How to Tell the Difference Between Poisonous and Edible Mushrooms

The simple answer to this is that you can’t tell the difference without identifying the individual mushroom you have found. Some poisonous mushrooms can kill, so you must be able to accurately name the fungus and be 100% sure of what it is before consumption.

There are some apparent rules for picking safe mushrooms but these are just fanciful if not downright dangerous;

  1. ‘It’s ok if you can peel the cap.’ It is easy to peel a Death Cap.
  2. ‘Mushrooms growing on wood are safe.’ No not all of them are and some are deadly, like the Funeral Bell.
  3. ‘If you see other animals eating them they are ok.’ This rule is not true, many animals can eat poisonous fungi with no ill effects.

Some good rules apply for avoiding poisonous mushrooms if you are a novice;Destroying Angel, Amanita virosa

  1. Avoid mushrooms with white gills, a skirt or ring on the stem and a bulbous or sack like base called a volva. You may be missing out on some good edible fungi but it means you will be avoiding the deadly members of the Amanita family.
  2. Avoid mushrooms with red on the cap or stem. Again you will be missing out on some good mushrooms but more importantly you won’t be picking poisonous ones.
  3. Fly Agaric, Amanita muscariaFinally don’t consume any mushrooms unless you are 100% sure of what they are. I know I have already mentioned this but it is by far the most important rule.

These rules don’t mean all other mushrooms are safe but help rule out some of the nastier types.

Some UK mushrooms are easy to identify so quite safe to eat, the Giant Puffball, Beefsteak FungusPorcelain Fungus, Cauliflower Fungus, Dryads Saddle, the Hedgehog Fungus, if you are very lucky the Truffle, Wood Ears (as long as they are growing on elder) and Chicken of the Woods (as long as it is not growing on a Yew tree). So for the novice forager these are the ones to go for, there are no dangerous lookalikes, so just learn what these mushrooms look like and you should be able to forage for them safely.

Mushrooms for Beginners

A good way to help identify mushrooms is by learning which family the fungus belongs to.

The edible members of the Agaric family all have pink to brown/black gills, a white cap and usually a stout stem with a skirt. There are however toxic members of this family that look very similar. Once you have established that you have an Agaric bruise the cap, if it stains bright chrome yellow it is probably poisonous, if it stains pale yellow, pink or red it is probably edible but there is a further test to establish toxicity. You must smell the mushroom, edible Agarics smell pleasantly of mushroom, some with hints of aniseed or almond, the toxic mushrooms smell of Indian ink or iodine or just chemically and unpleasant.

Identifying Agarics

Bay Boletus, Boletus badius showing its spongy poresFor example the Boletus, Suillus and Leccinum families are easy to identify as they don’t have gills but sponge like pores and generally stout stems.
There are two checks to make once you have identified a mushroom as a Bolete to determine its edibility. First, is there any red anywhere on the mushroom including the cap, stem or pores. If there is treat the mushroom as poisonous. Secondly cut the mushroom in half vertically, if the flesh immediately or rapidly stains blue, again treat it as poisonous. If the Bolete in question passes the above tests it isn’t a toxic mushroom. Sticking to the above rules means you will be missing out on some good edible mushrooms but more importantly avoiding any poisonous Boletes.

Identifying Boletes

MilkcapsOak Milk Cap, Lactarius quietus expressing a milk like substance
Milkcaps are from the Lactarius family and they mostly exude a milky substance from the gills when touched or damaged. This milk can be very acrid and/or hot so should not be tasted unless you know your Milkcaps or can eat hot chillies raw.
Most of the Milkcaps are toxic so until you learn to recognise individual members of this family, stay away from any fungi that ‘lactates’ from the gills. Unfortunately older Milkcaps tend not to lactate so younger mushrooms usually need to be found to aid identification.

The Brittlegills or Russulas have very brittle gills and stems.
Russula, showing the brittle nature of the gillsThere are many different members of this family, some poisonous some delicious and some that just don’t taste very nice.
It is difficult to identify individual Russulas without studying them in depth. A good test for edibility however is the taste test, if a tiny amount is placed on the tongue and chewed a burn like chilli means the mushroom is poisonous, a pleasant mushroomy taste means it is edible and an unpleasant taste means you wouldn’t want to eat the mushroom anyway. This test should only be attempted when you are certain you have a mushroom from the Russula family.

Identifying Russulas

The Amanita family all have white gillsDeath Cap, Amanita phalloides, note the sack like volva at the base. and spores and more importantly most grow from a sack like or bulbous structure called a volva which can be hidden by leaf litter or under the soil surface so it is vital to check the base of any mushroom you are trying to identify.
There are a few edible Amanitas but the most poisonous mushrooms in the UK are in this family, the Destroying Angel and the Death Cap, so this family should definitely be avoided by the novice forager.

Identifying Amanitas


There are many different ways to identify a mushroom and all should be employed when out foraging.

  1. Where is the mushroom growing, in grassland or woods and what kind of tree they are growing on or under?
  2. Are the mushrooms growing singley or in a ring, troop or tuft?
  3. Do the mushrooms have a distinct smell?
  4. Does the mushroom change colour when cut or bruised?
  5. What is the size, shape, texture and colour of the cap?
  6. What is the size, shape and texture of the stem? Does it have a ring/skirt and are there any markings on it? Is the base bulbous or sack like or narrow and rooting?
  7. Does the mushroom have gills, pores or spikes under the cap? If it has gills how close are they? Do they fork? Are they attached to the stem? Are they brittle or soft and pliable?
  8. What texture is the flesh?
  9. What time of year is it?

