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MAY mf^ 

FEB 1 2 1975 

IEB 1 1 1975 

DEC 4 198- 


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L161 — O-1096 




Field Museum of Natural History 

Leaflet 18 


SEP 2 2 1936 





The Botanical Leaflets of Field Museum are designed to give 
brief, non-technical accounts of various features of plant life, especially 
with reference to the botanical exhibits in Field Museum, and of the 
local flora of the Chicago region. 


No. 1. Figs $ .10 

No. 2. The Coco Palm 10 

No. 3. Wheat 10 

No. 4. Cacao 10 

No. 5. A Fossil Flower 10 

No. 6. The Cannon-ball Tree 10 

No. 7. Spring Wild Flowers 25 

No. 8. Spring and Early Summer Wild Flowers . . .25 

No. 9. Summer Wild Flowers 25 

No. 10. Autumn Flowers and Fruits 25 

No. 11. Common Trees (second edition) 25 

No. 12. Poison Ivy 15 

No. 13. Sugar and Sugar-making 25 

No. 14. Indian Corn 25 

No. 15. Spices and Condiments 25 

No. 16. Fifty Common Plant Galls of the Chicago Area .25 

No. 17. Common Weeds 25 

No. 18. Common Mushrooms 50 ^^ 


It is the purpose of this leaflet to illustrate and to 
describe briefly a number of the most common and con- 
spicuous mushrooms. The illustrations are from photo- 
graphs by Dr. Edward T. Harper and Susan A. Harper, 
whose extensive collections were bequeathed to Field 
Museum of Natural History. These photographs give a 
good idea of the superficial characters of the mushrooms 
described by Mr. Pray, who also made the line drawings. 
Acknowledgments are made to Professor E. M. Gilbert, 
of the University of Wisconsin, for helpful suggestions 
and comments on the manuscript. 

Those interested in mushrooms as a food should ob- 
serve the precautions recommended by Mr. Pray. The 
subject of edible and poisonous fungi is one in which a 
little knowledge may be dangerous, but it is believed that 
the information presented here is sufficient to enable a 
careful observer to distinguish many of the most impor- 
tant species. Further information on the subject is avail- 
able in various more extensive non-technical works listed 
on the last page of this leaflet. 

B. E. Dahlgren 
Curator, Department of Botany 


SEP 2 2 1936 


Field Museum of Natural History 

Chicago, 1936 

Leaflet Number 18 
Copyright 1936 by Field Museum of Natural History 


All of the mushrooms here discussed are spore-bearing 
organs of fungi that live on dead vegetable matter. 

A mushroom is but a part of a fungus plant, which 
for the rest is composed of a mass of colorless cellular 
strands that extend and crisscross through the soil or 
other matter on which the fungus grows. This vegetative, 
usually unseen part of the fungus, is called the mycelium. 
Fungi grow ordinarily on dead organic matter and their 
life processes generally assist in hastening decay. Certain 
fungi, such as smuts and rusts and some higher gilled 
mushrooms, e.g. Armillaria mellea, grow on living plants, 
drawing directly upon the tissues and juices of their 
hosts. A few fungi attack living animal tissue, causing 

4 Field Museum op Natural History 

common warts and ringworm as well as certain other 
affections of man and animals. 

When a fungus organism is ready to reproduce its 
kind there are formed upon the mycelium little knobs of 
tissue which grow and push out rapidly into the open air, 
becoming the well-known spore-bearing bodies known as 

The mushrooms might thus be regarded as the "seed 
pod" of a fungus plant, for, while spores are botanically 
very different from seeds, they serve the same purpose 
for the fungus. Spores are formed upon the sides of the 
gills of Agarics; on the conical teeth of Hydnums; inside 
the tubes of Polypores; within the pits of Morels; and on 
the club tips of Clavarias. 

The mushrooms here illustrated are not arranged 
according to scientific relationship but are classified in 
two general groups, edible and poisonous. The edible 
fungi are again arranged approximately according to 
their time of appearance — those of spring, of the entire 
growing season, and of autumn. 

It is necessary to warn of the danger of eating mush- 
rooms gathered by persons who have little knowledge 
of these plants, but depend upon so-called "tests" of 
edibility. There can surely be no doubt about the folly 
of risking life to experiment with a food that may be 
poisonous and has only the nutritive value of cucumber, 
lettuce, or cabbage, when the markets offer commercially 
grown mushrooms that are perfectly safe. 

Without positive knowledge of mushrooms, collecting 
them for the table is a dangerous pastime. The popular 
distinction between mushrooms and toadstools is based on 
fallacy or fancy. Tests supposed to prove a fungus 
dangerous or safe, such as "caps peeling easily" or "cook- 
ing with silver," are useless. 

