Editor’s note: There are more than 1,000 species of mushrooms and fungi found in West Virginia. This is a short list that highlights 13 species and how to identify them.

CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) – Forested lands and natural habitats make the Mountain State an excellent place for mushrooms to grow. But do you know which ones are safe to forage and which to avoid?

According to the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources, nearly 1,700 species of mushrooms and other types of large fungi have been found in the Mountain State. The DNR says this includes some of the most prized edible mushrooms in the world, as well as some of the deadliest on the continent.

Destroying Angel (WVDNR)

The DNR says while some mushrooms can be eaten, others can be used for other purposes such as medicines, fabric dyes, fire kindling and even paper or a suede-like material.

According to the DNR, there is not a “rule of thumb” for when it comes to identifying mushrooms in the wild, and learning how to forage for safe-to-eat mushrooms requires help from an experienced mushroom hunter and/or studying mushroom field guides.

Below is a list of 13 of the mushrooms, both edible and poisonous, that the WV DNR says mushroom hunters can find in the Mountain State.

  • Leatherback MilkcapLactarius volemus
    • Can you eat it? Yes
    • How to identify it: The Leatherback Milkcap, also called a “Bradley” mushroom, is recognizable from its brownish orange cap and the fishy odor it produces. The flesh of the mushroom also “leaks” a mild-tasting white latex that can stain the mushroom’s broken tissue, and your fingers, a dark brown. While the Leatherback Milkcap is edible, not all gilled Lactarius mushrooms are.
  • Satyr’s BeardHericium erinaceum
    • Can you eat it? Yes when young and tender
    • How to identify it: The Satyr’s Beard is recognizable by its “roundish mass” of whitish hanging spines and can be found on living trees, occasionally up out of reach. It is most commonly found on oak trees, but can also be found on beech trees or other broadleaf trees. According to the Midwest American Mycological Information organization, once the mushroom turns to a yellowish color, it has become too old and may taste sour if cooked. The WV DNR says some cultivated varieties are also called “Monkey-head” or “Lion’s Mane.”
  • Honey MushroomArmillaria mellea
    • Can you eat it? Only if thoroughly cooked
    • How to identify it: Also known as “bootlace fungus,” Honey Mushrooms grow in dense clusters and can usually be found around decaying tree stumps. The Honey Mushroom is one of the few gilled mushrooms that can actually be harmful to trees. Honey Mushrooms have small, rounded and sticky caps and a ring on the stalk. The Ringless Honey Mushroom looks very similar, but lacks a ring on the stalk and is also edible. However, both types of honey mushroom look very similar to some other species that are “dangerously poisonous.”
Purple Coral Mushroom (WV DNR)
  • Purple Coral MushroomClavaria zollingeri
    • Can you eat it? Not recommended. Poisonous and edible coral mushrooms are difficult to tell apart.
    • How to identify it: The Purple Coral Mushroom can actually be found in a variety of colors and resembles marine coral. Some smaller ones, however, look more like a club or a finger, the WV DNR says. They mostly grow along the ground and grow symbiotically with tree roots. While some coral mushrooms are edible and the Purple Coral can be distinctive for its color, no coral mushrooms are recommended to be eaten because it can be difficult to distinguish the poisonous coral mushrooms from the edible coral mushrooms in the wild, the WV DNR says.
  • Destroying AngelAmanita bisporigera
    • Can you eat it? No. “Highly toxic”
    • How to identify it: The Destroying Angel is a common gilled mushroom that is often found near the base of broadleaf trees. It is completely white and the stalk rises from a “sac-like base” that is often underground and not obviously visible. This mushroom and its close relatives, such as the Amanita virosa and the Amanita verna are highly toxic, according to the WV DNR, and are responsible for the most mushroom fatalities in North America. If eaten, it can cause damage to the liver and the kidneys. The DNR recommends that every mushroom hunter “learn to recognize the Destroying Angel and its close relatives.”
Scarlet Cup (WV DNR)
  • Scarlet CupSarcoscypha austriaca
    • Can you eat it? No
