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How to Distinguish Between Poisonous & Edible Mushrooms Growing on Your Trees

In the Northwest, we love our trees and can’t imagine living without them. But what about those mushrooms growing from the bark? Why are they there? Is the tree endangered? Are the mushrooms safe to eat or are they poisonous?

Some wild mushrooms make a wonderful addition to a meal, while others can make you sick and are even deadly.

If you’re wondering what kind of mushrooms are growing on your trees, do some research first.

How to Distinguish Between Poisonous & Edible Mushrooms Growing on Your TreesMost mushrooms are non-toxic. A few are poisonous, and some of these can be fatal. So while the odds suggest a mushroom is safe, your first rule of thumb should be to never eat a mushroom if you don’t know what it is.

Guides like this one can help you distinguish poisonous from edible mushrooms, but also know that mushrooms may be misshapen by rain and other factors. If you’re not sure, pass them by. Or, if you notice them on your backyard tree, consult our experts at Mr. Tree who have extensive experience detecting dangerous mushrooms and plants.

Why do mushrooms grow on trees?

In general, mushrooms grow on trees that are weakened or have started to rot. Even if you see them on the ground near the trunk, this may indicate problems with the tree’s root system. Some mushrooms are a form of fungi that directly attack the tree. Others enter through a wound, such as when you nick an exposed root with a lawnmower.

But the presence of mushrooms doesn’t necessarily mean a tree should be removed. Often, the weakness can be treated and the tree revived. At Mr. Tree, we are trained to know what it means when mushrooms are growing from your trees and whether the tree should be trimmed, braced, or removed. Call us so we can come take a look for you.

Collecting edible mushrooms

The vast majority of mushrooms you see in the wild are non-toxic and some, like shiitakes, chanterelles, crimini and truffles, make valued contributions to a meal. If you’re new to mushroom hunting, look for some of the absolutely familiar, easy-to-distinguish edible mushrooms, including puffballs, oyster mushrooms, and chanterelles.

If you would like to collect your own mushrooms for use in the kitchen, here are a few tips to bear in mind:

● Collect only mushrooms that are fleshy, not dried out
● Cut the mushrooms with a knife, leaving a portion of the stalk in the earth
● Clean them thoroughly, drying them before cooking in oil or butter
● Don’t eat them raw

Don’t store mushrooms in plastic bags, keep them chilled, and don’t eat them if they’re more than two or three days old.

If you take these simple precautions, you can enjoy edible mushrooms in a rich variety of foods, whether they are toppings on a pizza, added to soup, or sauteed with asparagus. They are delicious and some provide additional health benefits.

Don’t believe the mushroom myths

A fair amount of folk wisdom has grown up around wild mushrooms. But not all of it is true.

You may have heard, for example, that mushrooms are safe to eat if you see animals eating them. That’s not true as some animals can safely eat mushrooms that are toxic to humans.

Another common belief is that it’s safe to eat a mushroom if they are growing from a tree. This, too, isn’t always true. While some edible mushrooms grow from living or decaying trees, so do some poisonous mushrooms.

Some have said that mushrooms are safe to eat if you can peel the cap, but that advice overlooks the deadly death-cap mushroom, which is easily peeled.

Many people have the idea that all white mushrooms are safe to eat, perhaps because of the abundance of common white mushrooms in the fields and supermarket aisles. But there is a white mushroom known as the Destroying Angel, and, as its name suggests, it is highly toxic.

And some will tell you that any mushroom is safe to eat if it is thoroughly cooked because the heat dissipates any poison. But this, too, is untrue. People have been sickened after eating toxic mushrooms that have been cooked.

Warning signs of poisonous mushrooms

The presence of mushrooms may inspire you to consider harvesting them for cooking, but it’s important to know which mushrooms are safe.

There are a few clear indicators that tell you when to avoid eating a mushroom. For example, don’t eat a mushroom if:

● It is red or has red marks on the cap or stem
● It has thin, white gills under the cap
● It has a bulbous shape at the base
● It has a skirt or ring around the stem

You may need to examine the mushroom closely or clear the soil around the base to see if it has these identifiers. If you see these features, the mushroom may be a toxic toadstool or a deadly member of the Amanita family. Leave them alone!

Symptoms and remedies for poisonous mushrooms

Every year, poisonous mushrooms kill people who collect and eat them. If you or someone you’re with has eaten mushrooms and feels sick, take note of the symptoms. Some mushrooms may cause indigestion, skin flushing, perspiration, blurred vision, or vomiting. If these symptoms are present, consult a healthcare provider immediately.

If you have questions about identifying a mushroom that may have sickened someone, you can consult a volunteer expert recommended by the North American Mycological Association.

Reach out

If you see mushrooms growing from your trees and want to know what to do, give us a call. We handle all sorts of tree questions and projects, from small home improvement inquiries to large municipal developments.

If you want to know if your tree is healthy and its mushrooms are safe, we’re happy to help.