27 Common Mushrooms Found in California! (2023)
What kind of mushroom did I find in California?
If you spend time outside, you’ve probably asked this question at least once. Mushrooms are incredibly common in California, and they come in all shapes, sizes, and colors.
Believe it or not, there are THOUSANDS of different types of mushrooms that live in California. Since it would be nearly impossible to write about them all, I focused on the most common types that are seen.
IMPORTANT: You should NEVER eat a mushroom you find. There are many poisonous types, and some species will kill you. So stay safe, and don’t eat any wild mushrooms unless you are with a mycologist (mushroom expert)!
27 COMMON MUSHROOMS in California:
#1. Turkey-tail Mushroom
- Trametes versicolor
- Caps are up to 8 cm (3 in) long and 5 cm (2 in) wide.
- Rings of different colors decorate the tops, ranging from black to shades of brown and white.
- They often grow in a stacked pattern, which makes them look like roof tiles.
This species is one of the most common mushrooms in California!
Turkey-tail typically grows on logs of deciduous trees. It’s found in mature forests where dead trees on the forest floor make a perfect environment for this fungus.
This multicolored fungus is easy to spot thanks to the concentric rings of different colors on its caps. The growing pattern of Turkey-tail is also recognizable by the way it grows in a stacked pattern that looks like roofing tiles.
Like many mushrooms, Turkey-tail is used in Eastern medicine and as an herbal supplement. However, wild specimens should NOT be consumed or handled, and supplements containing this mushroom are not FDA-approved.
#2. Common Greenshield Lichen
- Flavoparmelia caperata
- This lichen grows in roughly circular patterns with wavy edges.
- The coloring is pale green to yellowish.
Common Greenshield Lichen is technically not a mushroom, but instead, it is a lichen. Lichens are complex organisms made up of both fungi and algae. The combination of these two types of organisms allows lichens to live in diverse climates, ranging from cool, dry areas to warmer regions with humid weather.
As a result, you can find Common Greenshield Lichen across California. It most often grows on tree bark, although you might occasionally find it on rocks. Look for a rounded, pale-green growth with wavy edges.
#3. Fly Agaric
- Amanita muscaria
- Caps are 8–20 cm (3–8 in) in diameter.
- The stalks are 5–20 cm (2–8 in) tall.
- These mushrooms have the typical looks of a “toadstool” with a bright white stalk and red, white-spotted cap.
I think this is the CUTEST mushroom in California! 🙂
Fly Agaric looks just like the mushrooms found in Mario video games.
These mushrooms are considered toadstools, which are usually poisonous to humans. Fly Agaric is no exception. This fungus can cause hallucinations, low blood pressure, nausea, loss of balance, and in rare cases, death. If you ingest it, you should seek medical treatment immediately.
Luckily, Fly Agaric is a very conspicuous fungus in its fully-grown form. However, young mushrooms can be mistaken for other edible types, so you should steer clear of eating any wild mushrooms.
#4. Dryad’s Saddle
- Cerioporus squamosus
- The cap is 8–30 cm (3–12 inches) across and up to 10 cm (4 in) thick.
- It has a thick stem, and the cap is generally white or off-white with brown scales on top.
- They grow in clusters of up to three mushrooms stacked on top of one another like tiles.
Look for this mushroom in California near fallen trees.
Dryad’s Saddle is typically most abundant in spring. If you’re looking for Morel mushrooms, you may find this variety since their fruiting periods (when the fungus produces an above-ground mushroom) are about the same.
This species is important in forest ecosystems because it helps to decompose dead trees, creating new rich soil. However, it occasionally becomes a parasite on living trees as well.
Although Dryad’s Saddle is considered nonpoisonous, it can easily be confused with other deadly mushrooms. Unless you have experience with wild mushrooms, you should never eat or handle one.
#5. Splitgill Mushroom
- Schizophyllum commune
- The caps are 1–4 cm (0.3–1.6 in) wide.
- They are pale white or gray and grow in stacked clusters that resemble shelves.
- As its name suggests, the gills of this mushroom are spaced apart like individual threads.
Splitgill Mushrooms in California thrive on decaying trees during rainy periods.