To gather mushrooms for food, it is necessary to 
familiarize oneself thoroughly with the detailed char- 

Common Mushrooms 5 

acters of several kinds commonly found and known to be 
edible, and then confine one's collecting to those. Only 
thus is it possible to gather mushrooms for eating with a 
reasonable degree of safety. All doubtful mushrooms 
should be considered dangerous. 

The poisons of some of the gilled mushrooms are 
terrible in their manner of dealing death. Poisons formed 
from aging or decomposed mushrooms of many kinds 
may prove as deadly. 

Mushrooms growing near poisonous Amanitas or 
near decaying mushrooms should be shunned, for trans- 
ferred Amanita or decay poison may be as dangerous as its 
original source. One decaying mushroom or one cap of 
Amanita phalloides in a basket of harmless kinds may 
render the entire lot unfit for consumption. 

Leon L. Pray 

Field Museum op Natural History 

(Morchella esculenta) 

Morels grow in a variety of places — hardwood forests, 
old orchards, wooded creek bottomlands, and burnt-over 
woods — from mid-May to early July, if the season has 
plenty of rain. It takes a keen eye to espy them on the 
dead leaf carpet because their curious form, suggestive of 
a worm-eaten leaf, merges with the almost identical 

Common Mushrooms 7 

colors of surrounding objects. The irregular, pitted cap 
is fawn-gray, pale brown, or buff -tinted. The stem is paler 
or whitish. The spores are white in mass. The whole 
plant is hollow, with a medium thin "shell." There is no 
free margin to the cap where it joins the stem, as in the 
smaller, dusky-capped Morchella semi-libera. 

There are six recognized species of morels so much 
alike that a novice scarcely can tell them apart. They 
have a distinctive odor resembling that of bread fresh 
from the oven. 

All the morels are considered edible, but a mushroom 
often collected as a morel, Gyromitra esculenta has, accord- 
ing to Krieger, N. Y. State Museum Handbook 11, been 
responsible for 160 deaths. 

On using morels for food, one precaution should be 
observed, viz., to soak the split mushrooms in weak salt 
water for half a day before cooking. Fresh morels have 
been known to produce disturbing symptoms, but are not 
known to have caused death. 

1. M. semi-libera. 2. M. deliciosa. 3. Af. bispora. 

Field Museum of Natural History 


Common Mushrooms 9 

{Coprinus micaceus) 

This common fungus grows about the base of old 
trees, on decaying logs and stumps, from April until 
freezing weather in the fall. Two or three days after a 
warm rain an abundant crop may be found in woods or 
city parks, or even along streets shaded by old trees. 

The cap is some shade of golden tan, paler toward the 
margin. Young caps are more or less covered with a fine 
dusting of mica-like flakes which give the appearance of 
frost, but this frail decoration disappears as the caps 

The gills are at first whitish, turning brown and 
finally black as the spores ripen. When mature the whole 
cap dissolves into an inky fluid, except in dry weather. 
The stem is ivory-whitish and silky-shining. The spores 
are sepia-black in mass. 

The inky-cap mushrooms all have fragile caps that 
ripen and dissolve soon after maturity till little remains 
but the white stem, smeared with inky daubs of spore- 
drippings from the varnished caps. The forenoons of 
damp summer days are the best time for gathering. 


Field Museum of Natural History 


Common Mushrooms 11 


{Paneoliis solidipes) 

The solid-stemmed Paneolus grows on manure heaps 
or on drying dung in pastures from June to late autumn. 

The cap is white, creamy-tinted, or silvery gray. 
The whiter specimens are apt to be yellowish stained on 
the center of the cap. The gills are at first whitish, then 
gray with dusky mottling, and finally inky black. The 
stem is white, externally glistening, and solid throughout. 
The spores are jet black in mass. 

In a pasture the pale caps of this mushroom may be 
seen from a distance looking like clusters of golf balls. 
It attains a fair size — from one to three or more inches in 
diameter, and is fairly abundant during most of the 
summer, especially after warm drenching rains. When 
fresh and perfect this mushroom is of good quality, but 
it is putrescent, i.e., it decays readily and rapidly, and 
extreme care should be used to avoid any specimens in 
which decay has begun at the top of the gills, where it 
might escape notice. Toxic properties generated in such 
caps are dangerous. 


Field Museum of Natural History 


{Pleurotus sapidus) 

The oyster mushroom grows on logs, stumps, and 
standing dead timber or in wounds on living trees in 
woods, from June until late fall. Its white caps may be 
recognized from a distance and one may scan the likely 
trees and logs within range of vision and locate the oyster 

Common Mushrooms 


mushroom clusters without the close search necessary to 
find many other woodland mushrooms. 

The cap of this mushroom is white, pale gray, or 
somewhat yellowish-tinted. The gills are white. The 
short, excentrically placed stem is white or tinted like 
the cap. The spores are pale lilac-tinted in mass. 

The name "oyster" was probably given them because 
of the resemblance of their caps to an oyster shell. 

