This page includes FAQ and some of the more unusual questions that I have been asked about fungi. I have answered these questions to the best of my ability but can take no responsibility for any deficiency in my response. In particular, I am not a medical mycologist and it is your responsibility to seek expert advice if you have a medical problem that may involve a fungal infection, mushroom poisoning or an allergic condition. The views expressed are my own and not those of the NWFG.

Angel Wings

In a programme on the radio (BBC) last night about the wild mushroom business, mostly about the Scottish trade near Edinburgh, they mentioned an edible fungus growing on trees called 'Angel's Wings'. Do you know what species they are (scientific name please)? I have never heard of them before. The supplier said that they had to do a bit of research to ensure that they are edible.

The scientific name is Pleurotellus porrigens. This species is not only found in Scotland. I recently came across large numbers in the Lake District.

Clathrus archeri

I have growing in my garden a strange fungus which I am told grows on the roots of apple trees. It starts encased in a cream ball then bursts out to form a quite disgusting red Martian like monster which stinks, it doesn't last long. Please tell me what is it called and why does it smell so bad? I have enjoyed your site but can find no easy reference to this strange growth.

I guess you must live in one of the southern counties of England. From your description it appears to be Clathrus archeri (also called Anthurus archeri) which starts off as a little "witch's egg" and later the egg ruptures and the enclosed 4-6 bright red arms spread outward resembling a squid. A related species, Clathrus ruber, produces a bright red circular lattice on rupture of its egg. Common in southern parts of Europe these species are now spreading slowly in southern England presumably due to global warming. They are distantly related to the stinkhorns and produce the foul carrion-like smell in the form of a sticky slime in order to attract flies. The flies spread the spores of the fungus thereby ensuring its survival. They grow on soil or grass close to trees. There are pictures of both species in 'The Encyclopaedia of Fungi of Britain and Europe' by Michael Jordan (David & Charles, 1995). C. archeri is not common in England and has not yet been given an English name. However, in the United States according to David Arora (Mushrooms Demystified) it is known as the Octopus Stinkhorn.

I've found what has been identified as "Clathrus archeri" in front of my house. If this is mainly growing in Europe, how did it find its way to Southeast USA? Thank You.

Clathrus archeri has been known in Europe from about 1914. A tropical species it is suspected that it was introduced from Australia or New Zealand with military supplies during the First World War. According to Arora (Mushrooms Demystified) it is common in Santa Cruz County, California, US - probably a "resident alien" introduced along with exotic plants. This kind of introduction from one continent to another is not uncommon. Amanita phalloides, the death cap, was introduced to North America from Europe. It is a mycorrhizal fungus, often found with oaks. In California, it was brought in with cork tree seedlings, and has since adapted to native oaks. In the area north of Rochester, New York it was first discovered in the 1970s under Norway spruce that had been imported as nursery stock decades earlier. Again it has since been found in increasing numbers, under native oaks.

Cave Fungus!

I am an archaeologist currently excavating prehistoric tunnels originally mined during the Bronze Age. In many of the tunnels we have come across a shiny, cream coloured (fungal?) growth. I really have no idea what this might be and would welcome any information that you could give me.

I have examined the cream material that you sent me under a light microscope and in the main could only see inorganic crystalline material (probably calcite since it readily dissolves in cold dilute hydrochloric acid). There was no sign of any fungal-like cells only the presence of a few bacteria. Therefore, I conclude that your cream "growth" is predominantly inorganic calcite.

Cultivation of Fungi

I am a beginner in the area of mushroom production and am keen to know how mushrooms such as Shiitake, Maitake and Reishi can be grown indoors.

Shiitake (Lentinula edodes), Maitake (Grifola frondosa) and Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum) can be grown on a hardwood sawdust/wood chips mixture plus a nitrogen-rich supplement (e.g. oat bran) that has been sterilised in an autoclave for 2-3 hours prior to inoculation. Fungal mycelia quickly colonise the sawdust but wood chips are required for sustained fruiting. Full details for the cultivation of these and other species are described in the following book: Growing Gourmet and Medicinal Mushrooms by Paul Stamets, Ten Speed Press, Berkeley, California, US. The book and cultures can be ordered on-line from Fungi Perfecti.