These tough, leathery mushrooms were once thought to be nonpoisonous. However, recent research shows they’re often linked to fungal infections of the lungs. Symptoms can include breathing problems, prolonged cough, and other respiratory ailments.
Interestingly, this is one of the few mushrooms that grow abundantly in tropical weather. It thrives in heat and humidity thanks to its rubbery, tough structure. Fleshy, sponge-like mushrooms quickly rot, whereas this species lasts much longer.
Even though Splitgill Mushrooms are not poisonous, it’s best not to consume any you find in the wild. The unprocessed fungus can cause lung infections, and this mushroom can be confused with more dangerous species.
#6. Chicken of the Woods
- Laetiporus sulphureus
- The shelf-like caps are 5-60 cm (2-23.5 in) across and up to 4 cm (1.5 in) thick.
- Their coloring is a strikingly bright yellow, sometimes with an orange or pink center.
- They grow in a stacked shelf pattern of fan-shaped caps on the sides of trees.
Chicken of the Woods grows on a variety of hardwood trees. Usually, it thrives on dead trees, although it occasionally parasitizes mature living trees.
Many people eat this mushroom in California and Europe.
However, you should never eat this mushroom if you found it in the wild. Uncooked, it can cause an upset stomach and is unpleasant in texture. Plus, it can be confused with other poisonous varieties that can cause unpleasant symptoms or even permanent injury and death.
Unfortunately, it’s often confused with Laetiporus huroniensis, a poisonous mushroom that causes fever and vomiting. It’s best to purchase your Chicken of the Woods mushrooms from an expert forager and leave wild specimens alone!
#7. Crowded Parchment
- Stereum complicatum
- Individual caps are about 2 cm (0.8 in) across.
- This fungus grows in clusters of irregularly shaped semicircles, circles, and crescents.
- Its coloring is varying shades of brown and orange. It resembles crumpled pieces of paper.
Crowded Parchment is commonly found on dead oak trees. This inedible mushroom in California helps with breaking down dead trees. It’s easily recognized by the way it resembles crumpled paper.
However, despite being easy to find, this is one mushroom you’ll want to leave alone. While it isn’t considered poisonous, Crowded Parchment is often found near jelly fungus or algae, which can harm humans.
Instead of handling this mushroom, take photos to appreciate its complex structure.
#8. Pear-shaped Puffball
- Apioperdon pyriforme
- The cap portion is 1.5-4.5 cm (0.6-1.8 in) wide by 2-4.5 cm (0.8-1.8 in) tall.
- Their coloring is off-white with brown spots that are dense toward the middle of the cap and spread out at the edges.
- Most specimens are pear-shaped, but they are often spherical as well. They grow in clusters of 4-10 caps.
Look for these mushrooms in California on rotting logs.
Pear-shaped Puffballs are commonly found during their long fruiting season, which lasts from July to November. They are nonpoisonous.
However, Pear-shaped Puffballs look similar to several dangerous species of poisonous mushrooms. For example, a lookalike called the Earthball mushroom can cause gastrointestinal distress, fever, and eye infections.
It’s better to purchase Pear-shaped Puffballs from an expert or forage with someone who knows what they’re doing. If not, you may end up sick.
#9. Violet-toothed Polypore
- Trichaptum biforme
- The caps are 1-7.5 cm (0.4-3 in) wide.
- Their shape is an irregular semicircle, similar to a seashell.
- The coloring of this fungus is shades of brown with violet, purple, or lavender rings near the edges.
If you spot a mushroom in California that looks like a clamshell, it’s likely a Violet-toothed Polypore! This species can be identified by its shell-like shape and striped purple coloring. It grows in stacked clusters on rotting logs.
Interestingly, Violet-toothed Polypore is known to only grow on decaying aspen and poplar trees. So, if you live near a forest with those species, you’ll likely find this mushroom!
Keep pets away from this species, as it’s particularly poisonous for dogs. It can cause stomach problems and dehydration. Violet-toothed Polypore is also inedible to humans.
#10. Green-spored Parasol
- Chlorophyllum molybdites
- The caps are 8-30 cm (3-12 in) in diameter.