Always check with a few different guides/pictures as mushrooms can look very different depending on where they are growing, their age and what the weather has thrown at them.


Spore Print

Field Mushroom Spore Print

Knowing the colour of the spore print can be very helpful as it helps narrow down your search by telling you what the mushroom isn’t. A spore print can be obtained simply by removing the stem and placing the mushroom gills down on a piece of clear glass or paper for a few hours, preferably overnight.

The colour of the spore print can be very useful to start following ‘keys’ in a mushroom guide.

It may seem like a long list of things to look out for but it soon becomes second nature to check these and be able to safely identify mushrooms in the field.

Finally, don’t be too upset if you can’t always identify a mushroom, I’ve been picking wild mushrooms all my life and still find the odd mushroom I can’t be 100% sure of.


174 comments for How to Tell the Difference Between Poisonous and Edible Mushrooms

  1. Mark asselin says:

    I went mushroom hunting with my sister and she knows some of the mushrooms you can eat I ended up picking up one and showed it to her she says no good throw it away that’s poisonous so I didn’t wash my hands and I touched my lips in my eyes I rub them I got very sick for 5 days was it the mushroom or something else

    1. Poppy Ives says:

      Unless you have a severe allergy to mushrooms, it was something else.

      1. Sallianne says:

        Although pretty sure they are edible, some mushrooms have come up in an area of the garden where I tip old plants and it’s fairly damp. We picked one today and I’m a little concerned that we touched /handled and smelt them. They at an outside could be angels death?. Is it okay if not ingested?

        1. Phil Leng says:

          Hi Sallianne, you won’t come to any harm touching or smelling any mushroom, even the most poisonous such as death caps or the destroying angel. As you suggest only ingesting them has any effect. Plants however are different and there are plenty that will sting or burn you if you touch them.

          1. Rj says:

            This is not true. You CAN get sick just from picking, as I have experienced myself, 2weeks ago. Saw some on side of highway where I knew horses trailed. Stopped, was picking and using my shirt to carry them. Within about 30 minutes I was hurling on side of road about 5-6 times, forcefully, and thought I was going to die. Finally, within about 2hours I was fine.

          2. Eric Biggane says:

            You can not be poisoned by touching a mushroom, it must be ingested to cause any harm.

        2. Joy says:

          pls always wash your hands after handling mushrooms

    2. Ann says:

      I did not know fly Agaric were harmful and I found some under some trees out walking so I picked them and was carrying them for about 30 minutes in my hands and I became quite queezy and felt very odd I continued used to walk with my husband and it was getting worse so we both decided it was the mushrooms I put them down to come back for them and washed my hands in a pond . I felt funny for a short while after . I was going to dry them for decoration later.

      1. Eric Biggane says:

        Hi Ann, no mushroom can poison you from touch alone but it is possible you had some slight affects from touching the Fly Agaric. They are a beautiful mushroom and if fully dried they can be varnished to help preserve them for a bit longer.

        1. Keith says:

          That is not necessarily true. If you hold them against your skin long enough, you can absolutely have some percutanous absorption. Though should be mild unless a specific extract and salve has been prepared.

        2. Chapman says:

          I would doubt your assertion. These days pharmaceutical companies produce patches designed for absorption of the active ingredient through the skin. Most drugs, poisons or toxins can be introduced into the circulation by application to the skin, given the correct conditions ie: a high concentration of active chemical, like muscarine, within a poisonous mushroom and ‘extended’ contact with the skin under conditions conducive to absorption.

          1. Eric Biggane says:

            Picking up and looking at a poisonous mushroom or mushrooms will not cause any significant amount of toxins to be absorbed through the skin, if however you were to place the mushroom against your skin and leave it for many hours, like a patch, I expect some toxin will be absorbed. There are no officially recorded instances of people poisoning themselves by handling poisonous mushrooms, only exaggerated media coverage, usually about plants like monkshood and hemlock, not mushrooms.

          2. Mea Foodie says:

            Coming from someone who uses medicated patches and has done some research on how they work. As well I have researched making salves. Most patches and topicals, need a secondary ingredient or carrier to increase absorption. i am by no means a professional in any area, however.

  2. Cheryle Thomas says:

    “Thank you” for your article.
    After reading your info, I’m convinced I do NOT know what I’m doing, I’ll stick to buying at the supermarket.

    1. Izzy says:

      Can poisonus mushrooms grow in your back yard

      1. Eric Biggane says:

        Hi Izzy, poisonous mushrooms could grow almost anywhere, including your backyard.

      2. PJ Lightning says:

        I had a Destroying Angel pop up in one of my plant tubs last year. They can appear anywhere.

        1. Fabio says:

          Hi PJ, the Destroying Angel os an uncommon species that grows on the soil in ancient woodlands associated to trees. If it was in a plant tub I guess it might have been one of the Dapperlings, such as the Plantpot Dapperling or the White Dapperling.

      3. Nadine Luci says:

        Yes, in fact many poisonous mushrooms do grow in people’s yards around their home. Especially those around Pines Oaks Maples. Some just pop up in your yard. Always, always know the difference between a poisonous mushroom and a edible mushroom.
        My Parents brought all of us four kids up foraging, myself since I was four years of age.
        **** Careful **** they do have good twin and a bad twin.

