Toadstools to Truffles

Author Rick (Chilliwack Jack)

Please read the disclaimer at the end of the article.

Are they Mushrooms or Fungi ??? A really good question... and the answer is confusing, 'cos they are "both"... meaning Toadstools and Truffles are Mushrooms and Fungi... and there are tens of thousands of types of mushrooms (genera) between them...

Mushroom definition from Wikipedia: "Mushrooms are the above ground fruiting body of a Fungus having a stem and a Cap"... It continues "In an even broader sense, "Mushroom" is applied to any visible Fungus, or especially the fruiting body of any Fungus, with the mycelium usually hidden under bark, ground, rotten wood, leaves and other surface matter"...

...mushrooms at my house

Fungus definition: "The Fungi (singular Fungus) are a kingdom of eukaryotic organisms. They are heterotrophic and digest their food externally, absorbing nutrient molecules into their cells. Yeasts, molds, and Mushrooms are examples of Fungi. The branch of biology involving the study of Fungi is known as Mycology"...

OK... then what's a Toadstool??? As kids, all those things growing out the ground were "Toadstools", right ??? And we were told that they provide weather protection for the "little people" too...

...from rien poortvliet's book "secrets of the gnomes"

Toadstool definition: "Toadstool is another word for Mushroom. It can be used to refer to any Mushroom, but is typically restricted to poisonous, inedible varieties. The term Toadstool dates from the fourteenth century and is a fanciful name combining toad, which is associated with poison, and stool, which is an archaic term for the head of a fungus"...

 Fly Agaric (aka your deadly amanita muscaria) ...taken at Elfin Lakes

Alright, I get it, but I'm still confused...

Truffles (are delicious) Mushrooms, but they grow underground, and don't have a stem or a cap... Then what are they??? Even Wikipedia is confused on this one... Truffle's Latin name is "tuber melanosporum"... Scientists group it as a "arbuscular ectomycorrhizal fungi"... "Arbuscular" means Symbiotic because it needs the roots of certain trees to grow around... So it's a "Fungus", but is it a "Mushroom" ???

I Googled "Truffle Mushroom" and came up with this... "A highly prized and rare Mushroom (Fungus), that grows underground near the roots of trees. Most varieties of truffles that are considered edible are found 2 to 3 inches below the surface of the ground, but can be found as deep as 10 to 15 inches down. They are often located 4 feet out from oak trees, but can also be found under beech, chestnut, Douglas fir, hazelnut, and red alder trees. Truffles are located by pigs and dogs trained to sniff out and dig for the fungus, which is a food item considered to be a delicacy throughout the world. Due to the difficulty in locating and harvesting truffles as well as the continued high demand, they are very expensive to buy"...

Hmmm... suspect... Along with all the other Mycologists, I prefer to call the ones (fruiting bodies) you see, above ground "Mushrooms", and the ones you don't see that grow underground, "Truffles"... Perigold Truffle ($3,000/lb)

Hopefully, that's answered something about the definitions and not confused anybody... The $64,000 question has always been... "But what if I find a Mushroom in the woods... Can I eat it???" The stupid answer would be "Sure, go right ahead (idiot)"... please read the fine print at the end of this article...

There are TENS OF THOUSANDS of Mushroom species so far discovered, and probably Tens of Thousands more waiting to be discovered... There is no simple answer to that question... since what looks good, could kill you, like the Toadstool, Fly Agaric above, and what looks ugly, like the Truffle above, is "worth it's weight in gold"... or the yummy Morel...

                   ...morchella esculenta

There are no "rules" like, "If it smells good, then it must be good"... or "if a squirrel can eat it, then so can I"... There are Mushrooms, that look similar, that are way different on the "poison scale"... Russula is one of them... Bolete is another... and they are both very common in BC...

And it's not easy to discern from a picture either... "Hey C'Jack, I found this neat Mushroom out by Lindeman lake... can I eat it???"... I have 50 books on Mushrooms, and each one is different... plus a large database software program... even I bring the unusual ones home to check up on, before trying them... Besides that's half the fun... to find them and bring them home and try to ID them... "If in doubt, throw it out"...

There are details of each genera that differ between edible and poisonous... how the cap is centered on the stem... how the gills join the cap... is there a veil... the colour of the spores and so on...

