Mushrooms in San Francisco


In the last week I’ve been seeing lots of mushrooms -- all of them gorgeous and unique! I’ve included some duplicates to show the undersides. All of these were taken during the second week of December, except the last two which were taken in March of last year. I don’t know much about mushrooms, so I don’t know which of these below are duplicated, but they all look different to me. Please enjoy them, but don’t eat them! People have died in the SF Bay Area from ingesting mushroom. Here is a link to the dangerous ones: .

See the letter BELOW the photos, at the bottom of the page for an incredibly interesting and fun to read “report” and identification of these ‘Shrooms by Joe O’Connor.

Recent Heavy Rains Lead to a Cornucopia of Mushrooms!

I asked my friend Joe if he would allow me to post his “report” on the mushrooms in these photos. I had asked if might identify them for me from the photos. He says, “Feel free to post . . . With appropriate LOUD caveats. Mushroom I’d from photos only is ill advised. Pun intended. Ya know they say EVERY mushroom is edible . . . at least once!”


Thanks for the nice spread of fungus pictures. I can give you “most likely” names for many of them. When I say “most likely,” I mean that since I haven’t held the mushroom and seen a spore print and, in some cases, been able to smell it or nibble it, I can’t be positive.

I’ll give you a couple of web sites and references for your own investigation should you get interested. Seeing all the photos, it seems to me that you have been infected with an interest in these critters if not to eat them, at least to get to know them and their place in our world.

The best web site…

Also The Fungi of California…

Best quick reference book… All that the Rain Promises… and More. David Arora. Ten-Speed Press. Berkeley.  This is a paperback field guide. Hip-pocket sized. Really good photos. It’s a bit dated as to current scientific names, but that’s not a fatal flaw; the scientific names of the fungi are in total disarray ever since they started looking at DNA. The book is. ~ $18.00.

Anyway… I’m gonna work through the photos one-by-one and try to give you names and authorities, and just a little eco-stuff (and kitchen stuff).

Photo # 1. Probably the Candy Cap (Lactarius fragilis). Authority: Mushroom Expert and Mykoweb. Also Arora. I say “probably” because I would like to cut the stem and see if it was hollow (should be hollow) and sniff it for the tell-tale maple syrup smell. I would also want to take a spore print (should be white). Highly edible. Drying a handful of Candy Caps in the house will just FILL it with the aroma of maple syrup. I’ve used candy caps in cookies and in pancakes, and I keep a little dish of them out on the counter to give a little sweet scent to the house.

Photo # 2. Amost certainly the Pine Spike (Chroogomphus ochraceus or C. vinicolor). Authority: Mushroom expert. To be certain I would want to see the gills and cut the stem. Pine Spikes are orange-to-orange yellow inside, with gray or black spores. You often find them along with the Slippery Jacks that you also photographed (e.g. photos 12 and 13). Almost always under pines. Edible. I’ve eaten them after drying them and then re-hydrating. Nothing special like a candy cap or a good wood blewit.

Photo # 3. This is certainly a Turkey Tail shelf fungus (Trametes versicolor). Authority Mykoweb and Arora. That concentric color pattern is diagnostic, and you may see it sometimes with more red in it, or more green. By the way…  that is a GREAT photo. Turkey tail grows on dead hardwoods. Never gets huge, but can be quite dense on a log. Not edible because it is too tough. I’ve read (haven’t tried it) that is can be chewed as a natural chewing gum. Whaaa?

Photo # 4. A very pretty and very common mushroom (under pines, especially). This is the Rosy Russula (Russula rosacea). Authority Arora. Not toxic, but not edible because it has an incredibly peppery taste. Too hot to handle. You probably took this photo under the pines over by the Crags Court Garden.

Photo # 5. This might well be the Poison Pie mushroom (Hebeloma crustiliniforme). In order to be sure I would need to see the gills, and get a spore print, and sniff it to see if it smelled like radishes. The name is all you need to know. Poisonous. Causes severe gastrointestinal distress. That means it won‘t kill you, but there might be a few hours during which you’ll WISH you were dead.