Can you recommend suitable fungi to grow on waste materials for a class practical?

Best bet is with Pleurotus species (Oyster mushrooms) which grow on a wider range of cellulosic wastes than species from any other group. Known substrates include most hardwoods, sawdust, paper, cereal straw, corn cobs, sugar cane bagasse, coffee grounds, banana fronds and cotton spinning wastes. Oyster mushrooms are easy to grow; commercial spawn is available and you get less contamination problems than with other species.

Edible and Poisonous Fungi

What are the health benefits, if any associated with eating mushrooms particularly Shiitake?

Mushrooms are low in fat, contain B vitamins and minerals such as potassium and around 15-30% protein as a percentage of dry matter although some of this protein is indigestible. Mushrooms are also a very good source of fibre. Substances isolated from shiitake mushrooms appear to have immunopotentiating properties (stimulate host resistance against infections & tumours), however, it is not known to what degree these compounds can help the immune system through the ingestion of cooked mushrooms. Lentinan, a water soluble polysaccharide commercially extracted from Shiitake mushrooms, is approved as an anti-cancer agent in Japan and is claimed to have marked antitumour effects when combined with chemotherapeutic agents in patients with recurrent gastric and colorectal cancer. Note: fresh mushrooms consist largely of water (around 90%) hence the high cost of dried mushrooms.

Besides humans what other animals eat mushrooms?

A wide range of animals are known to eat wild mushrooms (e.g. badgers, bears, chipmunks, deer, mice, pigs, rabbits, squirrels, slugs, snails and many insects including ants and termites which cultivate their own fungus gardens). Do not assume that it is safe for humans to eat the same species that animals consume without any apparent ill effects. It is claimed that deer and rabbits can eat poisonous fungi with impunity.

I was wondering if you could help. At the weekend I found a site in Nottinghamshire that has many wild mushrooms, I picked one or two of each type. After getting home and looking them up in a book, the selection of woodland mushrooms was just too much to work out what was what. So do you know of any really good Web site that explains what is edible and what is not?

Currently no Web site can offer even a fraction of the information that you can find in a good field guide. There are many species of fungi and it can seem very confusing at first so the best advice I can give you is to join your nearest fungus recording group and go out with experts who can help you to recognise the main groups of fungi. Once you can assign an unknown fungus to the correct genus then it is much easier to work out what the species is. If you are mainly interested in edibles then you need to be aware of poisonous look-alikes. Patrick Harding has brought out a book 'How to Identify Edible Mushrooms' which details all of the important edible species and compares them with undesirables (£9.99 from Mycologue). Don't get overwhelmed with it all, some species are very easy to recognise in the field such as the shaggy ink cap (Coprinus comatus). Start by specifically looking for species that you can easily identify rather than collecting a random group of specimens many of which may present a challenge to even an experienced field mycologist. Finally, the most important thing to remember is that if you have any doubts at all about the identity of a mushroom that might be edible then THROW IT OUT - don't take any risks.

I have a small brown mushroom like thingy growing in my lawn (Meadow Grass) several in fact with thin stems and a thin rounded top. Are these poisonous to my children or can they be eaten?

No, don't eat any mushrooms unless you are one hundred percent sure of their identity. Some small mushrooms that grow in lawns are deadly poisonous.

German Names for Fungi

I need the Latin name for the following mushrooms for a poster for children in Germany. I hope to find a good German name on the way: blusher, sulphur tuft fungus, dryad's saddle and spindleshank fungus.

I have taken the German names from the book Pilze by Thomas Læssøe and include a few more common species that may be of interest.

-blusher = Amanita rubescens = Perlpilz
-dryad's saddle = Polyporus squamosus = Schuppiger Porling
-spindleshank fungus = Collybia fusipes = Spindeliger Rübling
-sulphur tuft fungus = Hypholoma fasciculare = Grünblättriger Schwefelkopf
-fly agaric = Amanita muscaria = Fliegenpilz
-parasol mushroom = Macrolepiota procera = Riesenschirmpilz
-shaggy ink cap = Coprinus comatus = Schopftintling

Honey Fungus

I have honey fungus in my garden. How can I get rid of it?