    2. Kate says:

      Me too lol xx well said, if in doubt just DONT hahaha

  3. barry e swartz says:

    Edible mushrooms are found in grassy, sun lite meadows. Poisonous mushrooms are found in the stomachs of dead people.

    1. Fretherne says:

      “Poisonous mushrooms are found in the stomachs of dead people.”
      Unfortunately that isn’t true. Mushroom poisoning takes place about eight hours after eating the mushrooms. This is after the mushrooms have left the stomach and the toxins are absorbed in the intestines. it means that pumping the stomach contents after the symptons have started is too late which is why mushroom poisoning is so dangerous and difficult to treat.

      1. Lyn pip says:

        I’m from Scotland and mushroom picking is an art past down. And those hallucinogenic ones too. However learn to identify and prepare. As weather changes permits. I have noticed possible species I have not came across before in my backgarden which, is very woody with big trees and large grassy area. Just on its own. Quite unusual for the possibility of an inkcap/ lalic fibre cap. Kinda greyish gills. Well weird but so is the weather

        1. Sandra says:

          I’m in Austin, Texas and pretty sure ink cap mushrooms I have,(after significant rain), in my raised bed garden.
          I am interested in the edible, toxic and psilocybin type.

          1. Eric Biggane says:

            You can send us photos if you want to ID what inkcaps they are, send them to [email protected]
            We specialise in edible and toxic mushrooms so hopefully you will find the mushroom guide useful, although it is for mushrooms from the UK so please check with US identification guides to be certain of ID. A lot of mushrooms are the same in the US and UK but there are a few differences in species.

    2. lisa says:

      Edible mushrooms can be found in many environments–deep in the forest, on streambanks, on trees, etc. Many poisonous mushrooms are also found in grassy, sunlit meadows. There just aren’t any shortcuts to tell if a mushroom is edible or poisonous.

    3. >. says:

      * stifles laughter* (i can’t spell)

      1. May says:

        I have some mushrooms in my backyard too!

    4. Shannon says:

      I have a whole big flower pot of red, white, bright yellow, brown mushrooms that I’m constantly trying to keep out of my yard for fear of my dogs eating them as I live in cabin in woods and this year, I been picking at least 20 a day but they come back twice as thick! Can my dogs die if eating these or can we become sick by picking these up with bare hands? I will use gloves from now on but I’m concern for my 4 dogs.

  4. Alice Greene says:

    The mushrooms that grow around my house grow mostly on trees

  5. Joy says:

    Thank you for a very helpful article. I’m in the U.S and we probably have many different mushrooms her than in the UK, but the guidelines would be the same. I’ve seen sever field guides on mushrooms, but so far haven’t found one with a binomial key.

    1. lisa says:

      “Mushrooms Demystified” is an excellent book that has stood the test of time, and has dichotomous keys.

  6. Betty Roarty says:

    Is it true that if you put a silver quarter in pot of water with mushrooms and the quarter turns black the mushrooms are no good to eat

    1. Poppy Ives says:

      Never heard of that one, and I don’t think I trust it!

    2. Susie says:

      That is an old wive’s tale that is unreliable.

      1. fretherne says:

        Some sulpher compounds turn silver black. An example is the blackening of silver spoons used to eat boiled eggs especially if the egg is not fresh. This does not work for detecting poisonous fungi.

  7. Lord Daniel says:

    You have made picking mushrooms even more confusing

    1. Poppy Ives says:

      Sorry Daniel, that wasn’t our intention!

    2. Eloz says:

      exactly!..This article doesn’t help at all

      1. adriana says:

        i thought it was very clarifying. I think the elimination approach was helpful

        1. Crystal Raquel Hernandez says:

          I think it’s helpful thanks but I’m not sure about poisonous mushrooms but I was doing a Easter egg hunt with 3 toddlers and all mine but I didn’t notice all the mushrooms that grew my dumb ass told them not to eat them to just throw them away so now they pik a a lot and I honestly have no clue all I know there was a apple tree and also dinfrent kind of fruit trees but they cut it down a while back so how can I identify if they are poisonous

          1. Eric Biggane says:

            I would need clear photos of the caps, gills and stem and where they were growing and any smells to have a chance at IDing a mushroom.

      2. RichardP says:

        It doesn’t. You’d prefer to pick them blindly, would you? Personally, I find the 2 messages in the article very helpful – Know what you’re doing, and Don’t assume. If you were expecting to become an expert in 2 minutes flat, then yes, this article doesn’t help at all. On the other hand I found it very helpful in keeping me alive.

        1. Rachael mccowanrachael says:

          turkey tail mushrooms can be made into a tea and it cures cancer and there is also capsule and powder forms of it available also it’s usually found on wood I mean that’s where I found mine

  8. Hussein says:

    I touch a fungi mushroom and the next day I am sick
    Is that the reason to being sick?

    1. Poppy Ives says:

      Almost definitely not. Touching poisonous mushrooms isn’t dangerous. Eating them is!

  9. Patricia Duncan says:

    I have a vine house plant and it has white mushrooms coming up is it dangerous

    1. Poppy Ives says:

      If you send us some photos then we will take a look for you, you can do that here or via email to [email protected]

      1. Blake says:

        I went mushroom searching in my buddies cow pasture and came back with a decent amount and assortment. Can I email you pictures of what I found? In Texas, US

        1. Poppy Ives says:

          We can try if you send us photos by email. We specialise in edible fungus growing in the UK though so may not be able to help.

