Common Types of Backyard Mushrooms -
lawn, mushroom

Common Types of Backyard Mushrooms

Backyards are quite lovely, and backyard mushrooms are equally beautiful. They can be so many different things. Some people have a simple lawn, while others commit to spending lots of time gardening. Other people have replaced their lawns with drought-tolerant plants. Some homeowners plant native plants to encourage wildlife and make habitat. No matter the type of backyard, I can assure you one thing- it will absolutely have fungi. This article will explore the most common types of backyard mushrooms.

To Kill or Keep Backyard Mushrooms?

Lawn owners sigh when they see mushrooms pop up in the middle of their turf. Wildlife gardeners might rejoice in seeing a new species. If you don’t want mushrooms in your back yard, I’ve got tough news. It’s virtually impossible to eliminate them. If somehow you were tricky enough to eliminate fungus from your backyard, many plants wouldn’t be able to survive. Fungi are an essential part of all fertile soil. They break down organic matter and turn it into nutrients that turf grasses or tomatoes use to grow. Next time you see mushrooms fruiting in your backyard, view it as an essential part of the life cycle.

However, there are a few steps you can take to minimize fungus in your yard. First, you can simply mow over or knock down the fruiting bodies. While this won’t harm the fungi in the soil, it will temporarily get rid of the mushrooms. Second, get rid of rotting material, such as wood and leaves. Fungi use this material as food. If you take it out of your yard, less fungus will be able to survive.

Fungus fruits into mushrooms in wet, shady conditions. Theoretically, a homeowner could get rid of all shade and never water their yard, and voilà! fewer mushrooms would fruit. Herbicides will do nothing to mushrooms because they are not plants. Fungicides exist, but using these chemicals will only get rid of mushrooms temporarily. The easiest path to success is to welcome mushrooms into your backyard!

Keep in mind that the fungus kingdom is incredibly diverse. While only 50,000 species have been described in North America, scientists believe that over 5 million species could exist worldwide. No article could begin to address all of the fungi, but here’s a start.

Fairy Rings backyard mushrooms

fairy ring, fungi
A perfect fairy ring! Photo by Mrs skippy

These magical features seem to appear out of nowhere. There are about 60 species of fungus that form fairy rings in lawns, and they all belong to the group Basidiomycetes. These fungi begin at a center point, which is typically a tree stump or a large, buried piece of wood. Fairy rings are especially common in grassy areas that were previously wooded, because the soil contains a lot of mushroom food.

The fungi use this wood as food to grow outwards, in a circle. Some kinds of ring-forming mushrooms create beneficial plant nutrients. These good nutrients cause grass to grow taller in the fairy ring. Other species of fungi can make it difficult for water to enter the soil. These kinds of mushrooms can kill grass in the fairy ring because the grass can’t reach any drinking water. Other kinds of fairy rings leak chemicals into the soil that poison grass. Yikes!

Fairy rings can grow until the fungus uses all of the nutrients in the stump or buried log. The largest known fairy ring is in France. The bridge spans 2,000 feet across and experts believe it to be 700 years old! Imagine what sort of nutrient load must be at the center of that circle. Fairy rings are common in folklore and mythology. Next time you see a fairy ring, contemplate the wonder!

lawyer's wig shrooms
Shaggy Manes (Coprinus comatus)

Lawyer’s Wig (Coprinus)

A Lawyer’s Wig mushroom, also known as Coprinus comatus or Shaggy Mane, is a type of edible mushroom that belongs to the Agaricaceae family. People commonly find it in North America, Europe, and other parts of the world. The mushroom gets its name from its distinctive appearance, which resembles a shaggy, white or gray wig, similar to the wigs worn by lawyers and judges in the past.

The Lawyer’s Wig mushroom is characterized by its tall, cylindrical cap, which is initially white or cream-colored and later turns to a dark brown or black as it matures.

Shaggy scales cover the cap, giving it its distinctive appearance.

The gills beneath the cap are initially white but turn black and dissolve into a black, inky liquid as the mushroom matures. This process is called deliquescence, and it’s a mechanism for spore dispersal in Coprinus comatus.

These backyard mushrooms are edible and considered a delicacy when young and fresh, before the gills start to turn black. They have a mild flavor and a slightly crunchy texture.

However, harvesting and consuming them quickly after picking is essential, as they deteriorate rapidly. Additionally, while foraging for Lawyer’s Wig mushrooms, one should exercise caution to avoid confusion with other similar-looking, inedible or toxic mushrooms.

puffball, mushroom

Puffball backyard mushrooms

A puffball mushroom is a type of fungi belonging to the Basidiomycota division, and they are found in several genera, such as Lycoperdon, Calvatia, and Bovista, among others.

Puffballs are characterized by their round or globular fruiting bodies, which vary in size from small to quite large. They are called puffballs due to their unique method of spore dispersal, where mature mushrooms release a cloud of spores when they are compressed or ruptured.

Puffballs do not have the typical mushroom shape with a cap and stem. Instead, they have a rounded or somewhat irregular shape. The outer surface of the puffball can be smooth, warty, or spiky, and the color varies from white to brown or gray, depending on the species and maturity.

The interior of a puffball is initially solid and white, with a soft, spongy texture. As the mushroom matures, the inside turns into a powdery mass of spores, which can be brown, olive, or purple, depending on the species.

Puffballs are edible when they are young and have a firm, white interior. However, it is essential to cut them open and verify that the inside is solid white before consuming, as some toxic mushrooms, like the immature Amanita species, can resemble puffballs.

When foraging for puffballs, it is crucial to have proper identification skills and be cautious not to confuse them with other poisonous mushrooms. Additionally, always seek expert advice if you are uncertain about the identification of a mushroom.

