitas also include mushrooms with names like Death Cap and Destroying Angel - they're not for the inexperienced to mess with.

If you're lucky enough to be surrounded by such beautiful mycological treats, you owe it to yourself and your child to learn about wild mushrooms. If you call your local extension office they can refer you to a club for fungophiles where you can connect with people who know their stuff. Whatever you do, don't buy a book and then start eating mushrooms that look like the pictures of edible ones - this is one area in which you need to learn what you're doing before you practice.

Thanks for the fun - I'm not able to go mushroom hunting anymore, but I spent 20+ years doing it and enjoying every minute of it.
posted by aryma at 9:55 PM on July 14, 2013

mudpuppie: Non-edible/slightly toxic boletes tend to turn red or blue when you bruise their pores.
There is actually a RULE, which otherwise doesn't occur in the "Is it edible?" mushroom world, for boletes (AND ONLY BOLETES):

1. If the fresh mushroom doesn't turn blue or purple when bruised, AND
2. if the flesh doesn't taste bitter,
THEN it's edible.

This rule received firsthand from Gary Lincoff, arguably America's best-known and most widely respected authority on edible mushrooms.
posted by IAmBroom at 9:26 AM on July 15, 2013

Yavsy: The first two look like the BAD boletus kind, as they are too purple. The very last one which is white with dots is super bad for you.
This isn't a reliable identification. Ignore Yavsy's comment; cap color is NOT enough to identify a mushroom by (even after narrowing down to Boletus).
posted by IAmBroom at 9:28 AM on July 15, 2013

aryma: No. 6: This is an Amanita, dangerous if not deadly. I'd get rid of it (dig it up so you get the base of it as well) and throw it in the trash, then wash your hands.
This will do nothing to get rid of it, except the fruiting body - which is like picking an apple off an apple tree.

And washing your hands is completely unnecessary. The most poisonous mushroom in the world is safe to handle, and even to taste (chew a small bit and spit it out). This is part of the field identification process, and why "Taste" is mentioned in all reputable guide books: they aren't talking about recipe hints, but rather a safe method to distinguish species.

One leaf of poison ivy can kill especially sensitive adults. The same amount by weight of Amanita phalloides (The Death Angel) would make you throw up, and possibly cause some minor liver damage (which your body can probably heal from), but wouldn't kill anyone but a small child.
posted by IAmBroom at 9:32 AM on July 15, 2013

IAmBroom, you're right, of course, that digging up and throwing away the Amanita won't get rid of the Amanitas, but it will get rid of the one that's sitting there drawing everyone's attention (meaning children) because it's so white and pretty. I described what might follow the Amanita - new Amanitas - because they look very different from the fully open one in the picture with the idea that the OP may watch for the new ones and get rid of them as they come up - again because they're so attractive and appealing - and nasty.

As for tasting any wild mushroom, that's fine - for an experienced person - but not at all advisable for someone like the OP who has no experience at all. Of note also is that A. phalloides is known to have a pleasant taste when young, making it all the more dangerous for someone who uses taste as a gauge of edibility - if it tastes good, it's unlikely that anyone would stop with the same amount of mushroom by weight as one leaf of poison ivy. A healthy adult could eat a small amount and just get sick, but a larger quantity or a weaker/smaller human would likely result in permanent liver damage, if not death.

Washing one's hands is a good idea anytime, I think - why fuss about something so silly?
posted by aryma at 12:41 PM on July 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

aryma: Washing one's hands is a good idea anytime, I think - why fuss about something so silly?
Because it's promoting phobic reactions to mushrooms, which Americans have too much of, anyway.

Rational, informed approaches are always preferable.
posted by IAmBroom at 12:25 PM on July 16, 2013

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