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10 Most Poisonous Mushrooms + Foraging Safety List

10 Most Poisonous Mushrooms + Foraging Safety List

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Foraging for mushrooms is an unconventional pastime that has garnered a devoted following. With a staggering 14,000 species of mushrooms, it can be challenging to differentiate between those that are safe to consume and those that are poisonous or hallucinogenic. This guide highlights the commonly-found toxic mushrooms that should be avoided and provides tips for safely foraging wild mushrooms.

Key Takeaways

  • Most Poisonous Mushroom: ‘Amanita bisporigera‘ is the most poisonous, known for causing fatal liver and kidney damage.
  • Common Toxic Varieties: Includes ‘Amanita phalloides‘ (Death Cap), Deadly Webcap, and others, characterized by their distinct cap shapes and gill structures.
  • Identifying Poisonous Mushrooms: Poisonous mushrooms often have features like white gills, a ring on the stem, and a bulbous base.
  • Danger in Gardens and Yards: Many poisonous mushrooms, such as the Death Cap, can commonly grow in residential gardens, posing a risk to unwary foragers.

If you’re planning on mushroom foraging, I highly recommend picking up this field guide for North American mushrooms.

 

10 Most Toxic Mushrooms in the US

Discover the hidden perils of fungi with this detailed list of the most poisonous mushrooms found across the United States, emphasizing the importance of awareness and safety in natural environments.

Scientific Name Common Name Active Agent
Agaricus californicus California Agaricus Phenol, Xanthodermin
Agaricus hondensis Felt-ringed Agaricus Phenol, Xanthodermin
Amanita abrupta American abrupt-bulbed Lepidella L-2-amino-4-pentynoic acid, 2-Amino-4,5-hexadienoic acid
Amanita bisporigera Eastern Destroying Angel Amatoxins
Amanita chlorinosma Chlorine Lepidella Unknown
Amanita farinosa Powdery Amanita Unknown
Amanita gemmata Gemmed Amanita Muscimol, Ibotenic acid
Amanita muscaria Fly agaric Muscimol, Ibotenic acid
Amanita porphyria Grey veiled Amanita Unknown (probably Bufotenin)
Ampulloclitocybe clavipes Club-footed clitocybe Unknown

How to Identify Poisonous Mushrooms in Yards & Gardens 

Understanding how to identify poisonous mushrooms in your lawn or garden is essential for safety. While the video above gives a great overview, we’ll also present pictures and unique details for each of the 10 Funghi you should watch out for below.

This guide offers identification tips for common toxic mushrooms, like the deadly dapperling mushroom and false morel mushroom.

1. Death Cap Mushrooms (Amanita phalloides)

A grouping of deadly death cap mushrooms growing in the woods.

Death cap mushrooms, one of the most dangerous mushrooms, are generally found in Europe but can now be found in other regions thanks to cultivation of non-native tree species.

These deadly mushrooms have a white stem, white gills, and a white to light-green cap.

It’s called death cap because it’s extremely toxic; half a mushroom can be lethal.

  • Other Names: Death Cap Amanita
  • Habitat: Oak forests
  • Similar Species: Caesar’s mushroom, straw mushroom (both edible)
  • Toxicity: High 
  • Foraging Tips: Look for the white stem, gills, and greenish cap. Compare these with similar edible mushrooms, noting color and shape differences.

2. Destroying Angel (Amanita bisporigera

Amanita virosa, or the destroying angel mushroom, growing beside a large bone in the woods.

Destroying angel mainly refers to Amanita bisporigera, but also to A. ocreata, A. virosa, and A. verna.

These mushrooms, all pure white, are often considered among the most poisonous mushrooms

For anyone venturing into areas with pine trees or pink-tinged russula, remember to exercise caution and consider the risks of misidentification.