The true oyster mushroom is Pleurotus ostreatus. 
The latter is so much like P. sapidus that a separate 
description is unnecessary. The spores of ostreatus are 
pinkish-lilac in mass. The spore colors of both species 
are so pale that they are listed among the white-spored 
mushrooms. P. ostreatus is usually of broader and heavier 
growth than sapidus, with a somewhat shorter stem. 

Both kinds sometimes produce several pounds of caps 
at a time in successive crops from the same spot all 
summer long. They are somewhat gristly in texture, 
but edible. 

Only fresh young growths should be gathered for 
food. They should be examined carefully and all aged 
and decaying caps or any with dissolving yellow spots 
should be excluded. 

1. P. ostreatus. 2. P. sapidus. 3. P. ulmarius. 


Field Museum of Natural History 


Common Mushrooms 16 


(Polyporus sulphureus) 

The sulphur Polypore grows in woods or in the open, 
upon old logs and stumps and from wounds in living trees, 
from June to late fall. 

Its lobes are rich orange-salmon on their upper surface, 
with brilliant lemon yellow borders and under surfaces. 
It is a gorgeous plant whose bright colors might arouse 
suspicion, but is harmless when fresh. When a young 
plant is cut, yellow juice oozes from it abundantly. 

Apparently the mycelium of this fungus vegetates for 
a long time before putting forth its caps. Some likely 
tree stump may stand for years, slowly decaying, without 
giving evidence of infestation by any of the larger fungi, 
until suddenly, after a rain late in summer, a cluster of 
salmon and yellow, thick-fleshed little shelves begins to 
form on its weathered sides. 

After the first rush of growth, this fungus becomes 
tough and dry and over-run by black beetles that feed 
upon it. 

1. P. sulphureus. 2. P. squamosus. 


Field Museum of Natural History 



(Hydnum caput-ursi) 

The Hydnums comprise a fairly large group of fungi. 
Many species grow in "toadstool" shape; others have 
coral-like or shelving forms. 

It may be surprising to the amateur collector, when 
lifting a mushroom having a regulation "toadstool" cap, 
to discover, on turning it over, that it has on its lower 
surface an array of close-set teeth, like a curry-comb, 
instead of the expected gills of an Agaric or the pores of 
a Boletus. 

Common Mushrooms 


The "bear's head" grows in woods on dead timber and 
from injuries in living trees. It is found all summer and 
autumn and occurs in various forms, sometimes with long 
"teeth" and sometimes with short ones. This fungus is 
usually white, but often stained with black or brownish 
from an attack by parasitic fungus. Clumps of it are 
found weighing from a few ounces to several pounds. 
Small specimens are more common. 

Hydnum spores vary in color in different species. 
Some are yellow, some yellow-brown, dusky or white. 

No variety of Hydnum is known to be poisonous. 

1. H. caput-ursi. 2. H. septentrionale. 3. H. repandum. 


Field Museum of Natural History 


(Boletus edulis) 

The edible Boletus grows on the ground in mixed woods 
from early June until late autumn. 

The color of the cap is variable — some shade of gray- 
ish tawny or reddish brown, shading paler toward the 
margin. The spore surface is whitish when young, green- 
ish yellow in the mature plant. The pores or tubes are 
minute and not colored differently from the rest of the 
surface. The stem is whitish with distinct reticulation, or 
it may be light brown. It is sometimes quite bulbous. 

Boleti in general are easily recognized by the pores 
on the lower surface of the cap, but are difficult for any- 
one but an experienced mycologist to identify as to species. 
The few suspected or known dangerous kinds in this region 

Common Mushrooms 


have bright red or orange colored pore mouths, diflferent 
in color from the rest of the surface. 

Always avoid aging or decaying plants of any species, 
and all not certainly known to be edible. This Boletus is 
satisfactory for drying for winter use. 


Field Museum of Natural History 


{Armillaria mellea) 

The Honey mushroom, or honey-colored armillaria, 
grows in mixed woods, on roots, logs, stumps and living 
trees. It is destructive to living timber because its spores 
enter any slight injury and its mycelium penetrates and 
destroys even the hardest and soundest wood. This 
mushroom is always too abundant for the good of any 

Common Mushrooms 


woodland, and may be found in quantity during most of 
the summer season and especially from August into late 

The color of the cap is like medium or dark honey, 
with a honey-like translucence when moist, whence the 
name. The cap surface is somewhat smooth in certain 
varieties, more or less roughened with small dark-colored 
pointed scales in others. The gills are pale flesh-colored. 
The stem is flesh-colored at the top, shading to paler 
brownish than the cap at its base. The base of the stem 
is cream-colored and the spores are white in mass. 

This fungus is of insipid flavor and usually of coarse 
texture. There are several varieties with a rank or bitter 
taste and unfit for food. Some have a broad "collar" 
on the stem, a few have no "collar." The illustration and 
color description are of the commonest form. 


