The Coolest Mushrooms to Know About
While most people are only familiar with the popular portobello and button mushrooms found in grocery stores, there are thousands of varieties around the globe. Some mushroom types are delicious and make for a great culinary experience, while others may have potential therapeutic benefits, such as boosting the immune system.
A low-calorie, high-fiber food packed full of vitamins and minerals, many consider mushrooms to be one of nature’s greatest gifts. However, not all mushrooms are edible - many are even poisonous.
Of the thousands of different varieties of mushrooms that exist, they include edible, medicinal, hallucinogenic, poisonous, and other types. And they come in almost every shape and color you can imagine.
From the unusually large mushroom to those that look like they may have come from outer space, we explore some of the coolest mushrooms in the world below.
The Most Amazing Mushroom Types Around the World
Here is an overview of what we consider some of the most amazing kinds of mushrooms on the planet. With thousands of different species in an endless range of shapes, sizes, colors, and appearances, you may be surprised what can be found in the mushroom kingdom.
1. Lion’s Mane (Hericium Erinaceus)
Lion’s mane, also known as bearded tooth mushrooms, hedgehog, and pom pom mushroom, among other nicknames, is known for its strange, stringy appearance. It’s a white, shaggy mushroom that resembles a lion’s mane as it grows.
Technically, they’re a tooth fungus - a species of fungi belonging to the genus Hydnellum of the family Bankeraceae. It’s a group of fungus whose fruit body produces spinelike, downward-hanging projections that contain spores.
Lion’s mane is often praised for its potential medicinal properties, including relieving mild symptoms of depression and anxiety, boosting the immune system, improving mood, and more.
2. Turkey Tail (Trametes Versicolor)
Turkey tail is a common type of polypore mushroom found throughout the world, including North America. They are multicolored fungi that grow on tree trunks and fallen trees in wooded areas and resemble the colorful fan of a turkey’s tail feathers, hence the name.
It is one of the most well-known medicinal mushrooms and is perhaps best-known for its ability to support the health of your immune system. It’s packed with antioxidants and contains prebiotics - meaning it may also support digestion and enhance gut health.
Although it is an edible mushroom, turkey tail is chewy and tough and not particularly enjoyable to eat. However, there are numerous other ways to consume it, such as in capsules or powdered form.
3. Bleeding Tooth Fungus (Hydnellum Peckii)
Those with a fascination for the odd and unusual will love bleeding tooth fungus. Like lion’s mane, it’s also a tooth fungus in the genus Hydnellum of the family Bankeraceae. It’s a strange-looking mushroom with a gooey red liquid seeping out its pores, making it appear as though it's bleeding.
This red sap is completely normal and is caused by high root pressure (guttation). Over time, the pressure eases, and the fungus turns from red to brown. Therefore, the adult bleeding tooth mushroom is beige and rather dull in appearance.
Despite its appearance, this mushroom is not toxic and may even have some health benefits. For instance, it contains the chemical compound atromentin, which like heparin, may be used as an anticoagulant to prevent blood clots, and also may have antibacterial properties.
Bleeding tooth fungus is commonly found in forested, mountainous areas in the U.S, Europe, South Korea, and Iran.
4. Indigo Milk Cap (Lactarius indigo)
Indigo milk cap is a species of agaric fungus in the family Russulaceae. It’s a truly remarkable-looking blue mushroom that exudes even darker blue milk when sliced open with a knife. The color slowly turns green as it's exposed to air. It looks out of place in nature due to its striking appearance. You won’t find another mushroom that exudes such a unique-looking substance.
Indigo milk cap is not common, but it grows in over one hundred countries, spanning the U.S., East Asia, and Central America. It grows scattered or in groups on soil, mostly in oak and pine woods.
This mushroom is edible and is commonly sold in rural markets in Mexico, Guatemala, and China. When cooked, its flavor is similar to that of portobello, but it’s more crumbly and has a grainy texture. Not only is it delicious, but it’s also a nutritious food source and boasts potential antibacterial properties.
5. Devil’s Cigar (Chorioactis)
Devil’s cigar is an extremely rare fungus that grows exclusively in Texas, Oklahoma, and southern Japan. It’s one of the most unusually shaped mushrooms and belongs to a fungal group collectively named the earth stars.
It has a very interesting structure with a spherical shape that features sharp leaflets protruding out from under it. As the fungus matures and gets ready to release spores, it splits open like a brightly colored star. In its early stages, it resembles a small cigar, hence the name.
Devil’s cigar is Texas’ very own state mushroom. It’s endangered, though, due to its small range and specific living requirements. It mostly grows on the base of oak trees in Japan, but increased deforestation threatens its habitat. The survival time in Texas is a little better; however, industrialization has caused problems.
Another thing that makes Devil’s Cigar an interesting fungus is that it makes a loud hissing noise when spores are released. It’s one of only 15 species that emits an audible hissing sound.
