Mushrooms have appeared in abundance in our area in September. Mushrooms are actually reproductive structures that seasonally sprout from networks of fungal cells in the soil called mycelium. These fungi are critically important in the forest ecosystem as decomposers, soil would not form without them. About 120,000 species of fungus have been identified, however it is estimated that there actually are 2-4 million distinct fungal species. There is much left to be learned in this field!
Definite identification of mushrooms requires expertise and careful examination. All the identifications of mushrooms below are uncertain, specific species are often nearly impossible to distinguish. After struggling to identify the mushrooms pictured below and learning how several mushroom species are deadly poisonous, I certainly will not be tasting any of the specimens I find in the woods!
Genus Amanita (?)
The mushrooms in the pictures above are likely in the genus Amanita. A possible species identification is Amanita vaginata, or the grisette mushroom. If so, the mushroom is not poisonous. However, the Amanita genus include the most deadly poisonous mushrooms, namely Amanita bisporigera, a.k.a the Destroying Angel, and Amanita phalloides, a.k.a. the Death Cap. Mushrooms in the Amanita genus are estimated to have caused 95% of deaths from mushroom poisoning. So, eating any mushroom from this genus is strongly discouraged.
False Chanterelle (?)
Chanterelle are sought-after edible mushrooms, but they can easily be confused with the false chanterelle. I think the mushrooms pictured above are the false chanterelle — a helpful YouTube video describes how to distinguish between the two.
Mushrooms in the Boletaceae family, commonly called Boletes, are characterized by pores rather than gills on their undersides. The more common boletes are not poisonous. Like many mushrooms, boletes are mycorrhizal partners with trees. This means that they and trees have a mutually beneficial relationship. The mushroom helps the tree absorb water and nutrients, while the tree provides sugars and amino acids to the mushroom.