  • Other Names: Fool’s Mushroom
  • Habitat: Woodlands, grassy meadows
  • Similar Species: Button mushroom, meadow mushroom, horse mushroom (all edible)
  • Toxicity: High
  • Foraging Tips:
    When foraging, always avoid all-white mushrooms, as they can be Destroying Angels; their resemblance to safe varieties like button mushrooms makes accurate identification vital:
    1. Volva (Cup at the Base): Destroying Angels have a distinct cup-like structure at their base, which is not present in many edible white mushrooms.
    2. Gill Color: Destroying Angels typically have white gills, which do not darken with age, unlike some edible varieties.
    3. Stem Ring: They often have a prominent ring (or skirt) on the upper part of the stem, which is a remnant of the veil that covered the gills when young.

3. False Parasol (Chlorophyllum molybdites)

Two false parasol mushrooms growing among blades of grass.

The false parasol, often eaten in North America, is poisonous but not deadly.

This mushroom causes gastrointestinal issues, such as vomiting and diarrhea, when consumed.

The false parasol grows in lawns, leading to its frequent consumption.

  • Other Names: Green-spored Lepiota, vomiter
  • Habitat: Grass fields and lawns
  • Similar Species: Parasol mushroom (edible)
  • Toxicity: Medium
  • Foraging Tips: The mushroom has a large, off-white cap like a parasol, noticeable in grass. We cover this mushroom in depth here.

4. Ivory Funnel (Clitocybe dealbata)

An ivory funnel mushroom or Clitocybe dealbata mushroom growing among moss.

The ivory funnel is a predominately white, funnel-shaped mushroom that is found in grassy meadows and lawns.

Poisoning causes sweating, salivation, abdominal pain, and digestive issues.

Death due to poisoning rarely occurs, and there are multiple antidotes available. 

  • Other Names: Sweating mushroom
  • Habitat: Lawns, meadows
  • Similar Species: False champignon (toxic), fairy ring champignon (edible)
  • Toxicity: Medium
  • Foraging Tips: To differentiate the Ivory Funnel from non-toxic mushrooms, focus on its unique characteristics:
    • Cap Shape: The Ivory Funnel has a distinct funnel-shaped cap, which is a key feature to look for.
    • Habitat: It commonly grows in lawns and meadows, settings where its toxic look-alike, the False Champignon, may also be found.
    • Gill Structure: The gills of the Ivory Funnel are often more crowded and finer compared to those of the edible Fairy Ring Champignon.

5. Conocybe filaris

A Conocybe filaris mushroom in the grass.

Often listed as Conocybe filaris in field guides, Conocybe filaris is the correct name for this type of toxic fungi.

  • Other Names: Pholiotina rugosa
  • Habitat: Lawns, compost 
  • Similar Species: Psilocybe cyanescens, Psilocybe subaeruginosa (psychedelics)
  • Toxicity: High
  • Foraging Tips: Conocybe filaris, easily identifiable by its slender, tall stature and pale to rusty-brown conical cap, typically grows in urban areas, making it a commonly encountered yet dangerous mushroom.

6. Jack O’Lantern (Omphalotus illudens)

A cluster of jack o'lantern mushrooms growing in a lawn.

The jack o’lantern mushroom is a large, orange poisonous fungi that is usually found with multiple caps.

When freshly picked, these mushrooms have a green bioluminescence around the gills.

These mushrooms are toxic, raw or cooked, causing digestive problems.

  • Other Names: N/A
  • Habitat: Base of hardwood trees
  • Similar Species: Chanterelles (edible) 
  • Toxicity: Medium
  • Foraging Tips: avoid picking or consuming mushrooms with bright orange caps and true gills that grow in clusters on wood, as you might be picking the toxic Jack O’Lanterns and not the edible chanterelles they resemble.

7. False Champignon (Clitocybe rivulosa)

False champignon or fool's funnel mushroom growing in a lawn.

The fool’s funnel is similar to the ivory funnel. It can also cause sweating and salivation when ingested with death rarely occurring.