- This mushroom is white or off-white with irregular brown spots and warts.
- The gills are visible around the edges of the top and very prominent on the underside.
This is the most frequently eaten poisonous mushroom in California!
Green-spored Parasols bear an unfortunate resemblance to several edible fungi, which means it’s often eaten by mistake. In addition, this fungus causes severe stomach symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, and colic.
Unfortunately, this mushroom is common on lawns and in pastures, which puts children and pets are at greater risk for poisoning. Please keep them away from these mushrooms!
Green-spored Parasols grow directly from the ground instead of from tree logs or other decaying wood. We recently had a cluster pop up after we had new mulch put down. The spores are often present in soil or mulch and can remain dormant until the next fruiting season.
#11. Oyster Mushrooms
- Pleurotus ostreatus
- The caps are 2–30 cm (0.8–12 in) wide.
- They are fan-shaped with thick stalks and grow in a stacked pattern or irregular clusters.
- Their coloring is often white or off-white, sometimes with a light purple or gray wash.
You can find Oyster Mushrooms in California both in the wild and on farms.
These mushrooms are often used as food and are commercially farmed worldwide. In fact, they were first cultivated in Germany during World War I to mitigate hunger because of rationing. As a result, you can find these mushrooms in most grocery stores, so eat those instead of a wild variety!
Something most people don’t know is that Oyster Mushrooms are carnivorous! This species eats nematodes that you might know as roundworms. They paralyze and consume the nematodes as a source of protein and nitrogen. Additionally, Oyster Mushrooms help to decay dead trees.
Pearl Oyster Mushrooms are also dried and used as a leather-like material or compressed into a wood substitute to make furniture. Mycelium, which is the fiber that gives Oyster Mushrooms their structure, is incredibly strong and resilient. Check out this page for more info!
#12. Honey Mushroom
- Armillaria mellea
- The caps are 3-15 cm (1-6 in) in diameter.
- They range in color from buttery yellow to light brown.
- This species grows in large clusters of shelf-like caps.
Honey Mushrooms in California are considered tree parasites.
These “plant pathogens,” as they’re sometimes called, grow into the roots, bark, and wood of living hardwood and conifer trees. Their rhizomes (the “underground” parts of the fungus) leach nutrients from the wood, slowly killing the tree. The mushrooms themselves often sprout from the base of infected trees.
Unfortunately, there’s no way to effectively kill Honey Mushrooms without killing the tree they infect. Eventually, the tree will become so weak from the spreading rhizomes that it dies and eventually falls.
Honey Mushrooms look very similar to several poisonous varieties, so it’s best to steer clear of these mushrooms and don’t try eating one!
#13. Shaggy Mane
- Coprinus comatus
- The caps are 4–8 cm (1.6–3.1 in) wide and 6–20 cm (2.3–8 in) tall.
- Their coloring is white when they first emerge, slowly turning black as their scales lift.
- These mushrooms grow directly from the ground as single caps or clusters.
It’s easy to see how Shaggy Mane Mushrooms in California got their name!
These tall, slender mushrooms have distinctive scales that make them look like they’re covered in shaggy hair. They often grow in suburban yards or fields straight from the ground.
Shaggy Manes definitely have some “yuck” factors. They’re called Ink Caps because their black gills liquefy and leak down the mushroom to release its spores. Additionally, the entire mushroom will “auto-decay,” digesting itself into a dark liquid within hours of being picked.
Shaggy Manes look very similar to poisonous mushrooms that are found in California. Leave these mushrooms where you found them, and never eat them!
#14. Hairy Curtain Crust
- Stereum hirsutum
- Caps are 1–4 cm (0.4-1.6 in) wide.
- The coloring is pale yellow to brown and sometimes green where lichen or algae forms.
- This fungus grows as a series of crescent-shaped tiled caps from dead trees.
The aptly named Hairy Curtain Crust often appears as a crusty growth on dead trees. Its caps have short, spiky hairs that fall off as the fungus matures, leaving a wavy-edged cap that’s easy to identify.
Hairy Curtain Crust often forms “brackets” or semicircular growths from dead trees and branches. This fungus also infects live peach trees, although it’s much more common on dead trees.