  10. Clark serex says:

    Thank you very much for this post. It was helpfully to me. Thanks again.

  11. Lis Kitchener says:

    Great read. Simple to understand yet always better to be safe than sorry. Thanks

  12. Patricia steele says:

    My dog pug has just eaten s few tiny mushrooms in the grass in garden. Not had them before in garden fluted edges colour creamy beig hooded topthin stem fluited inside I’m worried he seems ok at moment

    1. Fabio Godinho says:

      Hi Patricia we hope he was ok in the end. It can be hard to identify mushrooms just from photos, even more from a vague description, especially if they are in the category of small mushrooms. There are hundreds of thousands of species of fungi in Britain, sadly your description could fit quite a few. The best thing to do is always to take some photos of the mushrooms in site and collect some and take them to the vet so they can be identified. Most mushrooms aren’t toxic at all, and then some that are toxic aren’t seriously dangerous, but very poisonous ones do exist. All animals have different metabolism so just because something is poisonous to humans or not it doesn’t mean it’s unsafe or safe for any other animals. As for their appearance fungi grow everywhere and especially in all sorts of natural habitats, but as they can be quite small and have a very short life cycle it’s easy to miss them.

    2. Jo Oneill says:

      My mother was European and she said that if you put a clove of garlic in with the mushrooms when cooking and it turns black it is poisonous. I’m going to try the silver coin.

      1. Eric Biggane says:

        Hi Jo, there is no way to tell a poisonous mushroom with garlic or silver, there are many wives tails out there. The only way is to learn about mushrooms.

        1. Janet Pierce says:

          My dog sometimes eats mushrooms in the yard and will get sick and will not eat for a day. Sometimes the mushrooms have reddish tint on the cap. Is this harmful to pets?

          1. Eric Biggane says:

            I would need to see photos of the mushrooms, including the stem, gills ,cap and in situ. Send them to [email protected].

        2. BEV says:

          I want to see the wives’ tails (sic)

  13. travis says:

    this was a very helpful article i am a avid hiker and have eaten many mushrooms in the wild but i feel i have been missing out on some good ones for lack of info.

  14. Bae says:

    Mushrooms sproutd after rain in my garden can i eat em are they safe

    1. Poppy Ives says:

      Hi Barabara, if you send us some photos we will take a look and let you know what we think they are, we can never 100% sure from photos alone though. You can send us photos here or via email to [email protected]

  15. Gary says:

    I have been in this house for sixteen years and we have never had so many mushrooms come up. This has been a good year for rain I think that maybe the reason. I have photo can you tell me if they are poisonous?

    1. Poppy Ives says:

      Hi Gary, you can send us photos here or email them to [email protected] and we will take a look for you, we can never be 100% sure from photos alone though.

  16. Grace Spelman says:

    So i found mushrooms in my backyard and its the end of october. Far from any trees. There are two types. One is like a dome shape that covers the whole stem and looks like a spike in the ground, its all white, has a long white stem and a bulb on the bottom, with no patterns. The other is very tall, has a white stem, a small black top, and what looks like small jellyfish tentacles hanging from its top. Also another one that looks like a cross between the two. It has a dome shape that covers half the stem, the stem is all white and the top has black edges and a blackish, brownish underside, it also has an unfamiliar sweet smell, i think its a cross breed of the other two lol. What kinds of mushrooms are these and are they edible?

    1. Poppy Ives says:

      Hi Grace, if you send us some photos of the mushrooms we will take a look for you. You can send them to us here or email them to [email protected], please only send one type of mushroom per email though.

  17. ROLA says:

    It is the best thing

  18. I found mushrooms that are white on the outside but have large black centers that smell like anise. I live in Vero beach Fl. I think I’ll try cooking them & see how it goes.

    1. Poppy Ives says:

      I’m afraid that we are only familiar with mushrooms found in the UK, there could be some poisonous mushrooms in Florida that look the same as edible ones in the UK. Therefore all the information on this site is only relevant to the UK and should not be referred to when trying to ID mushrooms from other countries. Please never eat a mushroom that you are not 100% sure is edible.

  19. Angel says:

    Where do poisonous mushrooms mostly grow

    1. Poppy Ives says:

      You can find poisonous mushrooms in almost any UK habitat.

  20. Alan says:

    Can you find an app on your phone that can identify which are safe and which are poisonous as I have PlantSnap for plants on my iPhone

    1. Poppy Ives says:

      We haven’t tried any so can’t really tell you. If you find a good one let us know 🙂

  21. Jackie says:

    Hi can anyone help?
    Can anyone identify this mushroom as I took my dog on a countryside walk this afternoon (off his lead) and there is a good chance he may have eaten one.
    Any comments welcome – thank you.

    1. Poppy Ives says:

      Hi Jackie, if you email some photos to [email protected] we will take a look at them and get back to you as soon as we can.

  22. Patti Wheless says:

    What mushrooms that grow wild in geargia are safe to eat?

    1. Poppy Ives says:

      Sorry, having never been we don’t really know. You do get Morels much more frequently there, which are one of our favourites but sadly quite rare in the UK

  23. Mary Wong says:

    When I was a uni student in Melbourne i often picked wild mushrooms in the paddocks near cattle poo, for some 5-6 years. They were safe to eat.