  • Other Names: Fool’s funnel
  • Habitat: Lawns, meadows 
  • Similar Species: Fairy ring champignon (edible), ivory funnel (toxic)
  • Toxicity: Medium
  • Foraging Tips: This mushroom is all white, with a funnel-shaped cap. The fool’s funnel can form fairy rings in grassy meadows. 

8. Brown Roll-Rim (Paxillus involutus)

A brown, or common, roll-rim mushroom in the woods.

The brown roll-rim can be found in various shades of brown caps with the edge of the cap rolling inward.

This mushroom was eaten, cooked, or preserved, up until around World War II.

While the raw toxicity was known, it was previously believed that cooking the mushroom made it safe to eat. 

  • Other Names: Common roll-rim
  • Habitat: Coniferous and deciduous woods Conocybe filaris, easily identifiable by its slender, tall stature and pale to rusty-brown conical cap, typically grows in urban areas, making it a commonly encountered yet dangerous mushroom.
  • Similar Species: Lactarius sp. (toxic) 
  • Toxicity: High 
  • Foraging Tips: Make sure you avoid collecting mushrooms with distinct, in-rolled brown cap and decurrent gills, as they do pose serious health risks.

9. Yellow Stainer (Agaricus xanthodermus)

A group of yellow stainer mushrooms growing in a lawn.

The most distinguishing feature of the yellow stainer is a yellow color that appears when the mushroom is cut (typically seen at the base when picked).

If the mushrooms are cooked, the entire mushroom becomes yellow and puts out a strong odor.

Some people have no ill effects from eating yellow stainer, but most people experience digestive irritation. 

  • Other Names: Yellow-staining mushroom
  • Habitat: Woods, lawns 
  • Similar Species: California Agaricus (toxic)
  • Toxicity: Medium
  • Foraging Tips: The flesh and base of the stem turn a bright yellow when bruised or cut, which is a distinguishing feature from other Agaricus species.

10. Inky Cap (Coprinopsis atramentaria)

Inky Cap Mushrooms - coprinopsis atramentaria

The inky cap is an interesting mushroom because it is actually edible.

However, when consumed with alcohol (or if alcohol is consumed up to three days after consumption), it causes digestive distress, increased heart rate, and tingling limbs.

Due to this, it is sometimes administered as a treatment for alcoholism. Inky Cap has a gray-brown cap that starts bell-shaped and then flattens out over time. 

  • Other Names: Common ink cap, tippler’s bane 
  • Habitat: Vacant lots, lawns 
  • Similar Species: Shaggy ink cap (edible) 
  • Toxicity: Low-medium
  • Foraging Tips: It is identifiable by its distinctive cap that dissolves into an inky black liquid as it matures. Also, these mushrooms often appear in groups in urban areas, particularly near wood or disturbed ground.

More Poisonous Mushrooms To Avoid

In exploring the world of fungi, it’s best to be cautious and informed about various mushroom types, including beautiful yet dangerous ones like muscaria and boletus satanas.
Keep discovering which mushrooms are poisonous with the following guide.

Brain Mushroom or False Morel (Gyromitra esculenta)

A brain mushroom, also called false morel, growing in the woods.

The brain mushroom gets its name from the large brain-like cap on the mushroom. It is usually dark brown in color.

This mushroom has fatal toxicity when eaten raw, but it is regularly consumed after cooking and is considered a delicacy in some regions.

Poisoning includes vomiting and diarrhea, which can be followed by coma and death in severe cases. 

  • Other Names: Turban fungus, elephant ears, beefsteak morel 
  • Habitat: Coniferous forest, woodlands 
  • Similar Species: Morchella sp. (edible), elfin saddle (toxic) 
  • Toxicity: High 

Elfin Saddle (Gyromitra infula)

A black elfin saddle mushroom in the woods.

The elfin saddle gets its name because the red cap of the mushroom takes a saddle shape when mature.

Like the brain mushroom, elfin saddle is sometimes thought to be edible after cooking, but this is untrue.