It’s best to leave this fungus where you find it for several reasons. First, it isn’t edible. Hairy Curtain Crust can cause stomach issues and fever if ingested by humans or animals.
Second, this mushroom serves an important purpose in its natural environment – decay! Dead trees need to decay so that their nutrients can be returned to the forest soil, and this fungus speeds up that process significantly.
#15. False Turkey-tail
- Stereum ostrea
- The caps are 1–7 cm (0.4–2.8 in) wide.
- Their coloring is a mix of brown and red shades.
- These mushrooms have a shell-shaped cap that grows in stacked clusters.
If this mushroom in California reminds you of others you’ve seen, you aren’t alone! False Turkey-tail gets its name from its resemblance to Turkey-tail Mushrooms, another widespread variety. But, despite their similar appearance, they don’t have much in common.
While Turkey-tail is often used as an herbal supplement, False Turkey-tail is completely inedible. In addition, it can cause stomach pain and cramping.
They’re also part of completely different classes within the Fungi kingdom, with almost no genetic relation. For example, False Turkey-tail is a plant pathogen that infects live trees and grows from their bark. Eventually, this fungus weakens the tree to the point of falling over. Then, the mushroom will completely decompose the dead wood.
Like any wild mushroom, you should avoid handling or ingesting False Turkey-tail. It can cause fungal infections and stomach discomfort, and if you misidentify it, you may come in contact with an even more dangerous variety.
#16. Witch’s Butter
- Tremella mesenterica
- Fruiting bodies can be up to 7.5 cm (3 in) in diameter.
- The shape is irregular, gelatinous, and brain-like.
- This fungus is typically bright lemon-yellow.
This is one of the WEIRDEST mushrooms in California!
Witch’s Butter, which gets its name from its unusual shape and color, completely differs from what most people picture in a mushroom. It has an irregular, ridged appearance that looks like brains and a jelly-like texture that trembles and vibrates if disturbed. Additionally, its coloring is bright yellow, unlike most mushrooms that blend in with their environment.
If the appearance of Witch’s Butter wasn’t strange enough, it also has fascinating properties that set it apart. During dry weather, this fungus dries and shrivels into a leathery mass. Then, when it rains, it fully revives back into its original state!
Look for this strange fungus on dead tree limbs that are still attached to trees or recently fallen branches. It will grow on any deciduous tree but is most prevalent on red alder.
#17. Mica Cap
- Coprinellus micaceus
- The bell-shaped caps are 1–2.5 cm (.5–1 in) in diameter when new and expand up to 5 cm (2 in) as they open.
- These mushrooms grow in dense clusters of bell-shaped caps with long, thin stems. The caps have grooves that run vertically, giving them the appearance of a head of straight hair.
- Their coloring is grayish brown.
This unassuming mushroom has a creepy talent – it can self-destruct! Mica Cap autodigests within a few hours of being picked, meaning its flesh turns from a spongy white structure into an inky black liquid. Yuck!
Mica Cap is usually found in clusters at the base of deciduous trees in mature forests. This mushroom’s less-than-appetizing qualities are just one reason I recommend never eating wild mushrooms. Additionally, there’s a high likelihood of ingesting a poisonous mushroom by mistake.
If you see Mica Cap in the wild, it’s best to take a picture of the fascinating clusters and then leave it be. After all, if you pick it, you’re likely to be covered in gross black goo!
#18. Common Puffball
- Lycoperdon perlatum
- Mature specimens are 1.5-6 cm (0.6 to 2.3 in) wide by 3-10 cm (1-4 in) tall.
- Their coloring is white to off-white, with spines and warts that are varying shades of brown.
- The shape varies from pear-shaped to spherical with a wide stalk.
It’s easy to find Common Puffball Mushrooms in California.
These distinctive fungi grow in gardens, yards, roadsides, and forest clearings. They’re easy to find because of their large size and bright white coloring. Common Puffballs also have an unusual covering of spiky warts on their surface, setting them apart from other types of puffballs.