Do you know of any way to kill honey fungus effectively?

Honey fungus used to be called Armillaria mellea, however recent work has indicated that there are six distinct species in the UK which vary in their pathogenicity. The fungus lives inside live or dead wood and can form darkly pigmented strands (rhizomorphs) commonly called 'bootlaces' which spread the disease to the roots of nearby trees or shrubs. Some chemicals such as Armillatox are claimed by the manufacturers to kill honey fungus in soil or small fragments of wood, but these will not cure infected plants or kill the fungus in stumps or large roots. The stumps and roots of dead trees are ideal breeding grounds for the fungus, therefore the most effective way to prevent the spread of the disease is to remove all dead stumps and roots from your garden.

Since questions about honey fungus are very frequent I have provided further details on this page.


What is Kombucha?

Also known as the tea-mushroom Kombucha is not actually a mushroom at all but a symbiotic community of yeasts and bacteria living together. Kombucha is grown on a mixture of tea, sugar and water to produce a mild vinegar-like beverage that is claimed to have beneficial effects on digestion and gastrointestinal problems. The Kombucha Journal gives more information. Paul Stamets warns against home cultivation of Kombucha because of the danger of contamination in his article 'The Manchurian Mushroom: My Adventures with The Blob'. If you want to try Kombucha without resorting to home cultivation it is now possible to buy a commercial product that has been prepared by controlled fermentation.

Leucocoprinus luteus

My wife and I are very interested in fungus and have often taken pictures of interesting fungi whilst walking. But we have found a fungus that we have never seen before, its in a plant pot in the house under our fig tree. I am very concerned as my wife is pregnant; so I have moved it outside until I have found out what the fungus is. Description of fungus - starts off very small (yellow) and maintains a 1cm height for a while; short stem with a vertically oval head (like a snake head). After about 2 weeks it has suddenly grown to 3cm in height and 3cm in diameter It is still very yellow and the head has not fully opened. The most significant observation I can make is the head has ribs from top to bottom all the way around. It has grown in a cluster and not individually. I was wondering if the fungus was poisonous and if indeed the spores could be dangerous to my pregnant wife. Before I dispose of these interesting mushrooms I need to know what they are, and whether they are rare. If so what do you suggest I do with them and indeed my fig tree. I would appreciate you help, as I known fungus is very difficult to identify.

Sounds like Leucocoprinus luteus also known as Leucocoprinus birnbaumii. It is commonly found growing in greenhouses throughout the world and in plant pots. Considered to be inedible some claim it can cause severe gastrointestinal upsets if eaten. I would not think that it is dangerous to your wife unless she eats it - you can always remove the fruit bodies as they appear. I suspect that it is a saprotroph and not harmful to your plant. See picture on this page.

Thanks Paul, the pictures look exactly like the ones I have. Once again thank you for your knowledge and help.

Local Fungus Groups

I have searched the WEB but cannot identify a group similar to your excellent local society close to where I live. Can you help?

Your group looks very interesting and helpful. Please could you let me know if there are any similar fungus groups in the UK.

There are now over 20 regional recording groups in the UK that I am aware of. Several of them have a Web site and are included in our Links to Other Sites. If none of these are close to you please e-mail me and I will put you in contact with the nearest group.

I'm seeking an explanation. A co-workers son observed in the forests near Portland, a stump that glowed in the dark, even if a piece of the stump was sliced off the interior glowed. Is this fungal, algal or extraterrestrial?

Around 40 species of fungi and certain bacteria are capable of carrying out chemical reactions that give out light sometimes causing the wood or leaves they attack to become luminous. Luminous wood has been known for centuries to people living near forests and is called 'foxfire'. Mark Twain makes reference to it in his 'Adventures of Huckleberry Finn'. One of the most common species growing on rotten stumps capable of luminescence is the Honey Fungus (Armillaria mellea).

Mould (Mold) Identification

I am trying to obtain information or pictures of mold fungi to determine what kind I have in my home. Do you have any suggestions as to how I can do this?

