To know if the mushrooms in your yard are poisonous, get a mushroom guide and contact your local mycological society. They will have many useful programs and resources. Then, you want to identify the parts of the mushroom, its color, shape and appearance while considering the location, time of year, temperature and other growing conditions.
Why is it important to identify poisonous mushrooms?
There are 14,000 species of mushrooms and 60 of those are poisonous. So, it’s a good idea to know which ones those are. You’ll be able to determine edibility while keeping children and pets safe.
Misidentification of a mushroom can have dire consequences that include death. In the most benign case, hallucinations can occur. But, most poisonings by mushroom will produce vomiting, diarrhea and stomach pain.
What are the basics of mushroom identification?
You don’t have to be a professional to understand the basic characteristics of a poisonous species. First, understand that mushrooms are neither plants nor animals. They are fungi.
- Cap – This is the top hooded-looking structure of the mushroom. The shapes can be round, conical, parasol-like or appear as a cup. The texture varies as well, feeling smooth, covered in small nubs or mottled.
- Gills – The part that produces the mushroom’s spores are the gills. You can find them on the underside of the cap. They will either have ribs or a plentitude of tiny holes. Some species have teeth instead of gills, and some, like chanterelles, have veins.
- Mycelium – this is the web-like structure from where mushrooms protrude. It’s often in the pores of decaying wood or found underground. When the right conditions allow it, mushrooms appear.
- Ring or Annulus – Sometimes, there will be a ring wrapped around the stem under the cap. It’s a vestige of the veil it broke through during sprouting.
- Stem – The length of material connecting the cap to the growing medium is the stem. These can be long, slender, fat and/or short. Some are hollow while others are not and not all mushrooms have a stem. Mushrooms on decayed wood and large puffballs don’t have them, for example.
- Volva – If there is a stem, there will be a bulging section at the base, this is the volva and often rooted underground. When you see one of these, it’s a good indication that the mushroom is poisonous.
What other indicators show a poisonous mushroom?
While there are some characteristics to indicate a poisonous mushroom, identifying these doesn’t mean it’s foolproof. However, if you can pinpoint the characteristics, it’s best to leave the mushroom alone unless you are 300% certain.
Color Is Crucial
- White gills are a major red flag. If there’s a ring around the stem and the presence of a volva, chances are it’s poisonous.
- Red caps and stems mean the mushroom is either hallucinogenic or poisonous.
- If you use a small knife and press on the cap that results in the mushroom changing color, it is likely poisonous.
When you’re confident in handling the mushroom with gloves on, cut off the stem and allow the cap to rest on a piece of paper for a couple hours. Ensure the gill side touches the surface of the paper. If there is a white spore print, it’s a hallucinogenic species.
In the event you can see or find any gills, the likelihood of the mushroom being poisonous is high.
Then you want to consider the location where you found the mushroom. If it was under a tree or on a piece of wood, the kind of wood will be important. Ones growing on conifers, eucalyptus or cedar might be poisonous, but ones found under oaks and elms could be safe.
Also, take note of the time of year, amount of sunshine and whether the mushroom is part of a cluster or if it’s alone. It’s also imperative that you take note of the soil or whatever medium the mushroom is growing on.
How can I know for sure whether a mushroom is poisonous or not?
If you aren’t versed in mushroom identification, your mushroom guidebook and local mycology society will come in handy. There are a host of online search engines specifically for mushrooms too.
How do I remove poisonous mushrooms?
If you’re concerned about a mushroom patch, there are a few things you can do to remove the fungi for good. You want to destroy them before they can get large enough to disperse spores into the immediate area.
- By Hand: Put on a pair of thick gloves and remove the mushrooms down to the mycelium. Put them in a sealable trash bag and close it tightly. Don’t add them to your compost pile, just straight to the garbage. Continue to pick and dispose any mushrooms as they appear to prevent spores from spreading.
- Mowing & Shovels: You can smash them with a shovel or go over them with a lawn mower.
- Fungicide: There are a number of commercial products with which you can treat your yard. But, if you’re doing this for the sake of pets and children, then try to find an organic and plant-based one.
- Vinegar: Normal household vinegar will not be strong enough to diminish mushrooms; you have to get one designed for horticulture that you can spray. It’s advisable to wear eye protection and gloves to avoid injury.
- Baking Soda: Baking soda will raise the pH level of the soil, which inhibits growth and makes the environment uninhabitable for mushrooms. This is not a permanent solution, but it is one of the safest to do. Either sprinkle it directly onto the mushrooms or mix two tablespoons with one gallon of water.
- Dish Soap: Take a couple tablespoons of your dish soap with about three gallons of water. Poke holes into the growing medium with a screwdriver around the mushrooms. Pour the soapy water over the mushrooms and the holes.