What kind of mushroom did I find in North Dakota?
If you spend time outside, you’ve probably asked this question at least once. Mushrooms are incredibly common in North Dakota, and they come in all shapes, sizes, and colors.
Believe it or not, there are THOUSANDS of different types of mushrooms that live in North Dakota. 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 North Dakota:
#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 North Dakota!
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 North Dakota. 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 North Dakota! 🙂
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 North Dakota 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 North Dakota 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 North Dakota 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. 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 North Dakota 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.
#8. 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 North Dakota 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!
#9. 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 North Dakota 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!
#10. 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 North Dakota 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 North Dakota. Leave these mushrooms where you found them, and never eat them!
#11. 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!
#12. 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 North Dakota.
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.
#13. 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 North Dakota!
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!
#14. 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 North Dakota.
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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