In a World of Fungi

More than 3,000 unique varieties of mushroom have been successfully identified in North Carolina. About 200 are considered commonly edible. At least 14 species are considered to be poisonous. In only one semester, I identified nearly 80 species with only about 10% of which were thought to be poisonous. Poisonous species found in the Guilford College Woods are as follows:

  • Coker’s Amanita
  • Chocolate Brown Slime Mold
  • Yellow Caesar
  • Dry Woods Russula (poisonous when raw/uncooked)
  • Gemmed/Jewelled Amanita
  • Lilac Bonnet
  • Yellow Patches Amanita (probably)
  • Viscid Violet/Spotted Cort
  • Jack-O-Lantern
  • Greenfoot Fibrecap
Jack-O-Lanterns or Omphalotus illudens that aren’t deadly but very poisonous. Can easily be confused for edible Chanterelles and some species have bioluminescence and glow at night. Photo taken by me in October 2018.

Some of the edible species include:

  • Oysters
  • Indigo Milk Cap
  • Common Puffballs and Pear-Shaped Puffballs (before they turn green on the inside)
  • Beefsteak Fungus (that smells and tastes like beef)
  • Wood Blewit
  • Witch’s Butter (when cooked)
  • Dark Honey Fungus
  • Saffron Milk Cap
  • Flat-Topped Fairy Club
  • Chicken-of-the-Woods
Wood Blewit or Clitocybe nuda found in thick woods, one of 4 found that day, photographed by me.
Chicken-of-the-Woods or Laetiporus sulphureus/conifericola found at the back entrance of the woods. Later that week, 2 friends made a stir fry dinner with some chunks from this bunch after properly getting 3rd and 4th opinions on its identification first. It was exceedingly delicious and had the same texture and taste as chicken. This is actually one of the only mushrooms I have eaten from the woods. The other was a Lion’s Mane mushroom that had been given to our cooking class by one of the farm directors that found it in the woods. Photographed by me.
Pear-shaped Puffballs or Lycoperdon pyriforme that were still young enough to be eaten (the inside is still white). I’ve never personally tried them, but have been told by the 3D professor that they’re scrumptious. Photographed by me.

Thought some seem to be easy to identify as either edible or poisonous, I had to make categories for those as well as the inedibles (not poisonous, but physically unable to eat), the nonpoisonous (one’s that won’t kill you but probably aren’t good), the toxic (poisonous as well as harmful to breathe or touch, like Chocolate Brown Slime Mold), and a large number of edibility unknown (there’s really little information for many fungal species). The 8 species that were considered unknown in edibility were:

  • Shining Waxcap
  • Black-footed Marasmius
  • Bleeding Bonnet
  • Onion-Stalk Lepiota
  • Coral Pink Polypore
  • Mycena amicta
  • Yellow Cracked Pholiota
  • Boletus curtisii
Pink Coral Polypore or Phlebia incarnata which grows alongside False Turkey Tails (and if I’m not wrong, forms a symbiotic relationship with the lichen and is velvet-fuzzy to the touch). Still, little is known about this species and how it survives, so its edibility cannot be determined at this time. Photographed by me.

With names like Purple Jellydiscs, Bonfire Scalycaps, Stinky Squids, and Scarlet Elf Cups, it only adds to the wanderlust of this place. Please be careful when searching for mushrooms! I have the scars to warn to be careful and again, never eat any mushroom without having a 3rd or 4th expert opinion!

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