Photo # 6. I can’t be sure. These are older mushrooms; a little tattered and torn. They might be Candy Caps, but I would have to smell them for any maple syrup smell. I’d like to cut the stems to see if they are hollow. The fact that you took the photo under an oak makes me think Candy Cap.

Photo # 7. Not sure at all.

Photo # 8. I would have to hold it. It might be an older Western amethyst laccaria (Laccaria amethystina occidentalis). But I’m not really sure.

Photo # 9.  This one is a question mark. I would have to see the gills and see where you photographed it.  It could be the Fairy Ring Mushroom (Marasmius oreades). A positive ID can’t be made just from a shot of the caps. Lots of mushrooms form “fairy rings.” And the Fairy Ring isn’t always found in fairy rings. It’s just a name that gets assigned to a mushroom, and it sticks.

Photo # 10. One of the Agaricus group. Probably one of the “lose your lunch bunch.” Beyond that I can only say… “Don’t Eat That!”

Photo # 11. Most assuredly a Coprinoid mushroom widely known as the “inky caps.” From the looks of the cap and the probable location (in grass rather than on a dung pile) I’ll call this one possibly a member of the genus Coprinopsis. Beyond that all I can say is… “It’s an inky cap!” Authority and Key: Mushroom Expert. Too small to be of any interest as a source of food. Other inky caps, like the Shaggy Mane (Coprinus  comatus) are bigger, meatier, and they occur all around. I have eaten them and they tasted just wonderful.

Photo # 12. Most likely a Pungent Slippery Jack (Suillus pungens). Authority:Mykoweb. This, and its relatives, the Boletes-type mushrooms, do not have gills; they have pores on the bottom of the cap, and the spores develop inside the pores. Every single Slippery Jack that I have EVER seen was growing under a pine tree. This one seems to be no exception. This specimen is an older one. Slippery Jacks are edible, but it’s kinda hard to get through the slime and all that. I’ve never bothered.

Photo # 13. Another Pungent Slippery Jack (Suillus pungens). S. pungens is an highly variable species, and this one is a lighter-color variant on the theme. Mushrooms, in general, can assume many variable appearances. That’s why you have to combine color and shape and sometimes taste and sometimes smell and spore print, etc., etc., for their identification.

Photo # 14. I’m so unsure I won’t even hazard a guess. This falls into that special category that mushroom hunters use quite often… “LBM,” or Little Brown Mushroom.

Photo # 15. It’s one of those nasty little Agaricus mushrooms known as the “Lose Your Lunch Bunch.” Some call it the “Agaricus barficus species complex”. To be sure which one it is I would have to look at the stem and the gills and rub the cap to see if it turns yellow after bruising. If it turns yellow, then I would cut the very bottom of the stem (the foot) and see if THAT turned yellow. If it did I would say it was Agaricus xanthodermus, the Yellow Stainer or the Yellow Foot. If the foot didn’t get yellow, I would call it A. californicus, the Mock Meadow Mushroom.  If I didn’t see much yellow at all on the cap or the foot, I would call it the Flat-topped Agaricus (A. praeclaresquamosus). All three species have an unpleasant odor, like phenol. All cause gastrointestinal discomfort.

Photo # 16. Probably the False Turkey Tail (Stereum ostrea). Authority: Mushroom Expert and Mykoweb. To confirm that I would have to see it and determine if the underside has pores (making it a polypore) or is smooth (making it a crust fungus). The False Turkey Tail has the smooth surface, and is a crust fungus. It grows on dead wood like the Turkey Tail (Trametes versicolor, Photo # 3.), but it usually has more red or orange in the color.

Photo # 17. LBM

Photo # 18. An older LBM, but still an LBM. It just might be an older Fairy Ring Mushroom (Marasmius oreades), but I can’t tell for sure.

Photo # 19. Not enough detail visible to make an intelligent guess without holding it and cracking the stem and sniffing it.

Photo # 20. Not enough detail. It IS an Agaricus, but beyond that I would have to bruise it, and slice it, and sniff it. If pressed I would guess it to be one of the Lose Your Lunch Bunch. If threatened with bodily harm, I would say it’s a Yellow Foot or Yellow Stainer (Agaricus xanthodermus).