The toxic compound, gyromitrin, found in the mushroom is considered a carcinogen, even in small doses. 

  • Other Names: Hooded false morel 
  • Habitat: Coniferous woodlands
  • Similar Species: Brain mushroom 
  • Toxicity: High

Autumn Skullcap or Deadly Galerina (Galerina marginata)

Two autumn skullcap mushrooms lying on a fallen tree.

The autumn skullcap has a yellow-brown cap that starts off rounded and then flattens as the mushroom matures.

Like the death cap, this mushroom contains amatoxins that affect the liver and can be deadly if untreated. 

  • Other Names: Funeral bell
  • Habitat: Decaying wood
  • Similar Species: Sheathed woodtuft, honey fungus (both edible) 
  • Toxicity: High 

Deadly Webcap and Fool’s Webcap (Cortinarius rubellus, C. Orellanus)

A group of deadly webcap mushrooms growing on the forest floor.

Deadly webcap and fool’s webcap belong to a group of mushrooms known as Orellani.

These mushrooms cause kidney failure, which usually requires a kidney transplant. These mushrooms are small and brown with concave caps. 

  • Other Names: N/A
  • Habitat: Forests
  • Similar Species: Funnel chanterelle, waxy cap (both edible) 
  • Toxicity: High

Angel Wing (Pleurocybella porrigens)

Angel wing mushrooms growing on the side of a tree.

Angel wing mushrooms are thin and flat, unlike the common “toadstool” appearance of many mushrooms.

They typically begin pure white and transition to a faint yellow color as the mushroom matures.

The mechanism for toxicity is unknown, but it can cause fatal encephalopathy in people with pre-existing conditions. 

  • Other Names: N/A
  • Habitat: Decaying wood 
  • Similar Species: Oyster mushrooms (edible) 
  • Toxicity: Low-high

Satan’s Bolete (Rubroboletus satanas, Rubroboletus eastwoodiae)

A satan's bolete, or devil's bolete, mushroom on forest floor.

The two species that have the common name satan’s bolete are within the same genus, but R. satanas is found in Europe, and R. eastwoodiae is found in North America.

Both species are short, fat mushrooms that turn blue when cut. 

  • Other Names: Devil’s bolete
  • Habitat: Woodland
  • Similar Species: Bitter beech bolete (inedible) 
  • Toxicity: Medium

Sulfur Tuft (Hypholoma fasciculare)

A group of sulfur tuft mushrooms growing amid moss and large pine cones.

The sulfur tuft is named for its yellow-colored cap. The gills turn from yellow to green as the mushroom matures.

This mushroom causes digestive distress in most cases, but it is capable of causing impaired vision and paralysis. 

  • Other Names: Clustered woodlover
  • Habitat: Decaying wood
  • Similar Species: Hypholoma capnoides (edible)
  • Toxicity: Medium

Scaly Vase Chanterelle (Turbinellus floccosus)

A close-up image of a scaly vase chanterelle mushroom.

The scaly vase chanterelle has a large trumpet-shaped body with an orange cap. The outside is covered in wrinkles and is usually a light beige color.

While this mushroom can cause digestive issues for some people, there are many tribes throughout the world that eat it without issue.

  • Other Names: Shaggy chanterelle, woolly chanterelle
  • Habitat: Coniferous forest
  • Similar Species: Violet chanterelle (edible) 
  • Toxicity: Low

Lilac Bonnet (Mycena pura)

A group of lilac bonnet mushrooms in the woods.

The lilac bonnet has a wide cap that is white to light purple in color. It exhibits bioluminescence and is known to contain multiple toxins.

While it is known to contain toxins, the effects when eaten are inconclusive. 

  • Other Names: N/A
  • Habitat: Forests
  • Similar Species: Wood blewit (edible), purple edge bonnet
  • Toxicity: Low

Common Earthball (Scleroderma citrinum)

One intact common earthball mushroom sitting beside one that has been cut in half.