  24. Emily Storey says:

    I have a mushroom that needs to be identified please. [email protected]

    1. Poppy Ives says:

      Hi Emily, if you need help identifying a mushroom then please send photos of it to [email protected] then we can take a look and let you know what we think it is. We can never be 100% sure from photos alone but we can point you in the right direction.

      1. Vincent Mikesh says:

        My Father once told me that if there are ants crawling on the mushrooms, then they are not poisonous. Is there any truth to this?

        1. Eric Biggane says:

          I have never heard that before so I can’t say if it is true or not but I always identify a mushroom to the exact species before consumption, it is the only safe way to forage for mushrooms.

  25. Daryoush says:

    Hi your article is usefull but using mashroom as edible should be with experience .in Iran in early spring we can pick up wild mushrooms that grow in top vallyves of Zagros and Alborz
    mountains but native people can recognize edible mushrooms.but. every year we have some poisoning cases by tourists that are not familiar with local mushroom. experience is very important .

  26. Julie Kaighin says:

    Hi Poppy
    Thanks for writing this article. I am in ghana and growing bell peppers in window boxes but keep finding mushrooms growing in the box and want to identify them please. Could you help? Many thanks

    1. Poppy Ives says:

      We can try if you send us photos by email. We specialise in edible fungus growing in the UK though so may not be able to help.

  27. Sky London says:

    I’ve got mushrooms growing where my strawberries were but are they editable

    1. Poppy Ives says:

      Hi Sky, if you send us some photos of the mushrooms we can take a look and let you know what we think they are. You can send them on our contact us page or via email to [email protected]

  28. charles says:

    what i have learn is all poisonous mushrooms are soft and break easy is this true

    1. Poppy Ives says:

      No, this is not true. You can have both poisonous and edible mushrooms that are soft and break easily and ones that do not.

  29. Joyce Rooker says:

    I am from the U.S. I used to pick field mushrooms on a farm I grew up on. We picked them in the field the cattle grazed in. We called them field mushrooms. I was always told that if the vail is growing up it’s safe if it’s growing down it is poison and
    If the gills are white leave it alone. I usually stuck to the white field mushrooms. They are like the white mushrooms you get in the store. My dad used to eat mushroom that were inky blue , he called them inky manes. Thanks for the helpful info.

  30. Gavin Walker says:

    Can I eat the dark spongy underside of a CEP?

    1. Eric Biggane says:

      Hi Gavin, I only leave the underside of a Cep if it has turned yellow and gone soft otherwise I eat as much of them as I can. Eric.

  31. Kaitlyn says:

    Whats your email? Id like to send you a picture if thats okay:)

    1. Poppy Ives says:

      Hi Kaitlyn, you can send a picture to [email protected] or you can upload and send them using the contact form on our contact us page.

    2. Eric Biggane says:

      Hi Kaitlyn, you can send photos to [email protected]. We’ll need photos of the stem, cap and gills and a note of where they are growing and any smells they have. Eric.

  32. Stoyan says:

    I have found in a gracy field that is an eextension of a soccer feald an Amonetas growing in a ring around a big pine tree some of them wher growing close to each other some on a distance.
    Most of them were about 5 inches big.
    The biggest was around 7 inches.
    The gilds had yellowish wight color.
    When bruised thay turned bluish.
    Thay also had like a ring on the stem almost in an inch below the cap.
    The gilds wher soft.
    The smell was plesent almost sweet.
    The stem when cut from top to bottom had brownish coller and it was hallow in the center of the stem was flash that looked like silk connecting the roots with the cap.
    The root was bulky with dirt on it.
    Soft small torns like wher sticking out from the bulky root.
    Is it an edible or poisinus?

    1. Eric Biggane says:

      Hi Stoyan, sorry but I would never try to ID a mushroom from just a description, especially not from the sometimes deadly Amanita family.

  33. London Millet says:

    I have read recently that tasting a very small part of the mushroom will tell if it is poisonous. a nasty taste says it is; a mellow taste says no. Of course one could carry it further: After tasting, if it tastes mellow, try eating a small amount. etc.

    1. Eric Biggane says:

      Taste testing mushrooms could lead to an early grave. There is no way to tell if a mushroom is poisonous or edible by tasting except in the Russula family where any hot tasting mushrooms are poisonous and any mild ones are edible. It is the only family we do a taste test on.

  34. Mark Yates says:

    I have found a species of agaric which is exactly like a field mushroom – of which examples were growing nearby – but this one, a group of them including young and old examples has perfectly white gills which do not seem to darken with age. There is no volva. Any idea what it might be?

    1. Eric Biggane says:

      Hi Mark, I need clear photos of the gills, stem and cap to be able to ID a mushroom but any unidentified mushroom with white gills should be avoided.

  35. Tonik,Biafran. says:

    O yes! some mushroom are deadly even when sm1 inhales them.we have them here in rainforest Africa. You don’t go about tasting,or testing all species of mushroom here,it is suicide.

  36. Harland Meads says:

    This website was… how do I say it? Relevant!! Finally I’ve found something that helped me. Thank you!

  37. Alan says:

    Until I read this article I thought that if it could be peeled it was edible. I am growing potatoes in a polytunnel and the soil has wood chippings mixed in. I covered the soil with fleece to protect from frost. Today March 26th I took the fleece off and underneath were six beautiful mushrooms about 4 inch across with white flat tops which peeled and smelled beautifully like mushrooms. Tragedy is I dare not eat them.