White buttons (Agaricus bisporous)
White buttons (Agaricus bisporous)

White Button backyard mushrooms

Agaricus bisporus, commonly known as white button mushrooms, are the most common and widely cultivated edible mushrooms worldwide. They are also known as table mushrooms, common mushrooms, or simply “mushrooms” in the context of culinary use.

Agaricus bisporus has several cultivated forms, including the white button, cremini (brown or baby portobello), and portobello mushrooms. The main difference among these forms is the stage of development at which they are harvested.

White button mushrooms are the immature form of Agaricus bisporus, harvested before the mushroom cap has fully opened and the gills are still concealed. They have a characteristic white or off-white color, a small, round cap, and a short stem. These backyard mushrooms have a mild flavor and a tender texture, making them versatile for use in a wide range of dishes, such as salads, soups, stir-fries, and sauces.

These mushrooms are not only popular for their taste but also for their nutritional value. They are low in calories and a good source of essential nutrients, such as vitamins B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), and B5 (pantothenic acid), as well as minerals like selenium, potassium, and phosphorus. Additionally, white button mushrooms contain dietary fiber and small amounts of protein.

Lawn mower shrooms (Panaeolus-foenisecii)
Lawn mower mushrooms (Panaeolus-foenisecii)

Lawn Mower’s Mushrooms

Panaeolus foenisecii, commonly known as Lawn Mower’s mushrooms, usually grow in lawns and grassy areas, especially after rain. These small, brown mushrooms have slender stems and convex to bell-shaped caps that sometimes have a small nipple-like structure at the center. The gills beneath the cap are brownish and closely spaced, and they release dark brown to black spores.

Although not considered toxic, people typically do not consume Lawn Mower’s Mushrooms due to their small size and lack of culinary value. They earned their common name because they often appear in lawns and gardens and can be inadvertently cut down or disturbed by lawn mowers.

When encountering mushrooms in your backyard or while foraging, always exercise caution and ensure proper identification before considering consumption. If uncertain about a mushroom’s identity, consult a local expert or a reputable field guide, and never consume a mushroom unless you are confident it is safe to eat.

False parasol (Chlorophyllum molybdites)
False parasol (Chlorophyllum molybdites)

False Parasol Mushrooms

Chlorophyllum molybdites, commonly known as False Parasol mushrooms, are large, toxic mushrooms commonly found in lawns, grassy areas, and gardens. They have a characteristic umbrella-like shape, with a broad, flat, or slightly raised cap that can be white, cream, or light brown. The gills beneath the cap are initially white but turn greenish-gray as the mushroom matures, releasing greenish spores.

People often confuse False Parasol mushrooms with edible varieties like the true parasol mushroom (Macrolepiota procera) or the shaggy parasol (Chlorophyllum rhacodes). However, consuming False Parasol mushrooms can lead to severe gastrointestinal symptoms, including nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain.

When foraging for mushrooms, always exercise caution and ensure proper identification before considering consumption. If uncertain about a mushroom’s identity, consult a local expert or a reputable field guide, and never consume a mushroom unless you are confident it is safe to eat.

Conocybe mushrooms
Conocybe mushrooms

Conocybe Mushrooms

This particular genus, called Conocybe mushrooms, are a genus of small, delicate mushrooms often found in grassy areas, lawns, and garden beds. They have a characteristic conical or bell-shaped cap that can range in color from light brown to reddish-brown.

The slender stems are typically fragile and may be easily broken or damaged. The gills beneath the cap are closely spaced and can vary in color depending on the species.

Some Conocybe species, such as Conocybe filaris, contain toxins similar to those found in the deadly Amanita phalloides (Death Cap) and can be extremely dangerous if consumed. Due to the presence of toxic species within this genus and their resemblance to other small, brown mushrooms, people should avoid consuming Conocybe mushrooms.

When foraging for mushrooms, always exercise caution and ensure proper identification before considering consumption. If uncertain about a mushroom’s identity, consult a local expert or a reputable field guide, and never consume a mushroom unless you are confident it is safe to eat.

Psilocybe mushrooms
Psilocybe mushrooms

Psilocybe Mushrooms

Magic mushrooms, known scientifically as Psilocybe mushrooms, are a genus of fungi known for containing psychoactive compounds, primarily psilocybin and psilocin. These substances can induce hallucinations, altered perceptions, and changes in mood and cognition when ingested.

Psilocybe mushrooms, also referred to as “magic mushrooms” or “shrooms,” grow in various habitats, including forests, pastures, and sometimes in backyard settings.

The appearance of Psilocybe mushrooms varies depending on the species, but many have a characteristic conical or bell-shaped cap with a brown, blue, or grayish hue. Some species exhibit a blue bruising reaction when damaged, which can be an indication of the presence of psilocybin.

Although these mushrooms have been used for centuries in some cultures for spiritual and medicinal purposes, their consumption and possession are illegal in many countries due to their psychoactive effects and potential health risks. Using Psilocybe mushrooms can lead to unpredictable psychological reactions, and consuming misidentified toxic mushrooms can be fatal.

When foraging for mushrooms, always exercise caution and ensure proper identification before considering consumption. If uncertain about a mushroom’s identity, consult a local expert or a reputable field guide, and never consume a mushroom unless you are confident it is safe to eat.

Fungi in the woods

This article only covered a few broad categories of the thousands of mushrooms out there. Be curious, and explore websites like this to broaden your backyard mushroom knowledge. Perhaps you are wondering about the possibility of growing mushrooms in your yard?

Whatever it may be, we humans have a long, long way to go before we understand much of anything about the fungus among us.

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