Field Museum op Natural History 



(Clitocybe laccata or Laccaria laccata) 

This mushroom grows on the ground, usually in oak 
and hickory woods, from June until late autumn. It 

Common Mushrooms 


often grows, unmixed with other fungi, covering consider- 
able areas and a troop of lacquer mushrooms upon a forest 
carpet of brown leaves makes an attractive picture. 

This is a variable fungus, but one that may be easily 
recognized. The cap is a flesh- tinted brown or buff, more 
or less translucent, according to whether it is full of mois- 
ture or dry. The typical appearance of this fungus sug- 
gests a plant molded from lacquer or some of the recently 
discovered resinous plastics. The surface of the cap is 
generally bumpy and irregular, with a flattened knob at 
the center, while the border is broadly ruffled. There is 
a more or less distinct wide zonation in the coloring. 
Lacquer mushrooms are of small or medium size, seldom 
more than two and one-half inches broad. The gills are 
light tan or dull flesh-colored. The stem is colored some- 
what like the cap, but usually more tan or buff. The 
spores are white in mass. Its flesh is rather firm but of 
good quality. The stem is gristly and not edible. 

It grows in the same situations as the Amanitas and 
care, therefore, should be used in collecting it for food 
when found in company of other fungi. 


1. C. laccata. 2. C. ochropurpurea. 


Field Museum of Natural History 


Common Mushrooms 26 


(Pluteus cervinus) 

The fawn-colored Pluteus grows on decaying wood in 
mixed woodlands, from June until late autumn. 

The cap is variable in color, some shade of flesh-tinted 
fawn to brownish being usual, and a darker umber color 
common. Occasional white forms are found and white 
color is typical of the variety albus. The gills are first 
white, then fiesh-colored. The stem is colored like the 
cap but paler, shading to whitish at the top. The spores 
are flesh-colored in mass. 

To find this mushroom may require close search on 
account of its cap color, which is often decidedly protec- 
tive. Decaying logs in deep woods are likely situations 
in which to find it. Sometimes a large stump or log is 
literally covered with caps of Pluteus in all stages of 
development and of all sizes. 

This is one of the most desirable of mushrooms. It 
attains a good size, and specimens a pound in weight are 
not uncommon. It is so fragile in texture that it will split 
from margin to center at the least harsh jolt. Its flesh is 
tender and of rich, beef-like flavor. 


Field Museum of Natural History 



Common Mushrooms 27 


( Hypholoma incertum) 

This tender little mushroom grows in open, grassy 
places, mostly from decaying, covered roots of old trees 
and shrubbery, in much the same situations as Coprinus 
micaceus, from May until late autumn. 

In a moist season it grows in great abundance along 
almost any city street shaded by old trees. In very hot 
weather this mushroom is often found infested with larvae 
of fungus gnats. 

In pioneer times in America, when tomatoes were 
unknown as food, these mushrooms were used in making 

Another species, Hypholoma appendiculata, is so like 
the above that a separate description is unnecessary. 


Field Museum of Natural History 


(Marasmius oreades) 

The common fairy-ring mushroom grows in moderate 
abundance in pastures and on old, well-manured lawns or 
other grassy places, from June until late fall. 

Its circular habit of growth, produced by the subter- 
ranean mycelium spreading slowly from a central focus, 
is characteristic. Several other terrestrial fungi occasion- 
ally form "fairy-rings," but less often than M. oreades. 

The cap is white to pale brown or buff. The gills are 
tinted like the cap but paler. The stem is colored like the 
cap. The spores are white in mass. 

A characteristic of this mushroom that is shared by 
few others is its ability to revive after drying. 

A walk across an old pasture in midsummer, with an 
eye on dark green spots of grass where Marasmius lurks, 
may be rewarded by a well-filled basket. 

Common Mushrooms 29 

Care should be taken not to confuse this fungus with 
the poisonous Marasmius urens, which has Httle or no 
umbo or hump on the middle of its thinner-fleshed cap 
and has brownish gills closely spaced. The buffy gills of 
the edible M. oreades are set comparatively far apart. 



Field Museum of Natural History 


Common Mushrooms 31 


{Lactarius deliciosus) 

The delicious Lactar grows under fir trees in deep woods 
from midsummer to late autumn. 

The color of the cap is variable, usually shades of gold- 
ochre or orange-reddish arranged in broad rings or zones, 
this being a characteristic feature. The gills are saffron- 
yellow, turning greenish when bruised. The stem is 
colored much like the cap. The spores, though coming 
from yellow gills, are white in mass. 

When this mushroom is broken, a thick, yellow- or 
orange-colored juice exudes which changes to greenish 
upon exposure to the air. Old plants do not produce this 

The Lactarius was famous among the ancients in 
Mediterranean countries and its qualities are recited in 
the literature of bygone ages. 