  38. Dennis Hammack says:

    A lot of your article supports most of what I learned decades ago in 4-H. It was pretty much mandatory that we learn these things before we went into the woods alone. The only thing that seems to have changed in opinion is mushrooms vs toadstools. We were always told that if it has gills, throw it back.

    1. lisa says:

      There are many edible gilled mushrooms, but some of the most poisonous ones also have gills, so it’s a good general guideline to avoid all gilled mushrooms unless you can identify them to species with 100% certainty.

  39. Mr. Bin says:

    Is there any cases of edible wild mushrooms turn into poisonous ? If yes, How it turns?

    1. Eric Biggane says:

      All mushrooms will become toxic when really old and rotting, I’ve not heard of any that start edible and turn poisonous though.

  40. angelo gaetan says:

    every yr i get mushroom compost for my garden from a mushroom co that grows mushrooms…… every yr i get mushrooms growing……..same type and same spot where i put the mushroom compost…….i checked them and they have all the signs and qualities of a good mushroom………do u think they r from spores of the mushrooms the company grows……… stands to reason 4 me…………im so tempted to eat them

    1. Eric Biggane says:

      Never eat any wild food before correctly identifying it first.

  41. lisa says:

    You write, “Most of the Milkcaps are toxic ,” but that is not my understanding of Lactarius. Many are too hot or bitter to be edible, but I think only a handful out of the hundreds of species are known to be actually poisonous.

  42. MD says:

    Regarding bolete the writer mentions to treat the mushroom as poisonous if it turns blue when cut. I live in an area of northern Idaho which is plentiful with wild mushrooms right now. Especially the birch Bolete. These Birch bolete are edible and very tasty and they begin turning blue immediately when cut. Could you please give more detail regarding this? Thank you

    1. Eric Biggane says:

      If you are confident with your ID of Boletes then you can ignore the red and blue rule, it is for novice foragers who are understandably unconfident and Boletes are very easy to ID.

  43. Mary says:

    We discovered a large circle of snow white large mushrooms growing in our backyard. It is a grassy sunlit area. The caps are large and the gills are snow white, what is your take on this? we have never had anything like this in our yard before. Do you think they Are unsafe to eat?

    1. Eric Biggane says:

      Mushrooms that are white with white gills might be from the Amanita family, the Destroying Angel fits the bill and is one of the most poisonous mushrooms in the world. Without seeing the mushrooms I couldn’t tell you what they are but I do teach that mushrooms that are white all over should be treated with extreme caution and only safely identified by a mushroom expert. The exception to this is the St Georges Mushroom which grows within a month or so of St Georges day, 23rd April, and is fairly easily identified at the correct time of year and using our guide.

  44. Chithra says:

    I just wanted to know , whether, mushrooms with long white stem and a black top found in the western ghats are poisonous or not ?

    1. Eric Biggane says:

      Sorry Chithra but I can’t do IDs from descriptions and I only know UK mushrooms.

  45. Anna says:

    We have had mushrooms come up in our garden for a few years. Even though I have read lots about which mushroom are edible and which are poisonous, I am not confident enough to tell if these are edible/poisonous.
    There are a lot right now and it’d be brilliant if they were able to be eaten.
    Please can I send you some photos?
    Thank you

    1. Eric Biggane says:

      If you can send in photos we need some of the stem, cap, gills and a mushroom cut in half and we will try to identify them for you. Send to [email protected]

  46. Qimar Alfasi says:

    I found some small about half an inch mushrooms in Herman Park thick cap kinda wavy pinkish with yellow blended. Short short stem. They are thick and very sturdy. I can find them on the net. I broke one in half and it didn’t smear or bruise. Very attractive mushroom. I tasted a small piece and it was delicious. Does this mean its edible? I want to eat more but want to wait.

    1. Eric Biggane says:

      You must have a positive ID and be 100% sure before eating any wild mushroom. It is reported that the deadly poisonous Death Cap is very tasty.

  47. Chris says:

    I recently attended a very good course run by you .Today I went foraging and collected a lot of different types of mushroom. I purchased your book but can’t identify a few of them including one that I think is a black truffle. It has a brownish whitish coat and inside is black with tiny white veins. Can you help identify??

    1. Eric Biggane says:

      It sounds like a poisonous Earthball.

  48. Anne M Fine says:

    I purchased and laid some new mulch in my flower bed last year. In no time, I had the most unusual fungi pop up. It was a beautiful coral colored one that was tentacle-like and looked frankly like something from Beetlejuice the movie! Never saw one like that before so I began investigating what it could be. Before I found a picture of it to identify, it opened up and began to stink to high heaven! Seriously, like a dead body. That made naming it easy though. I quickly was able to identify it as stinkwort. Some of the prettiest are the nastiest!

  49. Alien says:

    I bought some mushroom compost then suddenly after a few days it started growing mushrooms and I didn’t even plant any there so I was wondering if they are ok to eat they look like button mushrooms.

    1. Eric Biggane says:

      Never eat any mushrooms without identifying them first. You can send photos to [email protected]. Please include photos of the cap, gills, stem and a mushroom in situ.