The common earthball is a type of mushroom that releases its spores when broken open. It does not have a stem and the round ball is covered in light brown spots.

When ingested, this mushroom can cause digestive issues and the spores can irritate the nose, eyes, and mouth if released. 

  • Other Names: Pigskin poison puffball 
  • Habitat: Woods, meadows 
  • Similar Species: Stump puffball (edible)
  • Toxicity: Low

Be sure to check out our full article on whether puffball mushrooms are edible or not.

Deadly Dapperling (Lepiota brunneoincarnata)

A deadly dapperling mushroom growing on a moss-covered log.

The deadly dapperling has a light-brown scaled cap and white gills.

It is commonly found in public green spaces and unfortunately resembles many species of edible mushrooms.

When ingested, this highly toxic mushroom causes digestive distress followed by liver damage. It can be fatal if not treated properly. 

  • Other Names: N/A
  • Habitat: Grassy areas
  • Similar Species: Grey knight, fairy ring champignon (both edible)
  • Toxicity: High

Laughing Jim (Gymnopilus junonius)

A grouping of laughing Jim mushrooms growing in the forest.

Laughing Jim mushrooms are bright orange in color and darker to a reddish brown as they mature.

While the mushroom contains a neurotoxin, there is not much recorded information on poisonings in humans. Laughing Jim is considered inedible due to its bitter taste. 

  • Other Names: Spectacular rustgill 
  • Habitat: Woodlands
  • Similar Species: Honey fungus (edible), western jack-o-lantern mushroom (toxic)
  • Toxicity: Low 

Fly Agaric (Amanita mascaria)

A fly agaric mushroom with a bright red cap with white spots growing on a mossy hill.

The fly agaric is the most iconic “toadstool” species of mushroom. It has a white stem, white gills, and a red cap covered in white spots.

Fly agaric is the inspiration for cartoon and video game mushrooms.

While this mushroom is well-recognized, fatal poisonings are rare thanks to modern medical treatments.

Poisonings can have a variety of symptoms, from digestive issues to psychedelic effects, because there are multiple subspecies of fly agarics. 

  • Other Names: Fly amanita
  • Habitat: Conifer and deciduous woodlands
  • Similar Species: Vermilion gisette, Caesar’s mushroom (edible) 
  • Toxicity: Medium

Many Dapperling or Lepiota Mushrooms (Lepiota genus)

A skullcap dapperling mushroom growing among moss on the forest floor.

The Lepiota genus contains approximately 400 species of mushrooms and most of them are toxic. No Lepiota species are considered edible, but some are considered fatally poisonous.

This is because they contain amatoxins, just like the death cap. Most Lepiota species are white to brown in color and may have a scaled or smooth cap. 

  • Other Names: N/A
  • Habitat: broadleaf and conifer woodlands
  • Similar Species: N/A
  • Toxicity: Low – High 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ):

What Mushrooms Are Safe to Eat?

Safe mushrooms to eat typically include well-known varieties such as button mushrooms, chanterelles, and morels, provided they are correctly identified and sourced from reliable environments.

How to Identify Poisonous Mushrooms?

Poisonous mushrooms often have features like white gills, a ring on the stem, and a bulbous base.

For more details and examples, read our article on Puffball Mushrooms

What Mushrooms Are Poisonous for Dogs?

Poisonous mushrooms for dogs include species like Amanita phalloides (Death Cap), Inocybe spp., Clitocybe dealbata, Agaricus spp., Amanita muscaria (Fly Agaric), Galerina spp., and Scleroderma citrinum. These species contain toxins that are harmful to canines.

It’s important to keep dogs away from these and other unknown mushrooms, as many can cause serious health issues.

For more information on mushrooms and dogs, check VetsNow

Recommended Reading:

Peterson Field Guide to Mushrooms of North America, Second Edition

National Audubon Society N.A. Mushroom Field Guide