UF/IFAS Okeechobee County Extension Service

458 Highway 98 North

Okeechobee, FL 34972-2578

Phone: (863) 763-6469

E- mail:  dfculbert@ifas.ufl.edu

August 24, 2006

Quick Links: l  Identification  Lawn Mushrooms  Folklore  Cultivated Mushrooms   References    

Feature Article - for release the week of August 27, 2006

Dan Culbert - Extension Horticulture Agent

Mushrooms, Toadstools and fairy rings

A recent phone call to our office suggested that I write a column about collecting wild edible mushrooms.  Our drier than normal summer weather has recently turned wet.  Now is the time to see these amazing organisms to pop up in Florida Yards.  However, please DONíT pick the mushrooms, or consider adding them to your dinner plate, as many are poisonous.

Master Gardeners and Horticulture Agents have a few rules that should never be broken, such as read the label, use research-based  recommendations, and one more that relates to todayís topic: NEVER tell anyone that a mushroom is edible.  Itís not that there are delicious wild mushrooms out there.  There are just too many that can make you sick or even kill you. Mushroom identification must be done by experts with lots of experience.

One such expert is Wakulla County Master Gardener Bill Petty.  Todayís column is adapted from an article written by Bill.  Heís an expert, has published articles in the Mushroom Journal and maintains a website, Florida Fungi.  I have adapted his article for local use.

Know your mushrooms

First and foremost, DO NOT EAT WILD MUSHROOMS unless you are ABSOLUTELY sure you have identified the mushroom correctly and KNOW that it is edible. Many common mushrooms are poisonous, and a brief newspaper article cannot give enough information to allow you to identify edibles with certainty.

Mushroom identification is not a casual affair: you must acquire several good field guides, and regularly go out to collect and identify them.  Then, maybe in a few years, you will have enough confidence to know that fungi.

Destroying Angel mushroom     Amanita virosa American Caesar's Mushroom     Amanita jacksonii 
Photos by Bill Petty, UF/IFAS Wakulla County Master Gardener

The beautiful white Destroying Angel mushroom (Amanita virosa) is deadly poisonous, but it is related to an edible species.  Since the deadly one is common in our area, leave any suspect mushroom in the ground.  Study the genus Amanita well, and do not eat any from that group until you have studied it for several years.

Better yet, consult an expert to confirm your identification of this mushroom.  If you do decide to try eating wild mushrooms, only try one species at a time.  And be sure to save a whole mushroom of any that you eat in case the poison control center needs an example to identify. Your local County Extension office can also send photos or actual specimens for Identification.  Here in Florida we use the services of retired UF/IFAS Mycologist Dr. James Kimbrough, who can help identify Florida mushrooms.

Lawn Mushrooms

As to lawn damage by mushrooms, they rarely cause landscape problems.  Most lawn mushrooms are fungi that feed on decomposing grass clippings.  Sometimes mulch that is kept too wet can also host a crop of these decomposers.

 Mushroom root rot fungus, Armillaria tabescens, often occurs  in the fall with cool nights and rainfall. This is an edible species.  Dr. Kimbrough found it especially good in omelets.  Identification is easy because it is straw-colored, grows in clusters around the base of trees or shrubs, or growing from submerged dead roots. It has white spores,  gills that  taper down the stalk and there is no annulus (i.e. ring around the stalk).  Some people react differently to mushrooms, so I would suggest eating only a small amount the first time you try it...this goes for any mushroom. Photos by Jo Ann Hoffman   UF/IFAS Hillsborough County, DDIS Sample

Rather than trying to kill mushrooms by using expensive fungicides, enjoy their beauty and toss them in the compost pile once they are past their prime. [Note from Dan:  Don't compost mushrooms that are poisonous or those known to cause lawn and landscape diseases!]  If you don't like their looks, you can always mow them down, but they will keep coming back.  Another trick is to reduce the amount of water added to the landscape, which will discourage their growth.

The most common lawn mushroom is the green-gilled Lepiota.  Also known as the Parasol or Fairy ring mushroom, the scientific name was changed to Chlorophyllum molybdites about thirty years ago.  (The name Lepiota morgani appears in old books or posters).  These are large whitish mushrooms (four or five inches across the cap) with reddish-tan scales on the cap. The center of the cap will have dense scales, which become sparser toward the edge. The stem is three to five inches long, with a ring (annulus) around it near the top.  The ring is easy to move up and down the stalk, and the cap breaks easily from the stem.