  50. Tamer says:

    Hı there…. There is a issuse regarding mushroom which ı m really curious…in the last century by means of the technological developments, even which kind of toxines including in the mushroom have been distinguished. İn fact, centirues ago, how did People distinguish between poisonous mushrooms and edible moshrooms without technology ? Even though there has been still no certain method to distinguish them , how were People sure whether they could be edible or not poisonous ?

    1. Eric Biggane says:

      Originally, someone would just have to try them for the clan and see what happens!

  51. Suzi C-J says:

    Hi there,
    I had my first mushroom forage yesterday. I brought them home to identify them and am doing a terrible job. I tried to take spore prints from them all which worked out well for one of them. My concern is, though the mushrooms have now been put outside (non of them eaten), there is still a mushroomy smell inside. Am I being paranoid that I might be inhaling poisonous spores that might do me harm?!

    1. Eric Biggane says:

      Unless you collect the spores into a pile and snort them, they will do no harm. We are all breathing in mushroom spores with every breath.

  52. Larine says:

    Hello, Thanks for writing this article. Actually a couple of days ago, while I’m doing my regular hick in the wild, I came across three types of mushrooms and one of them made me curious to find about it and it led me to you. This amazing type of mushroom is not mentioned in this article which I find interesting to share it’s description with you. It has a white bubble shape with a small top opening and when it’s touched it sniffs vertically a brown powder. However, I think it’s poisonous and directly got my attention which I couldn’t resist the fact catching it on camera.
    Best Regards,

    1. Angela Dansie says:

      I know this is years later, but that sounds like a puffball gone to spore

  53. amber dawkins says:

    thank you for this article, i keep finding mushrooms and never touched them because i thought they were poisonous and now i kinda know how to identify tem

  54. Tor says:

    Thank you so much for this guideline. So helpful

  55. Jordano Bruno says:

    How did the first people know which ones are poisons or edible??

    1. Eric Biggane says:

      Originally, trial and error!

  56. Carol Cox says:

    I found some white mushrooms in my yard today. They are under an oak tree where I throw bird seed. We have had non stop rain for the last few days. The mushrooms are white kind of flat on the top and the underside I guess the gills are like rust colored and very close together. I have pictures but don’t know how to send them.

    1. Eric Biggane says:

      Pictures can be attached to an e-mail and sent to [email protected].

  57. Heather Phillips says:

    Hi and good morning,

    I’m not sure which mushroom it is but it seems like a 50 50 weather it’s poisonous or not especially with the white ones with pink gills. I spotted them Poppin out of the ground along my fence. They were growing in a group meaning grouped together like they were hugging, and the sack or base of it was yellow. Not bright yellow. It is hard to determine the sack/base type since it’s all kinda stuck together. But I have to say I felt like I was throwing away good mushrooms by the way they smelled. But I did so anyway per caution.

    I live in the northern area of New Mexico USA in a suburb of Los Alamos.

    Were they bad mushrooms or poisonous should I say?

    Thank you for your time.

    Take care and stay safe.
    Heather Phillips

    1. Eric Biggane says:

      If they had a sack like base they could be from the Amanita family, some of which are edible and some of which are the most deadly poisonous mushrooms we have. You can send photos for identification to [email protected]. Please ensure you send clear photos including the cap, gills and stem for mushrooms and leaves, flowers, buds, pods and a photo of the entire plant. Any additional info can help with the ID, like smells, location and size.

  58. Carol Brun says:

    We found what could be clear mushrooms growing in our gardens, on the mulch. The caps were transparent and thin stems were white. They were not large mushrooms. The mushrooms stood about 5 inches tall. Caps were less than an inch. or so. Are these dangerous? There had been a lot of rain in the area when we discovered them. Later in the day they wilted just white thin stems remained. eventually they too, disappeared. Any idea what they could be?

    1. Eric Biggane says:

      They sound like one of the inkcaps. You can send photos for identification to [email protected]. Please ensure you send clear photos including the cap, gills and stem for mushrooms and leaves, flowers, buds, pods and a photo of the entire plant. Any additional info can help with the ID, like smells, location and size.

  59. Silvia Cristina Sanchez says:

    Hi there,

    If there is a poisonous mushroom in my basket. But is identified before consumption and removed from the basket, is the rest of the mushrooms at risk? Should the whole thing be chucked away?

    Thank you?

    1. Eric Biggane says:

      It is best not to mix poisonous and edible mushrooms but simply touching one another in a basket will not transfer any poisons.

  60. Susan Kaplan says:

    I went mushrooming this week with someone who has been picking the same plot of land, reserved for mushroom picking, all his life. He only picks cepes, parasols, and amanita caesarea, although there are lots of others. I picked quite a few of the amanita caesarea and felt confident of the open ones. However, I also got two immature ones with an egg shaped top. They were picked from the same vicinity as the open ones, but when I got home, I got worried. After handling them, some pale orange streaks appeared, but when I cut them open there was no orange. In the end, I didn’t eat those two although they were so firm, and white, and dense, and delicious looking.
    Could I have depended on the fact that they were all growing together? Was I overly cautious?

    1. Eric Biggane says:

      It is always safer to err on the side of caution, if you are not 100% certain of identity, do not eat.

  61. Beatrice Morin says:

    I have a question – is there an e-mail I can send photos of mushrooms (growing outside) to know if they are edible or safe to eat?

    1. Eric Biggane says:

      You can send photos to [email protected]. Please send photos of the gills, cap, stem and where they were growing along with any smells or bruising to the mushroom. Please also only send one mushroom per e-mail, you may send multiple e-mails but one at a time helps us.

