Not every mushrooms is as innocent as it looks
Whether you like backyard biodiversity or have kids and pets running around, it’s important to know what’s growing on your lawn. Many lawn mushroom types commonly sprout up in yards, especially during rainy seasons. While some mushrooms are harmless (and even play a huge role in local ecologies), others are downright deadly. It’s important to know what common mushrooms are safe to keep around and which ones to remove ASAP.
What Are Lawn Mushrooms?
As kids, we saw mushrooms as magical toadstools for gnomes and fairies. As adult homeowners, we see them as potentially deadly nuisances. From Mother Nature's perspective, mushrooms are the garbage collectors of your lawn.
The bulbous, hat-shaped mushrooms popping their heads out from your grass are just the fruiting portions of the fungus. As the reproductive portion of the mushroom, the head's purpose is to scatter spores around your yard with help from the wind.
The rest of the mushroom stays firmly bunkered underground to fulfill its duty as part of the local garbage crew. That's because mushrooms work underground to break up dead material in your lawn. It's not a selfish task. As this organic matter gets broken up, its nutrients are exposed. These nutrients become readily usable "food" for your grass.
The things that mushrooms like to eat from your soil include dead grass, old plant roots, old wood, and droppings left behind by local wildlife.
Why Do I Have Mushrooms in My Yard?
Different factors can cause your yard to turn into a mushroom field. First, yards with high organic content are mushroom magnets. That's because mushrooms see your yard as a smorgasbord of nutrition if your soil is bursting with organic content.
An abundant mushroom city in your lawn isn't necessarily a sign that something is wrong. In fact, having lots of mushrooms is a sign that your soil is healthy and alive. However, poisonous mushrooms create cause for concern. Take a look at the most common reasons why your yard has mushrooms.
You Have a Shaded Yard
Mushrooms adore damp, shady yards. You'll often find them growing outwardly from an epicenter of soggy, soft brush. Trimming some of your tree branches to let in the sunlight is one of the easiest ways to address mushrooms growing near your home.
You Have Rotting Wood in Your Yard
An uptick in mushroom proliferation is often a sign there's rotting wood in your yard. That usually means old tree roots and stumps. Balancing the wood content in your soil with leafy greens can be a way to fix this issue. Removing old tree stumps is one option, and mulching with greens is another.
You Have Compacted Soil
How can you tell if your soil is compacted? The telltale sign is standing water that remains on your lawn long after rain has come and gone. Perpetually damp soil is often compacted soil. In order to increase drainage, lawn aeration may be necessary.
You've Had Lots of Rain Lately
If you're suddenly experiencing an onslaught of mushrooms in your yard this year, the issue may have started in the sky instead of the ground. Mushrooms tend to form after heavy rains, so they may have sprouted due to a perfect storm of rainy, cloudy weather that gave them time to bloom.
You've Been Overwatering Your Lawn
It's possible that being overzealous with trying to get new grass to grow has caused mushroom growth. Try watering your lawn just enough to keep your grass healthy without creating an environment that's wet enough to attract fungi.
Common Lawn Mushroom Types
Check out these 12 types of mushrooms frequently found in yards.
1. Ringless Honey Mushroom
In your yard, you might come across ringless honey mushrooms growing on tree stumps or tree trunks, particularly oak trees. As the name suggests, these mushrooms have a golden cap that is the color of honey, and you’ll usually find these growing from September to November. While fungi can play an important role in ecosystems, get rid of these mushrooms if they show up in your yard: ringless honey mushrooms can kill trees by preventing them from receiving water and nutrients.
Scientific name: Desarmillaria caespitosa, formerly Armillaria tabescens
Size: These mushrooms grow 2 to 8 inches tall and 1 to 4 inches wide.
Location: Eastern U.S.
2. Meadow Mushroom
You'll find these mushrooms in backyards despite being known as a meadow or field mushroom. They have white or gray-brown caps with pink or brown gills underneath and grow amid the grass during the summer. While harmless, they resemble a deadly mushroom we’ll discuss later, so be sure to keep kids and pets away if you’re unsure.
Scientific name: Agaricus campestris
Size: Meadow mushrooms are short, about 1 to 2 inches, and the caps grow 1 to 4 inches wide.
Location: This species grows across North America and can also be found across parts of Asia, Europe, New Zealand, and northern Africa.
3. Haymaker Mushroom
It’s a mushroom by many names: the haymaker’s, mower’s, lawn mowers, or brown hay mushroom. This little brown mushroom is common in yards across North America and Europe, and although it isn’t poisonous, it is inedible, so keep kids and pets away. Surprisingly, these mushrooms prefer frequently mowed lawns and can quickly take over your property.
Scientific name: Panaeolus foenisecii
Size: These mushrooms are about 1 to 3 inches tall with caps less than 1.5 inches wide.
Location: Haymower’s mushrooms exist across North America (particularly the Pacific Northwest) and Europe.
4. Lawyer’s Wig
Known also as shaggy mane or shaggy ink cap, the lawyer’s wig mushroom will stand tall among blades of grass. It starts as a long, white mushroom but quickly shrivels from the bottom up and turns inky black when picked or ready to release its spores.
Scientific name: Coprinus comatus
Size: Lawyer’s wig mushrooms grow 2 to 8 inches tall and about 2 inches wide.
Location: This mushroom is common across North America and Europe.
The aptly named puffball mushrooms are several different types of ’shrooms, including the giant puffballs, which can grow up to 2 feet wide. If you step on the smaller varieties in your lawn, they will release brown spores. These unique mushrooms don’t have gills or stems.
Scientific name: Multiple
Size: Puffball sizes vary by species, but this mushroom can grow up to 2 feet wide.