This fungus, as found in the United States, may prove 
a disappointment as food, for its quality is as variable as 
its coloration. Fresh young caps in which the juice still 
flows freely are the only ones worth gathering. In summer 
the Lactar is usually badly infested by larvae of certain 
small insects. 


Field Museum of Natural History 


{Lactarius piperatus) 

The peppery Lactar gi'ows in fair abundance on the 
ground in mixed woods, from early July until late autumn. 

The whole plant is colored ivory-white, more or less 
stained with brownish. The juice is white and acrid. 
The spores are white in mass. 

This coarse mushroom has a peppery taste which 
disappears in cooking. In autumn, when nearly all of the 

Common Mushrooms 


mushrooms are putting forth their heaviest crops, L. 
piperatus is in the front rank of productivity. 

It dries well, and may be stored in quantity to form an 
addition to soups and other dishes in winter. 

Ageing plants of this species should be avoided. 


Field Museum of Natural History 


{Russula virescens) 

The green Russula grows on the ground in mixed hard- 
wood lands and in scattering groves of oak, hickory, etc., 
from June until late autumn. 

The cap is usually some shade of verdigris green, but 
may be almost white. The crackled outer skin is charac- 
teristic. The gills are white. The short thick stem is 
pure white. The spores are whitish in mass. 

This is one of the few Russulas that may be identified 
without examination of the spores under a high-powered 
microscope, and is the only one of them that might be 
approved for food. 

Common Mushrooms 


It is seldom that any of the Russula species are found 
free of insects, but R. virescens is more often free from 
them than any of its relatives. Box-tortoises, squirrels, 
and rabbits are fond of all Russulas and the fungus 
collector has plenty of competition. 

Aged or decayed specimens should be avoided and 
should never be carried in a basket with other mushrooms 
intended for the table. 


Field Museum op Natural History 


(Volvaria homhycina) 

The silky Volvaria grows from wounds in living trees 
and on dead timber in mixed woods. It may be found 
from June until late autumn. 

The cap is white, sometimes tinged gray or pale buff 
on the center. Its surface is covered with tiny, loose 

Common Mushrooms 


fibers, like damp fur, appearing as if made of shining silky 
floss. The gills are flesh-colored. The stem is white, its 
pouch tan-colored or mottled with brown. The spores are 
flesh-colored in mass. 

This is a tender mushroom that sometimes attains a 
weight of half a pound. It is not especially common. 

Beware of confusing it with Volvarias that grow upon 
the ground, since some species of terrestrial habit are 
dangerous. Volvarias, like other mushrooms, are likely to 
be poisonous when past their prime. 

The silky Volvaria is much like Pluteus cervinus in its 


Field Museum of Natural History 



(Lepiota procera) 

The Parasol mushroom grows on the ground in or 
near mixed woods from September until freezing weather 
in late autumn. 

The cap is usually buff or creamy gray with a brown- 
ish knob at its center, and with irregular, flattened, dull 
brown scales scattered over its surface. The gills are 

Common Mushrooms 


creamy white. The stem is colored Hke the cap, with a 
crackled effect, showing white flesh through the fine 
divisions. The collar is thick, more or less fuzzy in appear- 
ance, and somewhat loosened from the stem. The spores 
are white in mass. 

This Lepiota is, without doubt, the best flavored of 
wild mushrooms, tasting, when dried, like almonds. It is 
of varying size but always constant in its essential char- 
acters, and easily identified. It is often tall, sometimes 
nearly a foot in height, with a cap of four or five inches in 
diameter. This mushroom is of fairly common occurrence. 
It dries well for winter use. 


Field Museum of Natural History 


{Coprinus atramentarius) 

The Inky mushroom grows around old trees and stumps 
or on dumping-grounds and well-manured lawns. There is 
a spring crop of it for a short time in April and May, but 
the full crop comes with the autumn rains and lasts until 
snow flies. It may be found in smaller numbers all sum- 
mer if there is abundant rain and chilly weather. 

The cap is gray or brownish, sometimes smooth, but 
usually covered with small, darker scales. The gills are 
nearly white at first, turning gray, then black, and finally 

Common Mushrooms 


dissolving with the expanded cap into black fluid. The 
stem is white, with an earth-colored base below the slightly 
flaring, irregular annulus. The spores are black in mass. 
This is a common and easily recognized mushroom. 
Its flavor is fair. The plant is thick, firm, and juicy, 
most of its bulk consisting of the gills, for the cap flesh 
is thin. The stem is slightly gristly in texture but not 
objectionable. The species is a favorite with mushroom 
hunters everywhere. 


Field Museum of Natural History 


CoBiMON Mushrooms 



{Coprinus comatus) 

The Shaggy-mane is the most conspicuous of the Inky 
mushrooms. It grows on lawns, in parks, and in grassy 
places generally. 

