Is This Mushroom Poisonous?

 How To Tell If a Mushroom is Poisonous

The number one mushroom-related question asked online is if a specific mushroom is poisonous. Often these inquiries are accompanied by a single picture or vague description. While the question is genuine and serious, the answer is too complicated to expect a reliable response from online experts.

The quick answer is, there is no one way to tell if a mushroom is poisonous. They do not all possess a common identification factor that makes it easy. Wouldn’t that be nice!?

The only way to clearly know if a mushroom is poisonous is to identify it. There are over 5,000 types of mushrooms in the United States, and around 150 of them are toxic. Around a dozen of those are deadly. As you can imagine, the sheer number of mushroom varieties makes identification difficult. To increase the chances of identification, follow these tips:



Where is the mushroom located? A meadow? The woods? By a lake or river? Location matters. Mushrooms are often region or habitat-specific. Knowing the natural surroundings increases the chances of accurate identification.

Don’t stop at just the general habitat, though. The type of trees surrounding it matters. Even if the mushroom isn’t growing on a tree, make a note of the most common species. Some mushroom types grow in conjunction with and form relationships with specific trees through underground mycorrhizal networks.

Is the mushroom growing on the ground or a tree? Is the tree living or dead? Again, most mushrooms have specific habitat preferences. Is the mushroom growing alone or in a clump or a cluster?

Take Pictures

A single shot of the top of the mushroom is not going to help in identification. Take pictures of all sides of the mushroom and its’ habitat. The cap, the gills, and the stem all need to be seen to give an accurate identification. And, please, take clear pictures!

Don’t Guess

If you are thinking of ingesting the mushroom, don’t guess at its’ edibility or non-poisonous nature. Seriously. People die from this mistake. This is not a situation or time to be bold or daring. There is a saying  in the mushroom world, ‘There are old mushroom pickers and bold mushroom pickers, but there are no old, bold mushroom pickers.

Ask A Real Expert

Facebook groups, online forums, and the like are not reliable sources. Please do not use them as the only means of identification. There is no way to know if the people answering have any clue as to what they’re talking about. Contact a local mushroom club, group, or forager. They are much more reliable.

If a mushroom has been ingested and you don’t know what it is, call poison control or go straight to the hospital. Don’t take chances; it’s not worth it. Some poisonous mushrooms will give an immediate reaction. Others take days to show signs. Be safe, not sorry.