These 13 crazy mushrooms will blow your mind. You probably won’t find them on your dinner plate, but you will find them entertaining.
Lion’s Mane Mushroom (Hericium erinaceus)
This strange mushroom goes by many names, including Lion’s Mane Mushroom, Bearded Tooth Mushroom, Hedgehog Mushroom, Satyr’s Beard, Bearded Hedgehog Mushroom, pom pom mushroom, or Bearded Tooth Fungus. Native to North America, it can be found growing on hardwood trees. Despite its strange looks, it is indeed edible.
There are quite a few varieties of puffball mushroom, all of which belong in the division Basidiomycota, and all of which have their own unique characteristics. But what they all share in common is that they do not grow an open cap with spore-bearing gills, but instead the spores are grown internally and the mushroom develops an aperture or splits open to release the spore. Besides their general appearance, they are called puffballs because of the clouds of spores that “puff” out when they burst open or are hit with an impact like falling raindrops.
Indigo Milkcap (Lactarius indigo)
This purple beauty can be found in the coniferous and deciduous forests of eastern North America, East Asia, and Central America. When the mushroom is cut or broken open, the milk, or latex, that oozes out is a beautiful indigo blue. Though it looks quite poisonous, it is reportedly edible and is sold in some markets.
Latticed Stinkhorn (Clathrus ruber)
This mushroom is known as the latticed stinkhorn, the basket stinkhorn, or the red cage. These mushrooms can be found growing in leaf litter, on garden soil, grassy places, or in mulches. Though it isn’t clear if it is edible, apparently its smell is enough to deter anyone interested in eating it.
Bleeding Tooth (Hydnellum peckii)
This odd mushroom is found in North America and Europe, and was in the last few years also discovered in Iran and Korea. The younger specimens of the species bleed a bright red juice that has anticoagulant properties, hence its common name. Though they don’t seem to be poisonous, they have an extremely bitter taste and so are inedible.
Amethyst Deceiver (Laccaria amethystina)
This purple beauty is found in deciduous and coniferous forests in temperate zones around North America, Central and South America, Europe, and Asia. Though vividly purple when young, older specimens loose their bright coloration and are more difficult to identify, which is why it is called the “deceiver”. Though technically edible, it isn’t considered a good choice to eat especially because pollutants in the soil, such as arsenic, can bioaccumulate in the mushroom.
Veiled Lady Mushroom (Phallus indusiatus)
This delicate and strange mushroom can be found in gardens and woodlands in southern Asia, Africa, the Americas, and Australia. This edible and rather healthful mushroom is used in Chinese cuisine. While the lacy skirt is what draws our eyes, the mushroom actually uses the cap to draw attention too. It is coated in a greenish-brown slime that contains spores — the slime attracts flies and insects that help disperse the spores.
This glow-in-the-dark mushroom is found in subtropical Asia, including Japan, Polynesia, Java, and Sri Lanka, in Australia, and Brazil. They are bioluminescent, emitting a glowing green light when in the dark. It is brightest when surrounding temperatures are about 81 °F, and for about a day after the cap forms and opens. After that, the glow dulls until it is undetectable by the naked eye.
Dog Stinkhorn (Mutinus caninus)
This phallus-shaped fungus is found in Europe, Asia, and eastern North America. First described in the 1700s, it’s Latin name as well as its common names in English and French hint at its shape, which resembles a dog’s penis. It starts as an egg-like fruiting body hidden in leaf litter in soils, and when the egg splits, the mushroom expands to its full height within a few hours. The tip is covered in a smelly spore-bearing slime that attracts insects, which help to disperse the spores.
This lovely blue mushroom is found in New Zealand and India. Though possibly poisonous, its beauty has been recognized by it being part of a set of fungal stamps issued in New Zealand in 2002 as well as put on the back of a $50 bank note in New Zealand in 1990.
Turkey Tail (Trametes versicolor)
This common mushroom is found all over the world — though however common it might be, it is always beautiful. It’s fanning shape and layers of coloring resemble a tom turkey’s tail. Colors can range depending on location and age, and the cap can be shades of rust-brown, dark brown, grey, and even black. Some older caps can appear green when they have a greenish algae growing on them. The turkey tail is considered a medicinal mushroom, and may possibly have positive benefits in protecting against cancer, though this is debated.
Devil’s Cigar (Chorioactis geaster)
This is an extremely rare mushroom, and is found only in very select locations in Texas and Japan. In Texas, the fruiting body grows on the roots of dead cedar elms, while in Japan it grows on dead oak trees. “Scientists do not know why the fungus mysteriously lives only in Texas and Japan, locations of approximately the same latitude, but separated by 11,000 km (6,800 mi),” writes Wikipedia. “Fred Jay Seaver commented ‘this is only another illustration of the unusual and unpredictable distribution of many species of the fungi. It would be difficult indeed to account for it, and we merely accept the facts as they are.’”
False Morel, or Brain Mushroom (Gyromitra esculenta)
This odd mushroom grows a cap that quite resembles the shape of a brain. And indeed it does take brains to eat it. This mushroom is potentially fatal if eaten raw, but if prepared correctly it is considered a delicacy in Scandinavia, Eastern Europe, and here in the US in the Great Lakes region. Though it can be found being sold fresh in some markets, it is required to come with warning labels. A Polish study from 1971 showed that this species accounted for up to 23% of mushroom fatalities each year. So if in doubt, just stick with real morels and leave this false morel alone.