The cap is white, sometimes tinged with pink on its 
lower half, with brown or whitish, shaggy-looking scales 
raised as points over most of the surface. The center of 
the cap is brown or light tan. The gills are at first white 
to pinkish, then gray, and finally black. The gills and 
expanding cap dissolve in age as they do in C. atramen- 
tarius. The stem is white, either with or without a 
narrow, loose collar or ring near the bulbous base. The 
spores are black in mass. 

This is one of the most abundant of the fall mush- 
rooms. In quality it is identical with the preceding, and, 
like it, also yields a spring crop for a short time. The 
characters of the Shaggy-mane mushroom are so well 
marked that it is one of the safest of fungi to gather for 
food. It has a mild flavor. The raw plant has a slightly 
unpleasant after-taste which disappears with cooking. 


Field Museum of Natural History 

(Agaricus campestris or Psalliota campestris) 

The Pasture mushroom grows most commonly on 
constantly grazed land and in other grassy places from 
August until late autumn. 

The cap color may be white, gray, or brownish, either 
with or without small, darker, flattened scales. The gills 
are at first pink, then flesh-colored, and at last purplish 
brown. In a variety (var. Buchanni) the gills are reddish 
brown at maturity. The stem is white or colored like 
the cap below the usually thin collar. The spores are 
purplish brown in mass. 

This is the common mushroom of commerce, of well- 
known edible quality. When fresh, it is second only to 
Lepiota procera, but when kept too long before cooking 
it may prove to be very ordinary. Its flesh is of pleasing 
texture, with little or no gristly character. 

Common Mushrooms 


{Agaricus arvensis or Psalliota arvensis) 

The Field or Horse mushroom grows in old pastures or 
on heavily manured, cultivated ground from September 
until late autumn. 

The cap may be white, gray, yellowish, or brown, and 
either smooth or with brownish scales. The gills are at 
first pink, then deep flesh-colored, and at last brown. 
The stem is white above, and colored like the cap below 
the rather thick collar. The collar, ampler and firmer 
than that of A. campestris, sometimes hangs from the 
border of the cap as a thick, ragged fringe. The spores 
are purplish brown in mass. 

Typically this fungus is larger and coarser than the 
preceding. It is a good table mushroom. In warm 
weather mature plants of both of these species often are 
so badly infested with tiny grubs that they are unfit 
for food. 


Field Museum of Natural History 


(Agaricus abruptihulba or Psalliota ahruptibulhd) 

This handsome mushroom grows in the brushy borders 
of mixed woods in scattered groups and clusters from 
September to late fall. 

The cap is silvery or brownish gray, with or without 
numerous fine scales. The gills at first are flesh-colored, 
then blackish brown. The stem is white, with a rather 
large, papery-looking collar a little above the middle. 
There is a distinct bulbous enlargement at the base of 
the stem. The spores are purplish brown in mass. 

Common Mushrooms 


In its general shape as well as in the bulbous stem this 
fungus bears a superficial resemblance to some forms of 
the poisonous Amanitas, but in its mature form it may 
be distinguished from them by its fiesh-colored or brown 
gills, which they never have. 

In gathering young plants of this species there is 
considerable danger of confusion because they occur in 
the same environment as the deadly Amanitas. What 
has been said regarding proximity to poisonous varieties 
should be remembered and observed when gathering the 
woodland Agaricus. 

When grown in chilly weather this mushroom is 
usually sound and it is then one of the best of edible 
fungi. In flavor it is much like P. campestris and P. 


Field Museum of Natural History 


{Collyhia velutipes) 

The Velvet-stemmed mushroom grows in clusters from 
old roots in the ground, on logs, around old stumps, and 
from wounds in living trees, in mixed woods and brushy 
places throughout the season, even during the chilly 
weeks of both autumn and spring. It is found through- 
out the year. 

The cap is golden tan in color, darkest at the center, 
shining, gluey in wet weather, generally with leaves and 
twigs adhering. The gills are cream-colored. The stem is 
pale above, shading to umber or blackish below. Its lower 
half is minutely velvety. The spores are white in mass. 

Common Mushrooms 


When grown in the fall this mushroom will retain its 
form for many weeks. During a January thaw it has 
been seen standing in as perfect condition as if freshly 
grown. It has been gathered for the table in February, 
in a mild year, and found edible. The sweet flavor 
characteristic of this species is especially pronounced 
after freezing. 

The flesh is somewhat gristly but not objectionable. 
The surface of the cap is mucilaginous, but plants found 
in wounds on trees and upon logs raised off the ground 
may be free from adhering dirt. 