  ...spore print on white paper

So even if you can positively identify a mushroom (without a microscope to check out it's spores) then try a small piece first, and if there are no adverse concerns, then maybe it's OK... and remember, if it's OK for you, it might not be OK for someone else, since we, as people, are all different too...

 ...from rogers mushrooms (v. good site)

Go to David Fischer's American Mushrooms... ... awesome site and pictures... lots of great info there too...

        ...leucopholiota decorosa

From, we read: "No web site can substitute for training in mushroom identification. Some mushrooms in BC are deadly poisonous, others are moderately poisonous and others are safe to eat for most people. Some edible mushrooms cause negative reactions in some people. So it is important to never eat mushrooms that haven’t been correctly identified.

All species descriptions are based on fresh specimens and are organized by features of the cap, hymenium and stalk. Pertinent micro-features such as spore color, shape, and size, shape of basidia, presence of clamp connections, etc., are also included"

Identification 101:

So the main identifying characteristics are, the cap (smooth, soft, scaly), the stem, the ring (if it has one), volva, and the gills (or pores or teeth)... plus, the odour and taste... plus, is latex present... plus, where is it growing: on soil, on poop, on leaves, on trees, on pine cones, on other Mushrooms ???

Let's look at the mushroom parts... These are the major things we look for... and get clear identification on, before proceeding:

                   ...from the knopf mushroom book

     ...from wikipedia at

Some books have really neat ID Keys to help you in determining the genus... You basically follow the pictures to arrive at the description... even then, there may be other questions like smell, stickiness or spore print colour... When hunting Mushrooms, it's always best to go into the forest with a local expert, and learn the signs and clues for proper identification...

        ...from the knopf mushroom book

Other books don't have pretty pictures, and rely on scientific descriptions of what you see...

...from Mushrooms of North America (Phillips)

And then I also have computer software that helps with the really tough to define ones... most of which include one of the following symbols...

Lower Mainland Mushrooms (from CT Threads): These are some of the more usual Mushies that you'll find between Whistler and Hope... Again beware of "look-alike deadlies"...

Recurved Cup (peziza repanda):

Shaggy Parasol (macrolepiota rhacodes):

(but easily confused with a deadly)

Horse Mushroom (agaricus arvensis):

Orange Peel (aleuria aurantia):

...or is it ??? (aka which book are you looking at???)

Turkey Tail (trametes versicolor):

Shaggy Mane, aka Inky Cap (coprinus comatus):

...during (by minou) 

... delicious...but only when young and fresh

Unknown (but cute): seawallrunner


Earth Star (geastrum fibriatum or g. sessile):

Hydellum (h. concrescens):

Coral Tooth (hericium coralloides):

Chanterelle (cantharellis sp.):

...and yummy
polyozellus multiplex (very rare!!!)
c. cibarius trillium

Pine Mushroom (matsutake):

...equally yummy

Fly Agaric (amanita muscaria):

... trust me
...var. muscaria 
var. formosa telkwa

Orange Birch Bolete: (leccinum versipelle)

... trust me

Chicken of the Woods (laetiporus sulphureus):

... choice

King Bolete (boletus edulis):

...the best granticulus  

Red Cap Scaber Stalk (leccinum aurantiacum)


Angel Wings (pleurocybella porrigens): magnetite  

White Egg Bird's Nest (Crucibulum leave):

...they are 1/4” wide !!!

Marasmius genus:

...the stem is 1/16” thick !!!
            ...marasmius var.  

And some really tiny ones (don’t ask me what they are... I haven't got a clue)...

So there you have it... plus a shot of me on "the hunt"...

Mycology is always a fascinating subject with something new to learn every day... It encompasses hiking, photography, fireplaces, books, discussion, wine and eating... what more could a man want !!! (If you spot any “mistakes” or can ID any of the "unknowns" above, let me know... I'll try to add more as time goes on)...

Keep a lookout on the sign-up thread, ‘cos I do post occasional “mushroom foray” hikes...

“There are old mushroom hunters
And bold mushroom hunters,
But there are no old, bold mushroom hunters”


The fine print: Although Mushrooms identified herein may look to be the same as those that you have found, by no means should their identification or edibility statements be taken as accurate or professional... this article is for fun and interest only, since on many of our outdoor hiking experiences, we come across fungi on the forest floor that pique our inquisitive mind's thirst for additional knowledge... I reserve all rights that protect me against my own negligence and any actions by any party for any misrepresentations contained within this article that might lead to sickness, injury or death...