By Erin Marissa Russell
There’s nothing more magical than mushrooms in the garden, but it’s hard to know which of the mushrooms you may see on your lawn are poisonous and which are not. That’s why we’ve put together this list of common poisonous (and harmless) mushrooms you may encounter.
These poisonous, bright white mushrooms often appear near oak trees. They can grow to reach between four and 10 inches tall, with a spread of between one and five and a half inches. These mushrooms are also called death angel mushrooms because of how poisonous they are. If these appear on your lawn, you should remove and discard them if you have children or pets who play outside. You can prevent their reappearance by fertilizing and aerating your lawn. These mushrooms are common in the eastern part of the United States and are also found in Europe, Mexico, and Central America.
These mushrooms look like the classic fairy tale fungi, or like the mushrooms in Super Mario World. They have red or yellow caps adorned with little white spots, and the stem and gills are white. Although they are poisonous, some intrepid souls do eat these mushrooms after boiling them repeatedly to leach out the toxins. However, this is not foolproof, so we do not recommend eating these poisonous mushrooms.
As the name suggests, these mushrooms are poisonous to humans. Vomiter mushrooms are also called green-spored parasol, green lepiota, or false parasol mushrooms. This mushroom is often misidentified as the edible lawyer’s wig, so be careful not to confuse the two. Look for the green spores of vomiter mushrooms. The caps are adorned with concentric rings of pink or brown scales. The gills are white when they first appear, changing to green or greenish gray as the mushroom matures.
These mushrooms can grow to heights of two to 10 inches, with a spread of two inches to a foot. You’ll find vomiter mushrooms in North America, especially during wet parts of the spring, summer, or fall.
Lots of mushrooms can appear in fairy rings, but this entry specifically refers to Marasmius oreades, an edible mushroom. The rings can be up to 15 feet across, consisting of small mushrooms from three quarters of an inch to three inches tall with a spread of half an inch to two inches wide. The gills of fairy ring mushrooms are white, but as the mushrooms matures they turn cream or pale tan. These mushrooms also go by the name Scotch bonnets or fairy ring champignons.
Fairy ring mushrooms especially love to appear on lawns that stay moist and have good nutrition. Note that you can’t eat just any mushroom that appears in a fairy ring—you’ll need to positively identify the species as Marasmius oreades if you want to eat them. They have a sweet flavor and are often cooked into soup, stew, or a sauce. You’ll find these mushrooms in North America, Europe, Britain, and Ireland.
These harmless mushrooms are not edible like some others on this list. Haymaker mushrooms also go by the names brown hay mushroom, lawn mowers, or just mower’s mushrooms. They flourish on lawns that are frequently mowed. The little brown mushrooms are between one and three inches tall, with caps that are just one and a half inches wide. You’ll find them across the U.S. (but especially in the Pacific Northwest) and in Europe.
Lawyer’s wig mushrooms are sometimes called shaggy mane or shaggy ink cap mushrooms. They can grow to reach two to eight inches tall, with a spread of around two inches. These mushrooms are long and white, but when they are picked or ready to produce spores, they turn black and shrivel, starting at the bottom. Lawyer’s wig mushrooms are edible, but you’ll need to work fast to pick and prepare them before they shrivel and turn black. These mushrooms appear in the United States and in Europe.
These tasty edible mushrooms are just one or two inches tall, with a cap that spreads between one and four inches wide. The caps are white or grayish brown, and the gills underneath may be pink or brown. You’ll find meadow mushrooms not only in North America but also in parts of Asia, Europe, New Zealand, and north Africa.
Puffballs are a category of mushrooms, with several different species, some of which are edible and some of which are not. So if you want to know whether you can eat the puffball mushrooms you see on your lawn, you’ll need to identify the species first. The size varies by species but can reach a spread of up to two feet wide. These mushrooms have no gills or stems, and the smaller species can release brown spores if disturbed. You’ll find puffball mushrooms around the world in temperate regions.
These edible mushrooms are most prevalent on tree trunks or stumps, especially those of oak trees. They appear from September to November in the Eastern part of the United States and have a golden honey-colored cap. They can reach two to eight inches tall, with a spread of one to four inches. Although they’re harmless to people, they aren’t harmless to trees. You should remove these mushrooms if you see them, because they prevent trees from taking in the water and nutrition they need to survive.
These are the mushrooms you’re most likely to see on your lawn or in your garden. We recommend looking at lots of pictures of any edible mushroom species you think you’ve found in your yard to be absolutely certain you have an edible mushroom and not a poisonous lookalike. Better yet, find a friend with some experience foraging for mushrooms to help you identify what’s growing in your yard. You can’t be too careful when it comes to mushrooms, but now you’re armed with the knowledge you need to identify common lawn mushrooms, whether they’re poisonous or not.