Field Museum of Natural History 



{Clitocyhe multiceps) 

The many-headed Clitocybe grows in open places, as 
well as under shrubs in woods and along their borders, 
from September to late autumn. It may appear in a 
given locality for two or three seasons in abundance, and 
then for several years in insujERcient numbers to attract 

Common Mushrooms 


The cap is white or gray, or sometimes ochre-tinted, 
but always pale. The gills are white or cream-colored. 
The stem is white or colored like the cap. The spores 
are white in mass. 

This mushroom is of coarse texture and of a flavor 
relished by few. When better food is not procurable, 
it may be eaten or dried for winter use, the flavor be- 
coming concentrated with drying. 


Field Museum of Natural History 


(Tricholoma personatum) 

The masked Tricholoma grows in woods among dead 
leaves, on sawdust heaps, or on old manure piles, from 
September until freezing weather. 

The cap may be whitish, ash-colored, tan-brown, or 
purplish, and there are occasional blue-tinted varieties. 
Size, shape, and color are all variable. The typical form is 
shaded irregularly with violet or lilac. The gills are as 
variable as the cap, ranging from whitish-violet to watery- 
brownish. The stem is colored like the cap, but is paler 
at the top. The spores are white in mass. 

This is a coarse but handsome mushroom, sometimes 
of large size. It occurs in abundance in early autumn, the 
crop dwindling as freezing weather comes. Heavy clusters 
of it have been found late in November in favorable years. 
It has good drying qualities. 

Common Mushrooms 




1. P. squarrosoides. 2. P. subsquarrosa. 
3. P. adiposa. 4. P. squarrosa. 


Field Museum of Natural History 


{Pholiota squarrosoides) 

The scaly Pholiota grows on stumps, logs, standing 
dead timber, or from injuries in living deciduous trees, 
from midsummer until late autumn. 

The cap is whitish to yellow, with tawny scales. The 
gills are nearly white at first, becoming dull cinnamon 
colored when mature. The stem is white above the collar, 
but colored below and scaly like the cap. The spores are 
rusty brown in mass. 

This and some other Pholiotas have a strong odor 
and taste that becomes milder after cooking. When a 
cluster of this fungus is found, it usually contains caps 
enough to satisfy the largest appetite. 

Common Mushrooms 



(Lycoperdon pyriforme) 

The pear-shaped PufTball grows about old trees of 
various kinds, or on logs, stumps, and forest debris in 
mixed woods during autumn. Its color is ochre or tan. 

The smooth and soft skinned puffballs are safe to 
use for food, if the interior is white, firm, and dry. They 
become inedible when their interior spore mass begins to 
discolor in ripening. At that stage they are bitter or 
otherwise objectionable. The hard or rough skinned 
species should be avoided. 

There are many kinds of puffballs, varying in size and 
appearance from the small one illustrated, and even smaller 
ones, up to the sometimes enormous giant puff ball, 
Calvatia gigantea, specimens of which sometimes weigh 
twenty pounds or more. 


Field Museum of Natural History 


Common Mushrooms 


(Amanita virosa) 

This deadly toadstool grows on the ground in mixed 
woods from August until late October. 

The color is pure white in all parts, or rarely yellowish 
on the center of the cap. The spores are white in mass. 

The fungus illustrated here is as common as the typical 
form of Amanita phalloides, of which it is possibly only a 
variety. Both are identical in their poisonous properties, 
for which there is no known antidote. 

A hasty gathering of edible mushrooms might include 
this handsome but dangerous plant. Its unopened young 
plants may easily be mistaken for puffballs as they push 
through a carpet of dead leaves. The mature plant is 
likely to be mistaken for Lepiota naucina as the two occur 
at times in the same habitat — grassy places in woodland 

This fungus is said to be of excellent flavor, its taste 
giving no warning of its fatal properties. 

58 Field Museum of Natural History 


{Amanita phalloides) 

The "destroying angel" grows on the ground in mixed 
woods, from midsummer to November. It is common. 

Common Mushrooms 


The cap is variable in color, and may be entirely white 
or yellow, brown or gray, or sometimes quite black at the 
center. In the colored varieties the stem is white below 
the collar and colored more or less like the cap from the 
middle downward. The volva or pouch at the bottom 
of the stem is white, stained by the color of the soil from 
which it springs. The spores are white in mass. 

This fungus is always a menace to the untaught mush- 
room hunter. When it is eaten by mistake and has passed 
the stomach in the process of digestion, death from its 
poison is certain. Its poison is so powerful that the 
presence of one plant in a closed room has caused nausea 
to people who were studying the specimen. For this 
reason, studies of this and other poisonous Amanitas are 
best conducted out of doors in a breezy situation. After 
handling such plants and before handling food, wash the 
hands with soap and warm water. In the presence of such 
a bearer of potential death, extreme caution is the best 
course. One small plant of these Amanitas carried in a 
basket with edible mushrooms may so contaminate them 
that they become highly dangerous. 