It takes a mycologist to identify moulds, you can't do it from pictures. There are thousands of species and the fruiting structures are very small so microscopic examination is necessary. Even this may only reveal the genus and growth studies on different media can be required for species identification. If you are concerned about the mould growing in your house knowing the species is not going to help. In fact you will almost certainly have a mixed population of different species growing together. Under damp or humid conditions mould growth will flourish on walls etc. The problem can be remedied by removing the source of moisture probably caused by condensation or rising damp (e.g. by improving the ventilation in a bathroom or replacing a damp proof course).

Parasol Mushrooms

For some years now I have been collecting wild mushrooms, I recently traded in a basket of Parasol and Shaggy Parasol mushrooms at my local pub. Many people have eaten them but one woman was violently ill and had to be taken to hospital and put on a drip. I am certain that all the mushrooms were parasols as I checked through them when collecting and cleaning. Do you have any experience of or have heard of anyone being poisoned by these fungi? Many thanks for your time.

The Shaggy Parasol (L. rhacodes) is reported to cause a severe allergic reaction with some people and should be treated with caution. The Parasol mushroom (L. procera) is safer although allergic reactions have been reported with some individuals.

Many thanks for your prompt reply; I think it explains the events that took place.

Piptoporus betulinus

Can you help me or direct me to somewhere that I can get information on the Piptoporus betulinus (bracket fungus)? Specifically if it is toxic, in any way. What are its medicinal uses? Is it edible? If so, how would it be prepared? Where could I find the most comprehensive information on this particular fungus?

According to Arora (Mushrooms Demystified) Piptoporus betulinus is edible when young but very tough and therefore not recommended. Stamets (Growing Gourmet and Medical Mushrooms) claims that a refreshing tea can be made by boiling the brackets. It has had many uses in the past as corn plasters, a wound dressing, an ink blotter, a strop for razors, mounting medium for pinned insect specimens, sweat pads in hats etc. Tinder material prepared from Fomes fomentarius and a string of dried pieces of P. betulinus were found with the frozen remains of a Neolithic man (the famous Iceman) discovered in an alpine glacier in 1991. The remains were dated to around 3200 BC. The mycologists who identified the preserved fungi published a detailed article in Mycological Research (The Iceman's Fungi, 1998, Mycol. Res. 102 (10): 1153-1162). They mention that people living in Siberia used to knock P. betulinus fruitbodies off trees, break them up with axes and eat them frozen. In the case of the Iceman, since the fruitbodies were mounted on elaborate leather thongs they suggest a possible medical-spiritual use. P. betulinus grows exclusively on birch, a tree regarded as the tree of life and fertility in many European and Siberian myths.

School Projects on Fungi

I am a biology 11 student. For a project we have to grow mold and research it. I have been growing mold on two tomatoes and I am wondering if you know any interesting facts about this. I need to know how this works. Why tomatoes rot the way they do? If you know anything about this I would appreciate any information that you can provide. Thanks very much!

All fungi including moulds excrete enzymes that break down their food source into smaller molecules that are soluble and can be readily absorbed across the cell wall of the fungus thereby enabling it to grow. Fungi produce many different types of enzyme. For example, the enzyme cellulase breaks down cellulose, an insoluble polymer, which makes up a major part of plant tissues. Cellulose is converted into glucose, which is water soluble and water trapped inside the plant cells is released as the plant cell walls are broken down. This is why tomatoes and other fruit go very soft and mushy as they rot.

Hello! I am a high school student who is stuck on a project. I need to find the following information about fungi: a) Environmental challenges that it faces b) Diseases that affect it.

(a) Loss of habitat, pollution (acid rain, heavy metals, radiation etc.), global warming and the effect this has on local climatic conditions.
(b) Not much information is known about diseases of wild fungi. Bacteria, slime moulds (a type of protozoa) and even other species of fungi can all cause disease. Many fungi are known to be infected by viruses but symptoms of disease are not well documented except for cultivated mushrooms.