Location: These mushrooms grow globally in temperate locations.
6. Fairy Ring Mushrooms
Fairy rings are a common lawn problem or magical experience, depending on your perspective. These rings of mushrooms pop up in lawns that are moist and rich in nutrients. While fairy rings can consist of dozens of different species of mushrooms, fairy ring mushrooms (Marasmius oreades) are a common species part of this phenomenon.
Scientific name: Marasmius oreades
Size: This species grows about 0.75 to 3 inches tall and 0.4 to 2 inches tall. Fairy rings, the circles taking over your lawn, can span up to 15 feet in diameter.
Location: Fairy ring mushrooms may pop up in lawns across North America and Europe.
According to a 2018 study, there are about 7,400 cases of mushroom poisoning in the U.S. per year, and many of those are related to the widespread vomiter mushroom, also called false parasol or green-spored parasol. It’s often confused for a lawyer’s wig mushroom, but true to its name, this mushroom will make you vomit excessively if ingested. Keep an eye out for its green spores and do not let kids or pets eat these mushrooms.
Scientific name: Chlorophyllum molybdites
Size: Caps may be 2 to 12 inches wide, and the mushrooms may grow 2 to 10 inches tall.
Location: This poisonous mushroom is common in North America.
8. Destroying Angel
If you see a tall, bright-white mushroom in your yard, usually around oak trees, destroy it ASAP. Destroying angels, or death angels, are incredibly poisonous mushrooms that you need to remove if kids or pets run around your lawn. After removing these often deadly mushrooms, you will need to fertilize and aerate the lawn to prevent mushroom regrowth.
Scientific name: Amanita bisporigera
Size: This mushroom can grow 4 to 10 inches tall and 1 to 5.5 inches wide.
Location: Destroying angels are common in eastern regions of North America and Europe but less common in Mexico and Central America.
9. Common Stinkhorn
With a name that won't have it winning a popularity contest anytime soon, the common stinkhorn is a mushroom that's a common sight in forested yards and mulched gardens. This mushroom is infamous for its pungent odor that resembles rotted meat. Unfortunately, this smell has been known to attract dogs. It's important to keep pets away from common stinkhorn mushrooms if you see them growing in your yard because they can make pets sick.
Scientific name: Phallus impudicus
Size: A mature common stinkhorn mushroom can grow to reach between 3.9 inches 11.8 inches in height. Caps grow to reach 1.6 inches.
Location: Common stinkhorn mushrooms are common throughout Europe and North America. In the United States, they are mostly seen around Florida and the Gulf Coast.
10. Horse Mushroom
Commonly found around stables and meadows, horse mushrooms resemble white orbs. Many people describe the odor of horse mushrooms as being like anise. Foragers actually favor horse mushrooms due to their large size and pleasant flavor.
Scientific name: Agaricus arvensis
Size: While horse mushroom stalks can reach 2 inches to 5 inches, caps can grow to span from 2.8 inches to just under 8 inches.
Location: These mushrooms are seen flourishing in green spaces throughout Great Britain, the United States, and parts of Asia.
11. Death Cap Mushroom
The name of these mushrooms says it all. In fact, their scientific name actually means "deadly poisonous." Featuring a stem with a skirt-like ring, these mushrooms are often easy to recognize due to their pungent odor. When accidently consumed, their highly poisonous effects on the liver can take up to 14 hours to manifest. Keep a safe distance if you spot them in your yard!
Scientific name: Amanita phalloides
Size: These deadly mushrooms are between 1.5 inches and 7 inches tall. Caps often span 2 inches to 5 inches across.
Location: While these mushrooms are found throughout the United States and Europe, their high concentration in urban neighborhoods around San Francisco makes them especially dangerous.
12. Yellow Bolbitius
Also known as the yellow fieldcap mushroom, this slick and tiny mushroom varies in color between yellow and green. Their rounded tops can make these mushrooms appear like colored marbles in your yard from a distance. You're more likely to see these mushrooms if you have a heavily composted yard.
Scientific name: Bolbitius titubans
Size: With heights ranging from just 1 inch to 5 inches, it's rare for a patch of these mushrooms to look uniform. Cap width generally maxes out at just under 3 inches.
Location: These mushrooms grow in Britain, Ireland, parts of mainland Europe, and the United States.
How to Prevent Mushrooms in Your Yard
Mushrooms love wet, shaded areas. If you want to get rid of mushrooms in your yard, you have to create the opposite environment. Here are some ways to make your yard inhospitable to common mushrooms:
Remove trees that create shade around your home.
Remove rotting wood and tree stumps from your yard.
Address drainage issues that cause your yard to remain damp.
Hire a prof to aerate your yard. Aeration is a process that creates holes in your soil to allow air and water to enter the grass root.
Hire a local lawn care service to professionally dethatch your grass. Dethatching removes the layer of grass, roots, stems, and crowns between your grass and soil that could be feeding mushrooms.
Paige Bennett contributed to this piece.
Frequently Asked Questions
Telling the difference between poisonous and nonpoisonous mushrooms is difficult even for trained mushroom experts and biologists! However, nature provides some red flags for poisonous mushrooms. Assume that any mushroom with a red cap or stem is poisonous. You should also assume mushrooms with white gills, rings, skirts, or a sack-like base are poisonous.
Touching toxic mushrooms will generally not cause harm unless you consume them. It's important to thoroughly wash hands after handling any type of mushroom to prevent accidental ingestion.
Just picking a mushroom doesn't kill it. The visible part of a mushroom that comes up from the ground is the fruiting body of a much larger mushroom that is safely buried underground. It's similar to the way that picking an apple from a tree doesn't cause tree harm.