  62. Mike says:

    So, how exactly can I tell which are safe to eat? Are we unsure of a specific way? If there is an easier way of telling the difference I would love to know, I am going on an “adventure” (Some may call it that) in the woods to camp and I want to be able to know the difference in case I get hungry.

    1. Eric Biggane says:

      As the article suggests, the only way is to take time to learn mushrooms, starting with easy to identify mushrooms and working your way up. The Bolete genus is a good place to start, they are easy to identify, common, and have a couple of easy to follow rules to determine edibility. See our Bolete article.

  63. tom tuite dalton says:

    Hi, I am in the Swiss Alps for our summer holiday and have found mushrooms that have gills cream/yellow gills and ruddy brown (not bright red) caps and smell pleasantly of a concentrated mushroom smell. Am I right in thinking that if the mushroom smells of typical mushroom smell, the it won’t be poisonous? kind regards, Tom

    1. Eric Biggane says:

      Only a small amount of mushrooms can be identified by smell, many poisonous mushrooms smell and taste of mushroom so I would not eat any mushrooms you can not identify to the exact species. If you can send photos of the cap, stem, gills and in situ, we’ll try to ID them for you.

  64. Lisa says:

    Are there mushrooms that are just poisonous to dogs? I’m pretty sure my dog died from eating a mushroom but he ate it too quickly to identify what it was. It caused him to have terrible seizures and other neurological issues and despite veterinary care and our best efforts to help him, he died within about 36 hours . Ever since then my family and I have been very nervous about the mushrooms that pop up in our yard because we have 2 new dogs and one who likes to eat everything in sight. I’ve been trying to educate myself on the difference between edible and poisonous mushrooms and how to identify the types of mushrooms that tend to pop up in my yard ever since, but I’m still uneasy over every mushroom I see unless they are in the grocery store!

    1. Marlow Renton says:

      Mushrooms can be as poisonous to dogs as they are to us, the only way to stop them is to watch what they are up to and stop them eating any mushrooms, difficult I know but I don’t know what else can be done. Info on dog poisoning can be found at

  65. Chris says:

    You can eat all types of mushrooms. But some can be eaten only once.

  66. Marie M says:

    The finger looking orange mushroom , stink mushroom., are they safe if dogs eat part of them??

    1. Eric Biggane says:

      I’m afraid we would need to see photos of the mushroom, there are a few stinkhorns and a few orange mushrooms that grow a bit like fingers. You can send them to [email protected]

  67. Andres says:

    I found this mushroom near my apartment and and a playground too. the mushroom is white with bumps that are Identical to the one that is in the second mushroom on the article I can’t seem to see the stem as the cap has covered most of the stem at first I thought they were rocks but once I got a closer look I realized that they were mushrooms but I don’t usually see this kind do you know what it might be ?

    1. Eric Biggane says:

      We can’t safely ID mushrooms from descriptions, we would need to see photos of the cap, stem, gills, where it was growing and any smell the mushroom may have. These can be sent to [email protected]

  68. Marjurie Flores says:

    I have an array of different mushrooms growing in my yard, how can I know for sure if they are poisonous? I have dogs and small children and I don’t want either to touch them. I took pictures who can I send them to?

    1. Eric Biggane says:

      You can send photos to [email protected] Please send photos of the gills, cap, stem and one of the mushrooms in situ.

  69. Dr J A Khan says:

    Your article is quite interesting and good for people looking for specific details about wild Mushrooms.
    I have been clicking (from 12 July to 27 July 2023) a white coloured giant sized Wild Mushroom (>15 cm diameter) growing in my neighbourhood garden in India. I have been observing its size by comparing it with a number of objects. It may be a Puff ball Mushroom, but I am not sure. I can share its pictures…it is one of my hobbies to click wild mushrooms growing in my neighbourhood areas, particularly during Monsoon months in India.
    Dr J. A. Khan
    Retd Forest Officer
    Phd from North Wales, Bangor UK

  70. os008015l says:

    Please people be VERY VERY careful. I barely saved the life of an EXPERT who had ingested the wrong mushroom . He admittedly grew over confident in his assessment skills. Unaware of situation elsewhere but in North America a lot of overlap exists. Britannica article makes comment to this

  71. Chicken man says:

    Can chickens eat red caped mushrooms 🍄

    1. Attila Fodi says:

      It really depends on what mushroom do you call ‘red caped mushrooms’. Chickens can eat technically everything, and I cannot recall any toxicology case, where chicken got poisoned by mushrooms (regardless of the colour of the cap).

  72. Joyann says:

    I went on a weekend adventure. One place where there were tons of chanterelles. That’s all that seemed to be growing on the island. Another a wooded area filled with Hedgehogs.
    I found Boletes in around goldenrod…..also a couple in different areas. I ate the Boletes but felt a little stomach cramping after.
    The Boletes seemed to be good.
    But there was one I threw away because it smelled bad and had a bluish shade to it.
    Could I have eaten a bad one? Or maybe it was cramping because I ingested a new food type?

    1. Eric Biggane says:

      It is possible you ate the wrong Bolete but without seeing it, I couldn’t say. It is also possible your body reacted to a new food although the former sounds a bit more probable. I hope you are feeling ok now. There should be no long term harm done from eating the wrong Bolete, mainly just gastric upsets.

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