Mushrooms, fungi, toadstools—no matter what you call them, you have probably seen them growing in your yard and likely have eaten them in a pizza or stir fry. Over 5 million species of fungus exist in the world. They come in many different colors, shapes, and sizes—not to mention smells—and range from edible delicacy to deadly poisonous. Here are our top 5 most interesting mushrooms that you may see growing in Illinois this summer:
1. Dog vomit fungus (Fuligo septica)
This interesting looking mass is a slime mold that grows on wood mulch after a lot of rain in spring and summer. It is nontoxic—you can even find some recipes online (scrambling it up like eggs…).
2. Dog stinkhorn (Mutinus caninus)
The dog stinkhorn appears in the summer. It starts out whitish, then turns orange, and finally becomes the pinkish red seen in this picture. These mushrooms are nontoxic but not considered edible because as the name implies, they smell terrible.
3. Dead man’s fingers (Xylaria polymorpha)
These mushrooms grow out of wood. They start out looking bluish, but by summer have dried out and become black, resembling a creepy hand reaching out from whatever log they are growing on. I can’t think of anyone who would be tempted to taste this, but there have never been any reports of toxic ingestions.
4. Inky Cap (Coprinopsis atramentaria)
This mushroom gets its name from the black gills that liquefy as it matures, turning into an inky black slime. Eating this mushroom alone should not produce any toxicity; however, if it is consumed with alcohol, it produces extremely unpleasant effects: nausea, vomiting, metallic taste, weakness, confusion, and increased heart rate.
5. Chlorophyllum molybdites
This one really doesn’t have a catchy common name, but it is the most commonly found poisonous mushroom in Illinois (and in all of North America). It grows in rings in grass in the summer through fall and is the only mushroom with green gills. This mushroom is a strong gastrointestinal irritant, meaning it can cause severe vomiting and diarrhea (which may be why its lesser known common name is “the vomiter”). Stay away from this one!!
If you haven’t already done so, please save the Illinois Poison Center helpline number to your phone: 1-800-222-1222. It’s a free, confidential call any day of the year, 24 hours a day! If you live/work in Illinois, click here for the free online Poison Prevention Education Course or request a Complimantary Safety Packet (sticker, magnet and first aid recommendations).