Saturday, 5 December 2009


A Coprinus species, some of which are edible.

The other day I posted a picture of the Ear Fungus and Canadian Chickadee asked if it was edible. The simple answer is no – it would be like chewing rubber. I must also point out that eating any wild mushroom or fungus is a hazardous pastime. We have a friend currently in hospital with serious kidney failure from having eaten just a small portion of a single wild mushroom.

If it is a Penny Bun it is edible 
but if it is one of the related Boletus species it could be poisonous.

The Fly Agaric may or may not kill you but it's what 
the Vikings used to eat to make them go berserk in battle 
so I wouldn't recommend trying it!

The Branched Oyster Fungus - an edible species
but I'd still prefer to buy mine in the shops

People in the UK often buy simple little books like the Collins Wild Guide to Mushrooms and think that they can thereby identify what they see in the woods. This guide has 240 species in it. There are at least 15,000 species of larger fungi in the UK. The RSPB has recorded 3136 on its reserves alone. So, as you can see, a guide which only shows 250 species is not particularly comprehensive. It’s fine for identifying them for fun but not where your life is at stake.

Another edible species - the Chanterelle - or is it??

In addition fungi are very variable and if you watch the fruiting body of a particular species from day to day you may see it gradually change shape and colour and texture so that after two or three days it looks entirely different.

The Wood Blewit - also edible but then again it could be a...

At first glance this looks like a Field Mushroom 
but it is actually the poisonous Yellow Staining Mushroom.

So my advice, unless you are a qualified mycologist or have years of experience of recognising a particular species, would be leave wild fungi alone and buy your mushrooms in the shops.


  1. Fungi can be pretty cool-looking. They really deserve a better name! "Fungus" isn't very pretty.

    I wanted to congratulate you; I'm giving you the One-Minute Writing of the Day award for 11/24. Great job!

    Hope you're well. :)

    -C. Beth
    The One-Minute Writer

  2. Thanks for the tip. I know that no one with any sense would eat any of the wild fungi here in the Pacific Northwest. In fact, a friend of my mother's died after doing so -- and she was a botanist. I think the poisonous mushrooms outnumber the "safe" ones about a hundred to one.
    Thanks for the additional information.
    Take care and God bless, Canadian Chickadee

  3. Oh my! I thought of you as I was photographing more of our fungi in the woods this fall. I haven't posted any pictures because I've not found a good thought for them yet...but they're waiting in my archives for the right moment :)

    I do hope that your friend gets well.

  4. They are weird, but they are fascinating! Beautiful shots, by the way! Every year we hear stories of families that go out on an excursion of mushroom hunting that ends in a hospitalization, or worse.
    Not me, friend!

  5. My mum used to pick wild fungi (and succeeded not to poison anyone with the result) but I never did.

  6. wow, I took two pics of one edible and one poisonous while in VA, I have always wanted to learn mycology since I love to eat them and use them in my profession...have you studied this?

  7. No Chef E, I've only studied at an amateur level and would never trust my identification.

  8. Thanks C.Beth.

    Jo has gone to visit the friend's Mum today and the news is that he seems out of danger but is likely to have permanent kidney damage and therefore need dialysis a couple of times a week for the rest of his life.

  9. Fabulous photos! Fungi is amazing stuff!

  10. These are fabulous photos and I am fascinated by how many different species there are. It reminds me of the movie, "Into The Wild". I also took a few photos of wild mushrooms while I was in oregon. I have no idea what kind they are but I thought they were interesting.

  11. Be good if we adopted the French system. you pick them and drop into a chemists where they are identified for you.

  12. The first one is like paper fan.

    My mum's mum doesn't touch wild mushrooms. She lived to see the whole village of her people in a coma and foaming for 3 days. She was forbidden to eat it by her evil mum in law. As Grandma watch them dying, she said,"serve her right." Pity, th evil MIL didn't die.

    As a result, we didn't pick wild mushrooms. Dad's dad said, if you see insects hovering over them, then it is edible. Mum doesn't want to take the chance.

    We love mushroom.

  13. In Germany the Pharmacies also have posters identifying the more common edible and poisonosu mushrooms and will give advice on edible ones.

    Friends in Callendar used to pick and dry wild mushrooms every year too. They are of Italian extraction and it seems to be more common on the mainland of Europe than in the Uk to eat wild fungi and I would speculate that the craft of identification is passed on from generation to generation.


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