15 Common Mushrooms Found in Colorado! (2024)

What kind of mushroom did I find in Colorado?

Types of mushrooms in Colorado

If you spend time outside, you’ve probably asked this question at least once. Mushrooms are incredibly common in Colorado, and they come in all shapes, sizes, and colors.

Believe it or not, there are THOUSANDS of different types of mushrooms that live in Colorado. 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)!

15 COMMON MUSHROOMS in Colorado:

#1. Common Greenshield Lichen

  • Flavoparmelia caperata

Types of mushrooms in Colorado

Identifying Characteristics:

  • 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 Colorado. 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.

#2. Fly Agaric

  • Amanita muscaria

Types of mushrooms in Colorado

Identifying Characteristics:

  • 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 Colorado! 🙂

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.

#3. Dryad’s Saddle

  • Cerioporus squamosus

Types of mushrooms in Colorado

Identifying Characteristics:

  • 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 Colorado 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.

#4. Green-spored Parasol

  • Chlorophyllum molybdites

Identifying Characteristics:

  • 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 Colorado!

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.

#5. Oyster Mushrooms

  • Pleurotus ostreatus

Identifying Characteristics:

  • 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 Colorado 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!

#6. Shaggy Mane

  • Coprinus comatus

Identifying Characteristics:

  • The caps are 4–8 cm (1.63.1 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 Colorado 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 Colorado. Leave these mushrooms where you found them, and never eat them!

#7. Mica Cap

  • Coprinellus micaceus

Identifying Characteristics:

  • 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!

#8. Common Puffball

  • Lycoperdon perlatum

Identifying Characteristics:

  • 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 Colorado.

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.

#9. Dyer’s Polypore

  • Phaeolus schweinitzii

Identifying Characteristics:

  • 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 Colorado 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.

#10. Orange Jelly Spot

  • Dacrymyces chrysospermus

Identifying Characteristics:

  • 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 Colorado!

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.

#11. Summer Oyster Mushroom

  • Pleurotus pulmonarius

Identifying Characteristics:

  • 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 Colorado.

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.

#12. Elegant Sunburst Lichen

  • Rusavskia elegans
Jason Hollinger, CC BY-SA 3.0, Via Wikimedia Commons
  • It forms small colonies up to 2.5 inches across.
  • The body is leaf-like and divided into small lobes.
  • The color may be yellowish-orange, bright orange, or dark reddish-orange.

Elegant Sunburst Lichen is more than just a beauty to look at!

This was the first species scientists used for lichenometry, or using a lichen’s presumed growth rate to estimate the age of exposed rock faces. Archeologists, paleontologists, and geologists, in particular, use this method to estimate how old the specimens they find might be.

Elegant Sunburst Lichen is widespread, growing on rocks in humid and dry climates. Pay special attention to rocks that birds or rodents perch on because their droppings provide the lichen with the extra nitrogen it needs to thrive.

Its color may vary depending on where you find it. Elegant Sunburst Lichen is often a lighter yellowish-orange when growing in creeks. On rocks that are out of the water, it tends to be bright orange; in dry areas, it may darken to reddish-orange.

#13. Western Giant Puffball

  • Calvatia boonian
Western Giant Puffball (Calvatia boonian)
JerryFriedman, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
  • Round or flattened with no stalk.
  • The mushroom is white or tan and covered with plaques or large, pointed warts.
  • Mature mushrooms are 12 to 28 inches (30 to 72 cm) across.

Western Giant Puffballs are among the largest mushrooms in Colorado!

Thankfully for foragers, they’re edible too. Mushroom hunters often liken them to tofu. These puffballs are edible when their inner flesh is still completely white. As they mature, their flesh becomes yellow or greenish, eventually turning to powdery, olive-brown spore dust. Once their flesh has changed color, these mushrooms are no longer safe to eat.

Western Giant Puffballs may grow singly or in groups. They sometimes grow in circles, often called “fairy rings.” In this case, the mushrooms are usually part of an extensive fungus network underground. The mushrooms, or fruiting bodies, form at the circle’s edge as the fungus spreads outwards.

These mushrooms grow on the ground in open, sunny areas like fields, forest clearings, trail edges, and roadsides.

#14. Yellow Map Lichen

  • Rhizocarpon geographicum
Yellow Map Lichen (Rhizocarpon geographicum)
User: Tigerente, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
  • Flat patches of this lichen grow adjacent to one another, creating a map-like effect.
  • The surface is yellow to yellowish-green and bumpy.
  • A black line of fungal hyphae borders the lichen.

Yellow Map Lichen may be the world’s longest-living lichen.

Scientists estimate some Yellow Map Lichens growing on East Baffin Island in Canada are 9,500 years old! Those in the Alaska Brooks Range may be even older; some individuals may be 10,000 to 11,500 years old.

Yellow Map Lichen grows on exposed rock surfaces in mountainous areas with clean air. It doesn’t tolerate air pollution, so it’s a good indicator of air quality.

This unassuming little species has played an important role in modern science. Researchers often use it in lichenometry to calculate the age of exposed rock surfaces based on the lichen’s growth.

Yellow Map Lichen has also been to space! Scientists sent it up in a capsule, exposing it to space conditions for ten days. Upon its return to Earth, the specimen displayed little sign of damage or change, proving it’s a tough species capable of withstanding harsh conditions.

#15. Bristly Beard Lichen

  • Usnea hirta
Bristly Beard Lichen (Usnea hirta)
Jerzy Opioła, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
  • This lichen varies in shape from drooping strands to upright, densely branched, shrubby tufts.
  • It’s pale and may be grayish-green, yellowish-green, or blackish-gray.
  • It’s stiff when dry but limp when wet.

Bristly Beard Lichen is one of the most widespread and recognizable lichen species.

It usually grows in open coniferous or mixed forests where it can receive plenty of sunlight.

Bristly Beard usually grows on dead and dying trees. It prefers acidic bark, so it mainly grows on coniferous trees, though it occasionally grows on deciduous species like birch or even on rock surfaces.

Like many lichens, Bristly Beard is sensitive to air pollution, especially sulfur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen compounds. It also bioaccumulates heavy metals. Researchers have found it to be a suitable species for monitoring air pollution. Historically, Bristly Beard lichen was used as a medicinal herb, a source of vitamin C, and a natural dye for textiles.

Learn about other awesome things in Colorado!

Which type of mushroom is your favorite?

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