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wildmushroomonline.co.uk How to Identify Wild Mushrooms
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How to Identify Wild Mushrooms


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Click here to see the books I recommend for all foragers

How to Identify Wild Mushrooms

Which Mushrooms to start with?
The best advice I can give anyone who has a fascination for fungus and wild mushrooms as I have is to start off by selecting no more than five species to get to know inside-out.

There are so many variations in many species of wild mushrooms that it is really good advice to start off by understanding all the variations you can expect to see, also, it is posisble to get slight regional variations depending on your soil type etc although you should be reasonably safe to with the most common features.

It is a truly wonderful feeling to go out collecting mushrooms for yourself on a sunny morning and collect fresh, delicious mushrooms (ideally after a period of rain) before the slugs and flies have had chance to wreak havoc. Then cook them simply in butter for lunch (I personally like to build a small camp fire and have lunch outdoors. I tend to treat my mushrooming expeditions as a foraging day out and take a hamper and bottle of wine as well as other food I can cook on the fire (always being careful where you have a fire - if allowed at all)

It is important to have at least 3 books so you can cross reference and cover as many species as possible

Below is a range of Wild Food Foraging Books, Mushroom Growing Kits, Wild Product Production Kits  I Recoomend

Sit back and view the range, just hover your mouse over the image of you are interested and then click through to see more detail. You can scroll to find the item using the arrow next to the small images.


So, as said above, choose just a few species first, the ones I would suggest are below although I would also recommend the field mushroom as well. (this one is quite common)

Here are the species I would pick:
- Chicken of the Woods (also known as sulfur bracket fungus found on oak trees)
- Giant Puffball
- Morel
- Chanterelle
- Porchini (Cep)

As said, these are considered reasonably obvious and some people call them the foolproof five however is should be noted that the Morel, Chanterelle and Porcini have poisonous relatives that look a bit similar so always make sure you have consukled a book with both the poisonous and edible features listed so you can check.

Others are quite difficult. Some species have poisonous look-alikes, others are quite distinct and have no poisonous relatives. Learn a small number of the most unmistakable species at first, and check with an expert before you eat any wild mushrooms.

If you don't know any local experts who can teach you about your regional mushrooms, you should do what I have done and surround yourself with books on the subject. I have lots of books and my advice is to try to buy books that feature actual photos as opposed to drawings(although drawing bookas can be useful as well, it is just personal preference). Also - you really should aim to have atleast two books that cover the same mushrooms that you plan to get to know so you can see a variety of views as to how to identify them.

I have done my best on this site to give you a combined view although even I would not eat any wild mushrooms before cross checking from my two favourite books.

Here are some good books to buy for indentification and also cooking (it may take 20 seconds to load):

Below are the main identification criteria to look for in the field and back at base to make sure you get to know what you have before you even think about eating it.

In The Field

  • Cap type - is it smooth, slimey, cracked, warty
  • Gills or sponge type - all Porcini (Cep) have a spong base, most are edible and only a few very poisonous. It is a good fungus to specialise in
  • Gills colour and closeness
  • Smell, Most fungus smell as you would expect (even the poisonous ones) however, if you smell almonds, it is poisonous
  • Stem, does it have a bulbous base(did it grow from a sack, many poisonous types have a bulbous base)
  • Stem colour when cut Slice the stem lengthways - does it change colour?

Back at Home

  • Spore prints: - see below as this is a key factor to test. Once you get expert you do not need to do this all the time, it is really a good starting point to get clear on as a beginner and it is fun to do as well. Here is what you do:
  • You can see the colour of a mushroom's microscopic spores by making a spore print. Cut off and discard the stem if the mushroom has one. Place the cap on heavy white or black paper (or a glass slide if you're going to use a microscope) with the gills or pores (or other spore-producing surface) facing downward. Cover with a bowl or cup to block air currents, and leave 6 hours to overnight.
  • Remove the bowl or cup and the mushroom. If the mushroom was fresh, and mature enough to be making spores, you should see a radial pattern of powder on the paper (you can preserve the spore print with fixative spray from an art store, or hair spray).

If you have children and want to teach them about fungus, this a great family activity. Make sure they know not to eat anything.


You can help others yourself, why not post in the "forager" section and share your revent foraging trip stories: http://www.wildmushroomsonline.co.uk/Recent-Foraging-Trips/

View all articles on this site here:http://www.wildmushroomsonline.co.uk/all-category-list/


Click here to see the books I recommend for all foragers

wildmushroomonline.co.uk Comments
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Posted By,  Joanna Castle on March 13,2010
These grow on my horses manure pile in the autumn - its in a shaded spot under trees, and there are lots of these "mushrooms" I have been through all of Mum's books and we can't seem to identify them - I would like to know what they are and if they might be edible or not?
Posted By,  Grant Mitchell on July 31,2010
Does anyone know what these are?
Posted By,  judith millican on August 26,2010
These are Parasol Mushrooms and are very good to eat. Best picked before they are fully open, cooked in butter with a hint of garlic and white pepper - they are a real treat. The stem is woody and not nice. Best used as soon as possible after picking as they can become bitter if stored for more than a day
Posted By,  Sheels on August 30,2010
This is growin in my garden. Can you tell me what it is and if it is edible.
Posted By,  Cassie on September 27,2010
I work in a woodland with children and we found these this week can anyone help identify them?
Posted By,  laurie on October 2,2010
Can anyone help to identify a new type of mushroom in my garden. It is quite tall, 6 to 9 inches, thick stem. A bell shaped cap , with spikes on it, hangs down over the stem, and wobbles when pushed.
Posted By,  Ryan Cooper on November 17,2010
Palouse mushroom, used these in many recipes the last month.
Location: Jersey C.I
Posted By,  Brian Murphy on November 21,2010
Could anyone identify these and are they edible.
Posted By,  CamPics on December 15,2010
i am professional visual artist, any chance you would like to use some of my images? i guess it would be nice for your site =)
absolutely like your page! write me a e-mail please in case you want to colaborate
Posted By,  Rob on January 13,2011
any chance someone could identify these for me? they were growing in an exposed sheep field on a cliff top near filey, north yorkshire. Many thanks
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Wild Mushroom Identification - Recommended Books for All Skill Levels:
Every amateur mycologist should have a decent library of books, here are the top five books I highly recommend for wild mushroom identification:
1) Field Guide to Edible Mushrooms of Britain and Europe (Field Guides)  - Great layout with superb images - Peter Jordan
3) Mushrooms: A comprehensive guide to mushroom identification  - This one is a proper belter with loads and loads of good technical data - Roger Phillips
4) Complete Mushroom Book: The Quiet Hunt   - A lovely book by a lovely man. Antonio Carluccio
5) Mushrooms: River Cottage Handbook No.1 - Always a favourite from Hugh's fungi specialist friend, John Wright

It is important to have at least 3 books so you can cross reference and cover as many species as possible