With the continuing rain, the fall mushroom season is progressing rapidly. A good place to start looking for wild mushrooms is in your yard and pastures. There are numerous interesting species that grow in grass. Here are a few of the many.
Coprinus comatus (Shaggy Mane)
Shaggy mane is one of the easiest wild mushrooms to identify and a great beginning species if you are tempted to try eating your first wild mushroom. Most people say they are delicious. Cut them lengthwise to be sure they are young and pure white. They have a columnar cap covered with shaggy scales. Look for them along roadsides, in grassy areas, and in garden wood chips. They are famous for bursting up through asphalt and damaging tennis courts.
Marasmius oreades (Fairy Ring Mushroom)
This is the ubiquitous little brown mushroom (LBM) in lawns that grows in arcs or rings. It has white gills and spores and a very tough stem (stipe). It is edible and considered choice but remove the caps and throw out the tough stipe. Keep in mind that other mushrooms grow in rings so always look carefully at the diagnostic features.
Paneolina foenicii (Haymaker’s mushroom)
This is another very common mushroom in lawns. It has a conical brown cap that fades in zones as it dries, a feature called hygrophanous. Note that the gills are mottled and have a light margin. It is not recommended as an edible. It is related to the hallucinogenic Psilocybe mushrooms and while most specimens tested lack psychoactive compounds some populations may contain them.
Psathyrella candolleana (Suburban Psathyrella)
Another fragile little brown mushroom common in grass. Notice the uniform brown colour of the gills which is a feature that separates it from Paneolina.
Agaricus campestris (Meadow Mushroom)
This is a wild version of the button mushroom in grocery stores. It sticks to grassland habitats, in lawns and pastures. It has a smooth, white cap and vivid pink gills when young that turn dark chocolate brown with age. The stipe has a ring (soon lost) and it tapers to a point at the base. It has a pleasant odour and is an excellent edible. Be sure to check young specimens for the pink gills, otherwise you could have something else. Other species of Agaricus have a similar appearance but are not edible. If you see yellow stains on the surface or notice a chemical smell, it is another species and should not be eaten.
Leucoagaricus leucothites (Woman on Motorcycle)
Many guides will call it Lepiota naucina or Leucoagaricus naucinus. Note the small flattened dome on the cap that gives the overall shape of a motorcycle helmet, hence the common name, “Woman on Motorcycle.” It is a hallmark species signalling the beginning of the fall mushroom season. The key identification features are white gills that are free from the stem (stipe), the gills becoming pale pink with age. There is a prominent ring (membranous partial veil) high on the stipe and the base is bulbous. Most guides will state that these are edible, and they are okay for many, but I suggest you avoid trying to eat them. Many people (including me) are adversely affected with unpleasant intestinal upset for several hours. In addition, they can be confused with some poisonous Amanita species that have the same features except there is a cup-shaped sac (volva) at the base.