Even though these mushrooms are considered nonpoisonous, it’s important to use caution when handling wild mushrooms. You shouldn’t eat any mushroom that hasn’t been identified by an expert because of the risk of misidentification. For example, the Common Puffball can easily be confused with immature Amanita mushrooms, which are poisonous and sometimes even deadly.
In addition, spores contained in the Common Puffball’s warts are released with handling. These spores can cause severe lung inflammation, resulting in cough, wheezing, or trouble breathing. Dogs are particularly susceptible to this symptom, so be careful not to let your pet play near Common Puffballs.
#19. Dyer’s Polypore
- Phaeolus schweinitzii
- Caps can grow up to 25 cm (10 in) across.
- Their coloring varies by specimen: yellow, green, orange, brown, and red are all common. Usually, concentric rings of different colors decorate the tops.
- This mushroom grows as a stack of irregular flat disks.
Look for this mushroom in California near conifer trees.
Even though it’s a tree pathogen, Dyer’s Polypore often looks like it’s sprouting right out of the ground. This is because it often grows from the root system of a tree instead of its bark. It sort of looks like a stack of badly made pancakes. 🙂
Dyer’s Polypore gets its name because this mushroom is an excellent source of natural dyes! Its coloring varies significantly by the specimen, and it can be used to create green, yellow, gold, or brown dyes.
Although it’s useful as a dye source, this mushroom should never be eaten. Use caution when handling these fungi to avoid eye and skin irritation.
#20. Deer Mushroom
- Pluteus cervinus
- The caps range from 3–12 cm (1-4.8 in) in diameter
- They have a typical mushroom shape, with a round, umbrella-like cap, and a short, thin stalk. As this mushroom matures, its cap expands and becomes convex.
- The coloring is most commonly medium brown but can range from off-white to dark brown.
Look for Deer Mushrooms in California on rotten logs, roots, and tree stumps. It’s a common variety in most forests. This fungus got its name from its typical coloring, similar to that of a white-tailed deer. It has a velvety-looking texture, like a deer’s fur as well.
Although this species is technically nonpoisonous, it’s not commonly gathered for eating. It has a bitter taste and an unpleasant rubbery texture. You’re better off with grocery-store mushrooms instead!
#21. Orange Jelly Spot
- Dacrymyces chrysospermus
- Complex groups of caps grow up to 6 cm (2.4 in) across.
- The coloring is vibrant orange-yellow.
- This fungus has an irregular, wavy shape and often looks like goop stuck to a tree.
Orange Jelly Spot isn’t technically a mushroom in California!
Even though it looks like a mushroom, this species is just a fungus. As you can see, it gets its name from its unusual shape and color, which completely differs from what most people picture in a mushroom. In fact, it looks more like a bright orange brain than anything else! Orange Jelly Spot also has a jelly-like, wobbly texture.
You can find this strange fungus on dead conifer trees like pine and spruce. It was originally discovered in New England but has a worldwide distribution! Most people probably go their whole lives without knowing this oddity exists, but if you keep an eye out in the woods, you’re likely to find it.
#22. Artist’s Bracket
- Ganoderma applanatum
- Caps can be 3–30 cm (1-12 in) wide × 5–50 cm (2-20 in) long and up to 10 cm (4 in) thick.
- New specimens are white but quickly turn a dark reddish-brown as they mature.
- Their shape is similar to a fan, and these mushrooms grow in a shelf-like formation individually or in groups.
This is one of the largest mushrooms in California!
Artist’s Bracket caps are hard to miss, as they grow directly out of tree trunks and are too large to overlook. They’re tough and woody, and the surface of this mushroom often feels like leather.
Artist’s Bracket gets its name from a peculiar property of its white underside. You can scratch designs and pictures into their surface, and the picture remains as the mushroom dries. Here’s an example!
#23. Eastern American Jack-O’-Lantern
- Omphalotus illudens
- The caps are 3-20 cm (1-8 in) wide.
- Their coloring is bright orange to pale yellow.
- These mushrooms have a typical toadstool shape, thick stalk, and a large, flat cap.
You might find it odd that a mushroom is named after a popular Halloween decoration. However, once you learn more about Eastern American Jack-O’-Lantern mushrooms, you’ll quickly start to understand!
