Fungi – Exploring the Garden

Mushrooms and fungi are becoming one of the biggest trends in recent years. I have been to numerous talks and shows where fungi was the main event. There are different types of mushrooms (the fruiting body of the fungus) and different types of fungi. Seeking and finding mushrooms can be one of the most rewarding things to do in the garden and woods.

You can find mushrooms year round. Yes, even in winter. Truffles for example, are eaten by a variety of animals besides humans, and if you search out animal dig holes in the winter, you may be able to find some unique fungi. In the warmer weather of November and December in Kansas (mid 40s) there are a variety of mushrooms which grow on rotting trees in the woods.

Some types of fungus are poisonous, so looking and not eating it the most important thing with fungi. If you are interested in foraging mushrooms, get a really good guide book or make friends with someone who has done regular foraging and knows which are edible.

Looking for Fungi

Where should you look? Anywhere. Types of fungi include molds (kitchen and garden), rusts (leaf surfaces), mildews (leaf surfaces), smuts (on seeds or grains), and mushrooms (everywhere outdoors). When you are looking for mushrooms, be prepared to find them anywhere. I will go over some interesting things you may see below. But there are 144,000 know species of mushrooms worldwide. And many of them are found on different continents.

In general, poisonous mushrooms are called toadstools. I think that may have come more from a storybook or fairy tale. But its not necessarily true. Toadstool refers to a capped mushroom where a toad actually sat by or on and ate flies that were attracted to the fungus. But there are not always poisonous.

When you are looking for mushrooms, seek out fallen logs, wet prairies or meadows, dense woods, and brush piles. Most fungi have a symbiotic or parasitic relationship with plants. Symbiotic means that they get sugars from the plant in exchange for nutrients. A parasitic relationship is one where the fungi attacks the host plant.

Poisonous Fungi


A lot of the so-called poisonous mushrooms are actually only partly poisonous. Few are deadly, though there are some which can kill you in a variety of ways. When you are looking through a guidebook; if it has a deathly sounding name, then you probably should not consume it.

Some of the following mushrooms are toxic/poisonous if consumed. Do not eat anything without checking with an expert.

  • Destroying Angel
  • Funeral Bells
  • Death Caps
  • Amanitas
  • Fool’s Webcap
  • Deadly Webcap
  • Autumn Skullcap
  • Deadly Dapperling
  • Fly Agaric
  • Devil’s Bolete

That is enough for now. Many of the more toxic fungi do not have common names to warn you, just Scientific names.

Mushroom Names

Other mushrooms can have quite interesting names. It seems that if you can think it up, there is a mushroom to apply a name to.

  • Hotlips disco
  • Cramp Balls
  • Wolf’s Milk Slime Mold (not a true fungi)
  • Silky Piggyback
  • Old Man’s Beard
  • Hairy Curtain Crust
  • Veiled Lady
  • Devil’s Lipstick
  • Bleeding Tooth
  • Phantom Fungus
  • Carnival Candy Slime Mold (not a true fungus)
  • Hairy Rubber Cup

Finding Mushrooms in the Central Great Plains

Below are some of the mushrooms/slime molds which I have found while hiking in the Central Great Plains. After a recent conference with a fellow fungus lover, I was told they found 499 species of fungi at Indian Cave State Park in Southeast Nebraska in 2023. That is a lot!

Great Plains fungi
more Great Plains fungi
mushrooms of the Great Plains

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