Slime Mould

My husband and I noticed orange blobs in our front flowerbeds. At first, we thought it was wild animal stool or vomit but upon closer inspection, it looks like a mold. We notice a lot of it in our flowerbed and a little on the bottom of our brick ledge. Is there an orange fungus or mildew? We live in Michigan and noticed some of it last year too. When we break open these 'piles' there are balls of dark brown with light brown inside. Any idea???

Hi, I have a strange fungus growing in my back yard and I would like to know what it is, if it will hurt me or my children or my pets, and how to get rid of it. Could you help me? We recently got a load of wood chips from a local tree trimming company as we have in the past. We spread these out on the nongrassy areas of our yard like you would do with decorative bark. We also laid new sod in our yard. The fungus seems to be growing in areas that get wet from the sprinkler. It is tannish to pinkish in color and is spread out like vomit, not like a mushroom. It climbs onto the bark or sticks, logs, weeds, and even the kids toys. If you turn it over it is fleshy and ranges from white to pink to red underneath. The top eventually dries out and gets sort of crusty. Then the spores are exposed. They are dark brown and look much like finely ground coffee. Eventually the whole thing dries up and leaves a blackened spot that looks as if it has been burned. Please help if you can.

You have described a slime mould, not a fungus at all but a type of amoeba that feeds on the bacteria growing on rotten wood or mulches that have not been completely composted. Slime moulds may form yellow, pink, or orange colored patches on mulch. These last for a day or two, then turn brown and dry up. Although unsightly they are not harmful. They can be physically broken up with a rake and when exposed to drier conditions will eventually disappear.

Split-Gill Fungus

Please can you supply any information on the fungi "Split Gill", the fungi was discussed briefly this evening on the Richard and Judy show, Channel 4 TV. The reason for my interest is because a relation was recently treated for a fungal infection in her left lung, the fungus was never named but was said to be air bourne. Could there be any connection.

Highly unlikely since Schizophyllum commune, the split-gill fungus, is fairly uncommon in the UK although it is increasingly being reported on plastic-wrapped silage bales. Like many serious fungal infections of humans, those caused by split-gill generally only occur in patients whose immune system has been compromised, such as through HIV infection or corticosteroid treatment. Professor Tom Volk at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse in the US reports that split-gill has been known to cause a human mycosis in just a few cases involving immunoincompetent people, especially children. In one case, the fungus had grown through the soft palate of a child's mouth and was actually forming fruiting bodies (mushrooms) in her sinuses (see Tom Volk's Fungus of the Month for February 2000). The fungus can be identified from human infections by the formation of the characteristic fruit bodies in cultures derived from infected tissue or by using DNA analysis.


I have been unable to identify a fungus I found recently in Shropshire. At first I thought I had found a puff-ball, however, consulting my books, I could not really be sure what it was. It was about the size of a passion fruit (slightly larger) and the colour of a field mushroom. I picked it from the base of a shrub but at ground level. It had one strand coming from its base. It felt "squishy" and heavy and had patches of clear liquid on it where it seemed to be weeping. It had a very strong mushroomy smell. Sliced in half it revealed the following layers: outer skin, a clear jelly layer, black "gunk" and a white, hard interior similar to tight polystyrene. This looked as if it was the stone of some kind of fruit however the white centre soon began to liquefy. The nearest I can come to identifying it is Bovista nigrescens but I cannot find any reference to the jelly layer.

Sounds like a description of the immature "egg" stage of the common stinkhorn, Phallus impudicus.

Note: If you take one of the eggs home and keep it in a moist warm place it should develop into a stinkhorn. However, this may not make you popular with the rest of the family!


We are not members of your society but have recently discovered what appears to be black truffles growing in our garden. Please see attached photograph. We have collected about 1 kilo of them from a small area around a birch tree. Any help you can give with a view to identifying them would be appreciated.

Tuber is an easy genus to recognise and fortunately no truffles are known to be poisonous. They are not common in the UK but can be locally abundant as you have found. People sometimes mistake the common earth ball (Scleroderma citrinum) for a truffle but it is quite different having a yellowish colour and on maturity breaking open to reveal a dark powdery interior. From your picture and description I would confer that these are black truffles, specifically the summer truffle, Tuber aestivum. Although typically found under beech they also grow under other broad-leaf trees on calcareous soils.

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