    • How to identify it: The Scarlet Cup gets its name from the red color of its cup shape. The inner surface of the cup contains spore-bearing cells that can “explode” with a soft hissing sound when the mushroom is handled or blown on. The Scarlet Cup is one of the first mushrooms to appear in early spring and while it is related to morel mushrooms, it is not edible.
  • Gem-studded PuffballLycoperdon perlatum
    • Can you eat it? Only when the mushroom is immature, but proceed with caution
    • How to identify it: The Gem-studded Puffball is one of the macrofungi known as gasteromycetes or “stomach fungi,” so called because their spores are within an enclosed “fruitbody.” The Gem-studded Puffball’s fruitbody is pear-shaped with a small pore-like opening near the top. It can be found in small clusters in the woods, pastures or grassy areas. According to the WV DNR, most puffball mushrooms are edible when they are immature and completely white on the inside. However, it is easy for an inexperienced collector to confuse them with poisonous “earthballs.”
  • Frost’s BoleteBoletus frostii
    • Can you eat it? Not recommended due to easy confusion with similar, poisonous bolete mushrooms.
    • How to identify it: The Frost’s Bolete is not a gilled mushroom, and instead, has a “sponge-like” layer of tubes under the cap. The Frost’s Boletes is also distinguishable by its candy-apple red cap and its netted red stalk. Frost’s Boletes, as with most boletes mushrooms, are found near the base of trees, often oak varieties, and can bruise or stain blue when they are handled or when their flesh is cut. However, the blue stain is not an indication of toxicity. While the Frost’s Bolete is not poisonous, officials say it is not recommended for eating due to it being easily confused with similar, poisonous bolete mushrooms.
Sulphur Shelf (WV DNR)
  • Sulphur ShelfLaetiporus sulphureus
    • Can you eat it? Yes when young and tender, however some people are allergic
    • How to identify it: The Sulphur Shelf is a polypore mushroom often referred to as the “Chicken of the Woods.” Like the boletes mushrooms, the underside of polypores such as the Sulphur Shelf are made up of a layer of spore-producing tubes, and most do not have a stalk. The Sulphur Shelf mushroom gets its part of name from its shelf-like shape and can be found growing in clusters on trees or stumps. It is also recognizable by its bright orange caps and sulfur-yellow underside, according to the WV DNR.
  • Conifer False MorelGyromitra esculenta
    • Can you eat it? No.
    • How to identify it: The Conifer False Morel and other false morel mushrooms appear in early spring around the same time as true morel mushrooms. One major difference between the two is that false morels are poisonous and contain dangerous toxins. Because of this, the WV DNR says mushroom hunters should take precautions to recognize the difference between the two. One main way to do this is the shape of the cap. According to the WV DNR, the false morels have a cap that is shaped more like “convoluted brain-like lobes” and halve a chambered interior stalk. True morels, however, are composed of pits separated by distinct ridges and have hollow stalks. The WV DNR says the Conifer False Morel is usually located near the base of white pines.
  • Morel MushroomsMorchella
    • Can you eat it? Yes.
    • How to identify it: Mushroom hunters looking for true Morel Mushrooms, or molly moochers, should be careful not to confuse these mushrooms with poisonous false morel species. A major way to tell the difference, is the distinctive appearance of their caps. True morels’ caps have a honeycomb-like appearance and are composed of pits separated by distinct ridges and have hollow stalks. The can often be found in the vicinity of poplar, oak, hickory, elm or ash trees, as well as in areas with moist soil such as near creek banks.
  • Tinder PolyporeFomes fomentarius
    • Can you eat it? No.
    • How to identify it: The Tinder Polypore is a fungus that can be found any time of year. It is usually found on trees that have already been weakened by other means and can cause further wood decay. The Tinder Polypore is also known as the “hoof fungus” due to its horse hoof-like shape. It gets its name of “Tinder” polypore for its use as tinder for starting fires.
  • Witches’ ButterTremella mesenterica
    • Can you eat it? Yes.
    • How to identify it: The Witches’ Butter is a type of jelly fungus that is easy to recognize in the wild. The fungus’ yellow lobes can be seen on the smaller branches of broadleaf trees. Jelly fungi also generally have soft, gelatinous or rubbery fruiting bodies. The Witches’ Butter fungi is edible, however, the WV DNR says it is 90% water and has little flavor or substance.