Mushrooms are truly fascinating, providing intriguing additions to nature's landscape and contributing significantly to ecological balance. They come in all shapes, sizes, and colors, each with its unique characteristics and habitat.
Here's a list of ten cool mushrooms to look for on your next hike or nature walk—a lot of them can be found pretty much anywhere in the U.S. Remember, mushroom identification can be tricky, and while many are safe to eat, some can be deadly. Always consult with a local mycologist or use a reliable guide, and when in doubt, look but don't touch!
Morels are iconic mushrooms prized by chefs and hunters alike for their delicious taste. They have a distinctive honeycomb-like cap and can be found in various parts of the U.S., especially in the Midwest during the spring. Morels usually grow on the ground near dead or dying trees. You can pick them, but remember to do it responsibly.
As the name suggests, this mushroom tastes much like chicken. It grows mostly in the eastern US.., flourishing on the sides of trees in late summer and fall. Its vibrant orange and yellow bands make it easily identifiable. It's generally safe to pick and eat, but it's crucial to cook it thoroughly.
This unique mushroom resembles a mane of white, cascading icicles. Lion's Mane primarily grows in the northeastern states, on the sides of hardwood trees. It's typically found in the fall and is safe to pick and consume, offering a taste reminiscent of lobster.
Perhaps the most iconic, Fly Agaric is recognizable by its bright red cap with white spots. It grows across the country, especially in areas with conifer and birch trees, during fall. However, while it's beautiful, it's also poisonous. Admire, but do not touch or ingest.
The Destroying Angel is a deadly beauty with its pure white cap, gills, and stalk. Often seen in woodlands and grassy areas throughout the eastern U.S. and parts of the West Coast, it tends to appear in the summer and fall. Despite its innocent appearance, it's one of the most toxic mushrooms known. It's safe to admire from a distance, but never pick or consume this dangerous species.
This mushroom is easy to identify due to its vibrant, indigo-blue color. It grows in the eastern parts of the U.S., particularly in pine forests, during summer and early fall. It's safe to pick and eat and has a mild, peppery flavor.
The Giant Puffball is a sight to behold, with its globular form and smooth, white surface that can grow to be over a foot in diameter. Often mistaken for a misplaced piece of bread or a volleyball, this mushroom is found in meadows and fields across the country during late summer and early fall. It's edible and safe to pick when young, with its interior still firm and white.
With a cap that looks like an old, white shaggy rug, this mushroom stands out. It's widespread across North America, often found in lawns, parks, and roadsides in fall. Shaggy Manes are edible and delicious when young and before they start to 'ink.'
A common mushroom around North America, Turkey Tail grows on decaying hardwood logs, displaying multiple colors like a turkey's tail. Although it's tough and not tasty, it's used in teas for its potential health benefits. It's safe to pick but not typically used in cooking.
Artist's Conk is a peculiar mushroom, with a semi-circular or kidney shape, and a brown to gray, woody upper surface that darkens with age. Its most distinguishing feature is the white underside, which, when scratched or bruised, leaves a brown mark, thus earning its name. It's found on dead or dying hardwood trees throughout the U.S. While it's not toxic, its hard texture makes it inedible.