Identifying and hunting for wild edible mushrooms can be challenging, fun and rewarding. Many wild edible mushroom species grow in Connecticut, so you can enjoy mushroom hunting throughout the summer and fall. Bring along a mushroom field guidebook to compare the mushrooms you find with pictures of different species that grow in Connecticut. Just be sure never to eat a mushroom if you're unsure about its exact identity. You can find wild edible mushrooms growing on the sides of trees in Connecticut, as well as under or near trees and in lawns, pastures or fields---even in your own backyard.
Identify Mushrooms Growing on Trees
Spot oyster mushrooms (pleurotus ostreatus and p. populinus) growing in clumps on the trunks of trees. Oyster mushrooms' caps are whitish, fan-shaped, 1 to 12 inches wide and about 1 inch thick. They overlap each other as they grow in clusters. Pleurotus populinus grows only on dead poplar trees during late May through early June, while p. ostreatus grows on live sugar maples, beech trees or other hardwoods during October through mid-December.
Identify Chicken of the Woods (laetiporus sulphureus and l. cincinnatus) by the mushrooms' bright-orange color. Chicken of the Woods grow in overlapping clusters on the trunks of hardwood trees in Connecticut from August through October. The fan-shaped caps can be anywhere from 2 to 20 inches wide and up to 1 inch thick with short, broad stems.
Find Dryad's Saddle mushrooms (polyporus squamosus) growing on dead hardwood trees in Connecticut during May or June. Also called Pheasant Black mushroom or Hawk's Wing, this mushroom's thick, brown cap is fan-shaped or circular with feather-like scales. Dryad's Saddles grow in overlapping clusters from short stems.
Identify Bright-Colored and Odd-Shaped Mushrooms
Look for whitish-lavender colored mushrooms growing in Connecticut starting when the evening temperatures approach freezing, usually in mid- or late October through December. These are blewits (lepista nuda and clitocybe nuda), which grow on organic composts and near the edges of forests. Blewits have thick, short stems that are at most 1 inch tall and convex caps with inwardly rolled edges. The mushroom's stem, gills and cap turn from lavender to tan or brownish with maturity.
Look for a striking pinkish to dark red mushroom with a 2- to 6-inch-wide cap that has yellow edges and gills. This is the Two Colored Bolete (boletus bicolor), which grows individually or in small clusters from late July to mid-September, usually under hardwood trees.
Search for large clumps of feather-like caps that are grayish or brownish with white centers to identify Maitake or Hen of the Woods mushrooms (grifola frondosa). The individual caps are thin, only one-eighth to a quarter of an inch thick, and the underlying stem structure resembles that of a broccoli or cauliflower head. The entire clump can be 4 to 36 inches across or larger and can be found growing from September to early November at the base of live oak trees with dead branches or on dead stumps.
Find morels growing in Connecticut from late April to mid-June. Identify morels by their sponge-like or honeycomb caps that are usually bell-shaped and up to 2 inches wide and 4 inches tall. Morels have whitish, bumpy stems and no gills or spores. Yellow morels' caps have grayish or yellow ridges, while the caps of black morels have black or brown ridges.
Identify a lobster mushroom (hypomyces lactifluorum) by its bright reddish-orange color and irregularly shaped cap that usually has cracks on the surface. Lobster mushrooms are not actually their own mushroom species but a parasitic mold that attacks other mushrooms, covering them with the reddish-orange skin. Look for lobster mushrooms growing under trees in September and October.
Identify Mushrooms Under or Near Trees
Identify the Chanterelle (cantharellus cibarius) by its uniform golden or yellow-orange color and its up to 5-inch-wide inverted cap. The cap has wavy edges that roll outward toward the blunt-edged gills, which run down the stem. You can find the Chanterelle in Connecticut growing from July to September around trees.
Spot the Black Trumpet (craterellus cornucopioides, C. cenerius or C. foetidus) growing in late June through the summer by looking for its trumpet-like inverted cap and its brown, black or grayish color. The cap has thin flesh and is about three-quarters to 3 inches wide with no gills or shallow ridges. Locate black trumpets in Connecticut growing in fallen dead trees or branches near places where water runoffs develop.
Look for wild mushrooms with thick, irregularly shaped, lobed caps that are 2 to 8 inches wide to identify Hedgehog or Sweet Tooth mushrooms (hydnum repandum or h. umbilicatum). These edible mushrooms are brownish-orange in color with short, off-center stems and lighter-colored, tooth-like growths of one-eighth to a quarter-inch long. Look for these mushrooms around hardwood trees from August to November.
Identify the King Bolete (Boletus edulis) by its smooth, light- or reddish-brown cap that's 2 to 10 inches wide. The King Bolete has a convex cap with no gills and a thick stem. Find King Bolete mushrooms in Connecticut growing from August through late November under oak, hemlock, birch, beech or apple trees and in mixed forests.
Spot the Aborted Entoloma (Entoloma abortivum) by looking for its half- to 4-inch whitish, bumpy cap that has a slight depression at the center. Aborted Entoloma mushrooms have no gills and a long stem one-quarter to a half-inch thick. Find these mushrooms in Connecticut during September and October, growing near or on rotting wood and around the root zones of older diseased or dying trees.
Identify Mushrooms on Lawns and Pastures
Look for wild mushrooms in Connecticut with 4- to 12-inch-wide white to yellowish-tan caps growing in September through November in lawns and pastures. These are "horse mushrooms" (agaricus arvensis), which have sharp-edged, darker-colored gills that aren't attached to the long, 3- to 10-inch-tall stem.
Spot puffball mushrooms (calvatia gigantea or c. cyathiformis) in late spring or fall growing individually or sometimes in groups on lawns, fields or pastures. The outside and flesh of puffballs should be completely white, like the inside of a bread loaf. Puffballs grow very large and spherical, the size of a grapefruit or larger, and have no visible stem.
Spot the Shaggy Mane or Lawyer's Wig mushroom (coprinus comatus) growing during summer and autumn in Connecticut in grass, rocky soil or wood chips. The Shaggy Mane has a whitish, shaggy cap that is 2 to 6 inches tall and only 1 to 2 inches wide. As the mushroom matures, the gills turn inky-black and the cap becomes gooey and disintegrates.
About this Author
Sarah Terry brings 10 years of experience writing novels, business-to-business newsletters, and a plethora of how-to articles. Terry has written articles and publications for a wide range of markets and subject matters, including Medicine & Health, Eli Financial, Dartnell Publications and Eli Journals.