Very important to note, unlike the four species listed prior which are all edible, this mushroom species is poisonous and should not be consumed.
6. Veiled Lady (Phallus Indusiatus)
The veiled lady, also known as bridal veil stinkhorn, belongs to the fungi family of stinkhorns. It’s a bell-shaped mushroom notable for its “white lace skirt,” which mostly grows out during the night. While the skirt is what initially attracts the eye, the mushroom cap is also rather intriguing. It has a greenish-brown slime coat covered in spores. The slime attracts insects and flies that help disperse the spores.
It’s a tasty edible mushroom with a rich, earthy flavor and has long been believed to be an aphrodisiac. The intriguing mushroom can be found in woodlands all across the tropics, from Africa to Asia to America.
In ancient China, bridal veil stinkhorn was only served on special occasions as they were pretty rare. Nowadays, they can be cultivated in large quantities and are commonly cooked in soups and hotpots.
Other Types of Mushrooms from Around the World
Above, we have discussed what we consider to be six of the most amazing mushrooms around the globe. However, there are thousands of other intriguing fungi types with a range of therapeutic properties and uses.
Latticed stinkhorn, or basket stinkhorn, is named such due to its striking fruit bodies shaped like an oval hollow sphere with interlaced branches. They’re also renowned for their foul odor. The redheaded mushrooms are often found growing in leaf litter on garden soil, grassy places, or in mulches in hot climates. Although primarily a European species, it’s also found in Africa, Asia, Australia, and North and South America. These mushrooms are only edible when they are in their “egg” stage.
Another interesting stinkhorn is the dog stinkhorn, which looks like an upside-down carrot with a brown goop on top. It doesn’t sound or look very appetizing, and the odor can be downright offensive. These mushrooms are considered inedible.
As for poisonous varieties, you should steer clear of the brain mushroom. Ironically, the species name “esculenta” is derived from the Latin word for edibles; however, it’s best not to eat, especially in its unprocessed form. It’s been banned from public sale in Spain, but novelty-seekers should find it easily in markets in northern and eastern Europe. It’s also prominent in forests on both sides of the Atlantic.
Finally, destroying angel mushrooms are among the most toxic known mushrooms. It’s a deadly poisonous fungus that looks somewhat harmless with angelic whiteness and an innocuous and alluring nature.
Cute and Weird Mushrooms in the Fungi Kingdom
Vibrant, mysterious, and often fantastically shaped, the fungi kingdom is filled with weird and wonderful mushroom species. Whether it’s their intriguing names, fascinating appearance, or unique uses, the kinds of mushrooms found in nature are sure to blow your mind.
Some of the weirdest mushrooms you’re likely to come across are stinkhorns. These visually shocking fungi are renowned for their unpleasant odor. You get various types of stinkhorns, some of which we’ve discussed above. While they differ in appearance, they’re best known for looking like horns (like dog stinkhorn).
The foul odor associated with stinkhorns is used to attract flies, while the accompanying slime gets the flies to stick around. This is beneficial in gardens since flies are less popular pollinators compared to butterflies, bees, and humming bees.
On the other end of the spectrum, the fungi kingdom is also filled with a host of cute mushrooms. One such example is the chestnut mushroom, which is native to Europe and North America. They’re mild in flavor and are known for being a culinary delight. It has a beautiful rustic brown color and grows in large, bountiful clusters, resembling chestnuts.
Rosy parachutes (Marasmius pulcherripes) are also incredibly cute with a pleated pink cap and a wiry, blackish stem. They have an umbrella-like structure and are very pretty to look at. They’re also quite rare. These mushrooms are inedible, but not poisonous.
Final Thoughts: Different Mushroom Varieties
There you have it, a select few of the most incredible mushrooms on the planet. From weird to wonderful to beautiful and everything in between, the fungi kingdom boasts an array of intriguing mushroom varieties.
One of the most rare mushrooms on the planet is Devil’s Cigar, which is only found in Texas, Oklahoma, and Japan. In terms of aesthetics, rosy parachutes are a beautiful mushroom with a pleated, bell-shaped pink cap.
Remember, our list has only touched on a fraction of what the mushroom world has to offer. For the most part, though, our readers are interested in medicinal mushrooms - those that provide therapeutic value.
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Audrey has worked as a registered dietitian for 6 years. She graduated from the University of Florida in 2013 with a Bachelor of Science degree. In 2014 she began an internship with the Veterans Affairs Healthcare System, and was hired as an Outpatient Dietitian following graduation. She started her career counseling a variety of patients with different health concerns and disease states. After a few years into practice, she found her passion was working in cancer care, and has spent the last 4 years specializing in oncology nutrition.
In her practice, Audrey has spent a significant amount of time reviewing literature on herbal and dietary supplements in the cancer care setting. Through her work at Vidacap, she hopes to continue to expand her knowledge and understanding of the benefits of supplements in conjunction with promoting a healthy, balanced diet and management of overall health and well being.