Fair Ring Mushroom  

This parasol or Fairy Ring mushroom (Chlorophyllum molybdites) was found growing in Stuart. It shows the reddish-tan scales on the cap. It is poisonous. Photo: Carol Bailey, UF/IFAS (DDIS sample)

A greenish-gray spore print helps to identify this Fungi as Chlorophyllum molybdites. Graphic courtesy of CSIROFungiBank

To be certain of mushroom identification, scientists make spore prints. Place the cap on a piece of white paper and cover it with an up-side down bowl for a few hours. Dust-like spores will fall from the gills onto the paper, leaving a print that looks like the underside of the mushroomís gills. Wash your hands well after handling. After the print is thoroughly dry, it can be sprayed with a clear lacquer and framed

If the color of the spore print is a light grayish-green, chances are good those local lawn mushrooms are the poisonous fairy ring mushroom.  Do not eat even one bite or you will be sick (at both ends) for three days!   I know of no deaths as a result of eating this mushroom, but it does cause severe gastrointestinal upset. [Note from Dan: fatal reports of pets eating these mushrooms do exist!]

Toadstools & Fairy Rings 

The term toadstool is thought to indicate that mushrooms are poisonous, but there are instances of certain edible mushrooms are called toadstools.  And besides, few toadstools could hold a hefty Buffo toad.  

Fairy Rings are another term associated with mushrooms.  Often lawn fungi erupt in a circular pattern as a result of an ever widening ring of these soil-based fungi.  There is folklore associated with Fairy rings, with predictions of either dire consequences or good luck.  

Golf course attendants donít like Fairy rings.  Not only do the mushrooms present an obstacle to the rolling golf ball, but the ring can also show either a circular pattern of dark green very thick growth or a circle of dead grass.  There are fungicides (e.g. HeritageTM) that can suppress fairy rings, but they are expensive.  

Symptoms of a "Type I" Fairy ring are caused by a puffball mushroom (Lycoperdon) on a golf course green in south Florida. Photo: L. Datnoff, UF/IFAS

"Type II" fairy rings have a dark ring of turfgrass and mushrooms. The color is thought to come from a release of nutrients by the fungi.  Photo: M. L. Elliott, UF/IFAS

A "Type III" fairy ring has only mushrooms present.  Photo: M. L. Elliott, UF/IFAS 

Cultivated Mushrooms

Shitake Mushroom

The common edible mushroom does not grow in the wild; it comes only from special controlled environment grow houses.  There are a number of other specialty mushrooms that are found in the produce section of the supermarket.  For example, the Shitake mushroom is cultivated in areas of Florida that have the right kind of hardwood logs to support its production. 

There are some edible wild mushrooms out there, but unless you take the time to study them carefully, that special meal may be followed to a trip to the hospital if the wrong ones are consumed.  I recommend Bill Pettyís website, Florida Fungi, or Dr. Kimbroughís book, Common Florida Mushrooms, if you want to learn more about these natural treasures from your Florida Yard.

Iíve placed more information on our Okeechobee web page, http://okeechobee.ifas.ufl.edu.  If you need additional information on wild or lawn mushrooms, please email YOUR LOCAL extension office; check this website for contact information: http://solutionsforyourlife.ifas.ufl.edu/map/ .  Those living in Okeechobee can contact us us at okeechobee@ifas.ufl.edu or call us at 863-763-6469.  Local residents can stop by our office at 458 Hwy 98 North in Okeechobee, and visit our Okeechobee County Master Gardeners.

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Trade names, where used, are given for the purpose of providing specific information. They do not constitute an endorsement or guarantee of products named, nor does it imply criticism of products not named. The Florida Cooperative Extension Service - Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences is an equal opportunity/affirmative action employer authorized to provide research, educational information, and other services to individuals and institutions that function without regard to race, color, sex, age, handicap, or national origin.  Florida Cooperative Extension Service / IFAS /University of Florida.  Millie Ferrer, Interim Dean Last update: 07/11/2011 .  This page is maintained by Dan Culbert 

references

Culbert, D.F. "Fairy Rings".  Vero Beach: Press Journal, October 5, 1997.

Datnoff, Lawrence E. and Cisar, John L. Preliminary Observations On Fairy Ring Control.  Fort Lauderdale: UF/IFAS REC, 3/15/07. http://flrec.ifas.ufl.edu/pdfs/FairyRingControl.pdf

Elliott, M. L. and Simone, G. W. Fairy Rings SS-PLP-07.  Gainesville: UF/IFAS Extension Service, April 2001. http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/LH046

Garofalo, Joe. "Whatís growing in my landscape mulch?" In PROSCAPES Newsletter.  Homestead: Miami/Dade Extension Service, July-Sept, 2003, p 5-6. 

Kimbrough, James W. Common Florida Mushrooms SP-256.  Gainesville: UF/IFAS Extension Bookstore, 2000. 

Petty, Bill. Summer Mushrooms. Tallahassee: UF/IFAS Leon County Extension Service, July 25, 2002. http://leon.ifas.ufl.edu/News_Columns/2002/072502.pdf 

Stephens, James M.  Mushroom -- Agaricus bisporus HS628   http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/MV095