Which Mushrooms Are Edible?

There is a vast number of edible as well as poisonous mushrooms in North America. There are a select number that are considered delicacies. Many have symbiotic relationships with certain tree species. A good field guide with very clear pictures is a necessity when hunting for mushrooms. It is also a good idea to go out with a skilled mushroom guide the first time you collect them.


The chanterelle (Cantharrllus cibarius) grows large and golden yellow in the cascade and coastal forests of Oregon. Although they can be found in Europe and Asia, the mushrooms are much smaller. They have a specific symbiotic relationship with the douglas fir trees. The root hairs or michorrizae entwine with the tree roots aiding them in drawing water and nutrients from the soil. In turn the chanterelle fungi are able to draw carbohydrates from the tree roots. They are picked from September through December.


The morel mushroom has somewhat of a cult following. Maybe it is due to availability. Over the past 20 years the morel has been grown commercially in the Midwest. Its natural habitat is Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Montana. There are four edible varieties of morel: Morchella conica, Morchella angusticeps, Morchella elata and Morchella esculenta. The conical brown caps look like a brain or honeycomb. Morels are harvested in the spring. The colors range from tan to dark brown and are from 2 to 8 inches long.


The porcini mushroom (Boletus edulis) looks similar to the toadstools found in fairy tails. It has a wide smooth brown cap and a short stalk. It is extra important to know what you are looking for with these fungi. They grow wild in the pine forests of California and New Mexico. A particularly large porcini, Boletus grandedulis, or California king bole, was identified in 2008. Italians have been enjoying Boletus brisa for years.

Black Trumpets

The name best describes the shape of the black trumpet (Craterellus fallax). Unlike most mushrooms it is has no cap; instead, it is rolled and hollow. It has no distinct stem either. It is a small mushroom with a great fragrance. The mushrooms color blends in among the leaves on the ground in beech and oak forests. Its small stature make it harder to find than some fungi. There is a lighter trumpet mushroom called horn of plenty (Craterellus cornucopoides) which is also edible.

Shaggy Manes

The white conical caps of the shaggy mane (Coprinus comatus) mushroom can be found in large patches throughout North America. Another distinguishing feature is the black gills. They are called inky caps because they diminish into a black pool of ink after a few weeks. Though edible, some people have experienced allergic reactions when ingesting shaggy manes with alcohol.


It is said that the hedgehog (Hydrium repandum) mushroom is one of the easiest to identify. The underside, or gill, portion of the cap looks like the outer spines of a hedge hog. The top is flat, irregular and cream to yellow-orange in color. They are frequently found in fall among hemlock, pine, fir and even deciduous trees throughout North America. California is one of the main hunting grounds for this species.

Keywords: symbiotic, mycelium, spores

About this Author

Marci Degman has been a Landscape Designer and Horticulture writer for since 1997. She has an Associate of Applied Science in landscape technology and landscape design from Portland Community College. She writes a newspaper column for the Hillsboro Argus and radio tips for KUIK. Her teaching experience for Portland Community College has set the pace for her to write for GardenGuides.com.