Photo # 21. No question about this one. It is a Panther Amanita (Amanita pantherina). Authority: Mushroom Expert, Mykoweb, Arora. Contains hallucinogens, The trouble (I am told) with eating the Panther Amanita and the Fly Amanita (the red one with white dots) in order to get the “high,” is that it’s almost impossible to figure out the right dose from ‘shroom to ‘shroom, and there are often unexpected and potentially harmful side-effects.

Photo # 22. Pungent Slippery Jack (Suillus pungens). See above, Photos 12 and 13.

Photo # 23. Another Pungent Slippery Jack (Suillus pungens). Yes, I know this one looks purple. It’s STILL a Pungent Slippery Jack.

Photo # 24. I have no idea. It’s under a Monterey Pine fruiting when the Jacks and the Pine Spikes are fruiting.

Photo # 25. Another Pungent Slippery Jack.

Photo # 26. Unsure. Probably another Pungent Slippery Jack.

Photo # 27. Another Pungent Slippery Jack.

Photo # 28. Almost certainly the Saffron Milk Cap (Lactarius deliciosus). Authority Mushroom Expert and Mykoweb. I would have to see the underside of the cap to see if the color is – well – saffron.  All those concentric rings on the surface make me hesitant to say Saffron Milk Cap for sure. It COULD be the bleeding milk cap (Lactarius rubrilacteus). But to check that I would want to break the cap to see if it bled a red sap. Both are edible IF prepared properly. I’ve never tried either.

Photo 29. Same kind of mushroom. Probably the Saffron Milk Cap (Lactarius deliciosus).

Photo # 30. The Rosy Russula (Russula rosacea). See Photo # 4, above. Pretty and abundant, but too peppery to eat. As some people say, “Better kicked than picked.”

Photo # 31. AHHHHhhhhhh!!!! My FAVORITE! This is almost certainly the Shaggy Parasol  or “Leppie.” (Chlorophyllum rhacodes). Authority: Mushroom Expert and Mykoweb. I HOPE you can remember where in the park you took this shot. I see Ivy leaves and pine needles. Was it up near the Playground area? Perhaps near a cypress? Leppies LOVE cypress. Anyway, to be sure on this one I would want to slice the stem and see if it turned red or orange, and I would want to take a spore print to make sure it the spores were white and not greenish. This has been a bumper year for “Leppies” (the scientific name used to be Lepiota rhacodes). I have  sautéed and put about eight pounds of them (fresh weight, not cooked) in the freezer. Not to mention the two or three pounds that I have eaten.

Photo # 32. I can’t even guess.

Photo # 33.  I can’t even guess without having the fungus in my hand.

Photo # 34. LBM

Photo # 35. WOW! That’s beautiful. I haven’t seen that before in Glen Canyon. Thank you! You’ll have to tell me where you took the photo. Down in the swampy area on some dead wood, I’ll bet. Anyway, this is a wood-decaying polypore called Trichaptum. No common name. It could be either T. biforme if it was on dead hardwood, or T. abietinum if it was on a dead conifer.

Photo # 36. LBM

Photo # 37. We can call it a shelf fungus. Hard. Inedible. The only polypores that I know of that have white on the surface are in the Genus Oligoporus. This may be one of them. As usual, it’s hard to tell some of these without having it in your hands.

Photo # 38. LBM

Photo # 39. LBM

Photo # 40. Not sure. Not enough detail on the gills and stalks.

Photo # 41. This pretty little one is probably the Round Top Red Top (Nematoloma aurantiaca. Synonym is Leratomices ceres). As pretty as it is, it’s poisonous. Pretty common. As often as not you’ll find it growing in profusion among wood chips used in the garden as mulch. A lot show up the first fall after mulching. Not so many in following years.

Photo # 42. Alas, I have no name for this one. I wish I had it in my hands to key out for what is MIGHT be!

Photo 43. You took this photo under my special blewit oak the afternoon we saw each other in the park. It’s for sure the Black Elfin Saddle (Helvella lacunosa).  Authority: Mushroom Expert and Mykoweb. Perfectly edible, but ONLY after being thoroughly cooked. I ate some that I had chopped up and sautéed that night. Nice, earthy flavor. Delicious,