Field Museum of Natural History 


Common Mushrooms 61 

(Amanita muscaria) 

The fly-poison Amanita grows on the ground in mixed 
woods, from early July until late autumn. It is common. 

The color of the cap is variable. It may be blood-red 
or vermilion at the center, shading into orange to lemon- 
yellow toward the margin; or orange at the center, shad- 
ing to pale greenish-yellow toward the margin. There is 
also an ivory-colored variety. In all the cap surface is 
adorned with more or less uniformly distributed, cottony 
white flakes derived from the volva that encased the young 
plants. The gills may be either white or pale yellow. 
The stem and collar are white with the roughened base of 
the stem shaded brownish. The spores are white in mass. 

It is best not to handle this species, much less carry it 
with other mushrooms. If a case of poisoning by this 
fungus is taken in hand in time by a competent physician, 
it may not prove fatal. Atropin administered hypodermi- 
cally serves as its physiological antidote. The treatment 
of such a case is not for the layman and it must be begun 
before the heart action of the victim has been weakened 
beyond hope of remedy. 


Field Museum of Natural History 


Common Mushrooms 



{Clitocyhe illiLdens) 

The "deceiver" grows in mixed woods, springing up 
around decaying stumps and on old logs, from mid- 
summer until frost. 

The usual color of the entire plant is pumpkin-yellow, 
but there are also varieties colored with fleshy salmon. 
The spores are white in mass. 

The fungus is a curiosity because its gill surface is 
phosphorescent and glows at night. In odor and taste it 
is all that could be asked of the best of table mush- 
rooms. Beetles and slugs feast upon it. Occasionally a 
person may eat it and suffer no more than slight intoxi- 
cation, but the small amount of muscarin that it contains 
proves too much for the average stomach, even if con- 
sumed in small quantity. It can produce alarming illness, 
but there seems to be no record of fatalities from it. 

Clusters weighing from six to ten pounds are of 
common occurrence, and these sometimes consist of large 
caps four to six inches in diameter. The characteristic 
mode of growth is with the stems all springing from a 
common center, so compressed that their bases are pointed 
like pencils. 

C. illudens 


Field Museum of Natural History 


{Lepiota morgani) 

The green-gill grows in pastures and grassy places all 
summer and autumn, often forming large fairy-rings. 

The cap is white with a yellow or brown pellicle or 
outer skin that early breaks up into irregular, flattened 
scales, except at the center, where the pellicle remains as 
a smooth irregular patch. The gills are white at first, 
turning to olive greenish when mature. The stem is 
white tinged with brown at the base. A more or less 
broad collar encircles it near the middle. The spores, 
unusual among mushrooms and unlike those of other 
Lepiotas, are olive greenish in mass. 

Common Mushrooms 


This is probably the largest of the true agarics or 
gilled fungi. It sometimes grows to a diameter of nearly 
a foot. It contains a small amount of poison having an 
action much like that of the Fly-poison Mushroom, Amanita 
muscaria. There are persons who can eat this mushroom 
with impunity, but the average stomach rejects it. If 
retained it may cause violent illness, though no certain 
record of death appears traceable to it. 


Field Museum of Natural History 

Russula emetica 


The brilliantly colored Russulas grow in abundance 
in mixed woodlands on the dead leaves, from midsummer 
until frost. 

The color of the cap changes from rose to blood-red 
to tawny-blotched, sometimes to dull yellow or whitish. 
The gills are pure white. The stem is white or tinged 
with reddish. The spores are white in mass. 

The Russulas are brittle-fleshed mushrooms when in 
their prime. Many of them are as colorful as flowers. 

Common Mushrooms 


The species here illustrated has a hot, peppery taste when 
raw. It is listed as dangerous and many cases of more 
or less violent poisoning are recorded for it. These may 
have been due in part to the use of aging plants for food. 
In its young state it is eaten by some people. Although 
several kinds of Russula are edible, aged plants should 
be avoided, since poisoning by them may be dangerous, 
to say the least. 

68 Field Museum of Natural History 

Krieger, L. C. C. 

Mushroom Handbook. Macmillan, 1935. 

Atkinson, G. F. 

Mushrooms, Edible and Poisonous, ed. 2. Henry Holt & Co., 
New York, 1903. 

Hard, M. E. 
The Mushroom, Edible and Otherwise. Ohio Library Co., Colum- 
bus, O., 1908. 

McIlvaine, Chas. & Macadam, Robert K. 
One Thousand American Fungi, new ed. The Bobbs-Merrill Co., 
Indianapolis, Ind., 1912. 

Thomas, W. S. 

Fieldbook of Common Gilled Mushrooms. G. P. Putnam's Sons, 
New York, 1928. 

Smith, Huron H. 

Mushrooms of the Milwaukee Region. Milwaukee Public Museum 
Field Guide No. 1, Botanical Series, 1931. 

THE LlBK'Vivv 0'' THE 

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