Asked October 13, 2020, 5:37 PM EDT

These just showed up in my yard. Are they poisonous or edible? 2280 Sallies Lane Winston Salem 27106

Forsyth County North Carolina

3 Responses

Thank you for your question. Positively identifying most species of mushrooms based solely on a photograph is very difficult, at best. Basing your decision on whether or not a particular mushroom is safe to eat by looking at a photo is never a good idea.

That being said, I believe the mushrooms in your photograph are the jack-o-lantern mushrooms, scientific name Omphalotus illudens. This species is poisonous. Consuming them results in gastrointestinal distress. This species is a wood decomposer, and is usually found associated with dead or dying broadleaf trees. It often fruits in clusters as shown in your photograph, and often appears to be growing in the ground, however, if you dig down in the soil, you will find that it is actually growing from dead or dying roots, trunk or stump of the tree. They fruit from midsummer to fall.

The really cool thing about this species, and part of the reason it got the common name jack-o-lantern, is that the gills of this species are bioluminescent, and glow green in the dark. The mushroom has to be fresh in order for the bioluminescence to be present, and it has to be very dark outside in order to see it.

Unfortunately, this mushroom is sometimes mistaken for the edible chanterelle mushroom in the genus Cantharellus, even though the chanterelle does actually grow in soil, lacks true gills and never grows in dense clusters.

I hope this answers your question, and thank you for contacting Ask an Expert.


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