First, the coloring of this fungus is remarkably similar to bright orange pumpkins. Imagine a leering face on the cap, and you’ll see what I mean.
But probably the most interesting similarity between Jack-O’-Lanterns and this mushroom is that they both glow in the dark. That’s right! Eastern American Jack-O’-Lantern Mushrooms have a bioluminescent chemical that allows them to glow green in the dark. It’s thought that this glowing green light attracts insects, which then distribute the mushroom’s spores.
Although photo evidence of this phenomenon exists, it can be hard to witness for yourself. Every year, amateur mushroom foragers try to find Eastern American Jack-O’-Lanterns and bring them home to a dark room, only to be disappointed when their mushrooms don’t glow. It could be that the fungus isn’t fresh, or they’ve misidentified it. Either way, don’t be surprised if you find this mushroom but don’t see it glow.
Use caution when handling this mushroom. Eastern American Jack-O’-Lanterns are poisonous to humans and can cause vomiting, diarrhea, and stomach cramps if ingested.
#24. Sulphur Tuft
- Hypholoma fasciculare
- The caps are 2–6 cm (0.8–2.4 in) in diameter.
- Their coloring is light yellow but darkens to greenish as they mature.
- This fungus grows in clusters of long-stalked, bell-shaped mushrooms.
Look for Sulphur Tuft Mushrooms in California on fallen logs, tree stumps, and buried roots in deciduous forests. This fungus is hardy and thrives in many environments. In fact, you can often find Sulphur Tufts even in places where other mushrooms won’t grow.
They look similar to some varieties of edible mushrooms, but you should resist the urge to handle or eat Sulphur Tufts. They are poisonous to humans, whether raw or cooked. This fungus causes vomiting, diarrhea, stomach cramps, kidney disease, and in rare cases, death.
Sulfur Tufts have proven useful in forestry conservation. They outperform many other kinds of mushrooms, so they can be used to “push out” parasitic fungi that harm trees, like Armillaria ostoyae, which is sometimes called the “humongous fungus.”
#25. Summer Oyster Mushroom
- Pleurotus pulmonarius
- The caps are 5-20 cm (2-8 in) wide.
- They are white or off-white, with a smooth appearance above and orderly gills below.
- These mushrooms grow in stacked clusters that look like shelves on the trunks of trees.
This is the most-cultivated type of oyster mushroom in California.
It grows particularly well in warmer climates, which allows for a better growing season than other mushroom varieties. Because there is less need for climate control to keep these mushrooms fresh and growing well, you’ll often find them in the grocery store or at farmer’s markets!
However, it’s best to stick to the supermarket instead of eating wild specimens. Oyster Mushrooms are incredibly easy to misidentify, and it only takes one poisonous mushroom to cause horrible discomfort or death.
#26. Candleflame Lichen
- Candelaria concolor
- Single lobes of this lichen are less than 1 cm (0.4 in) wide, but they can cover enormous surface areas, including entire trees.
- The coloring is golden yellow to yellow-green.
- This lichen has a branch-like appearance, similar in shape to coral.
Candleflame Lichen is technically NOT a mushroom in California.
Instead, lichens are complex organisms that involve a symbiotic relationship between fungus and algae. The mutually beneficial relationship allows lichens to survive in habitats that would kill fungi and algae independently.
For example, Candleflame Lichen can be found anywhere from arid deserts to wet conifer forests. It’s one of the most widespread lichens in the world! Look for this lichen on trees, where it attaches to tree bark and slowly spreads.
- Lepista nuda
- Their caps are 4–15 cm (1.6–6 in) in diameter.
- The coloring ranges from pinkish-purple to lilac. Overall, it has a gray-brown cast.
- This mushroom has a long, woody stem and flat, wide caps. The gills are prominent and straight, extending the length of the underside.
Blewit, also commonly known as Wood Blewit, is a common mushroom with an unusual appearance! Although mostly whiteish-brown, the gills are often pink to purple and older specimens have a lilac cast.
They’re well-known for the strong odor they produce, which many describe as similar to frozen orange juice concentrate. That’s not a smell I often associate with fungi. 🙂 Look for this mushroom on forest floors, where it grows best in rotting leaf litter.
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