Due to the wide variety of climates, soils and plant communities, North Carolina has within its boundaries one of the greatest diversity of species of mushrooms and related fungi of any state in the U.S. Mushrooms are found in lawns, pastures, forests, mulch of all types, on stumps, living trees and in such unusual locations as basements, plaster board walls and flower pots in houses and shopping centers. Most mushrooms occur from Spring to Fall after rains; although they may be found all year if temperature and moisture are not limiting.
Although some 98% of all mushrooms are not poisonous and only about 1% of the inquiries involve dangerous species, the common appearance of mushrooms in lawns and landscapes after significant rain can pose a potential hazard if eaten, without verification of edibility. Of special concern is the ingestion by inexperienced collectors and likelihood of small children eating mushrooms that occur commonly in yards and natural areas. Wild mushrooms should not be eaten unless a responsible person recognizes them as safe. There is no place for "experimentation". There are no antidotes for poisonous mushrooms. The increased usage of leaf and woodchip mulch in home landscapes has provided a greater opportunity for small children to come in contact with mushrooms.
Mushroom poisoning can vary from a minor upset stomach to a rather painful protracted death, depending upon the species of mushroom eaten, the amount eaten, and the person who has eaten it. Onset of symptoms may be delayed a day or more after ingestion. Some mushrooms are hallucinogenic. Small children, older people (65+), and people with existing medical problems are most vulnerable to one or more of the various toxins produced by poisonous mushrooms.
There is no safe rule-of-thumb to differentiate a poisonous from an edible mushroom. Color of the mushroom is useless. Some of the deadliest are white. Common folklore such as:
1. A clove of garlic or a silver object turns black when cooked with a poisonous mushroom; 2. Removal of the "skin" from the cap of a poisonous mushroom will make it edible; 3. Mushrooms that animals eat are safe for humans, have no basis in fact and should be ignored.
Steps to follow if it is suspected a person has eaten an unidentified mushroom:
mycologists may be able to identify mushrooms. They should be contacted
only in cases of emergencies.
Mushrooms of North Carolina (note: this is not a comprehensive list. The
links connect to profiles on the Poisonous Plants of North Carolina homepage)
Other ResourcesPoisonous Plants of North Carolina
Published by North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service. Distributed in furtherance of the Acts of Congress of May 8 and June 30, 1914. Employment and program opportunities are offered to all people regardless of race, color, national origin, sex, age, or disability. North Carolina State University at Raleigh, North Carolina A&T State University, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and local governments cooperating.
Web page last updated November 2005