There are approximately 38,000 different species and varieties of mushrooms on the planet. They come in all sorts of shapes, sizes and colors and can be dangerous or nutritious for humans. Mushrooms are not a plant; they are a type of fungi. This means that they feed on decaying matter around them. The state of Tennessee is home to a variety of common mushrooms both edible and poisonous. Know the difference between these types before you go mushroom hunting in Tennessee to avoid accidentally picking a poisonous one.
Oyster mushrooms are common throughout the United States and can be found in Tennessee. They are white, shaped like shells and generally bloom in the fall. These mushrooms come in a variety of sizes but have been known to spread to 18 inches in diameter. They are edible and are a favorite crop for mushroom farmers.
Jack-O-Lantern mushrooms are common poisonous mushrooms found throughout the U.S., including Tennessee. They get their name from their orange color. To add to their Halloween-like appearance, these mushrooms glow in the dark around the gills. Gills are long, thin and vertical strips of flesh underneath the mushrooms' caps, or round tops. Jack-O-Lantern mushrooms are not deadly, but humans get severe cramps, vomiting and diarrhea by ingesting them.
Destroying Angel Mushrooms
Destroying angel mushrooms are a common poisonous type of fungi. They contain a toxin that inhibits protein synthesis in the body and can be fatal to humans. This type of mushroom tends to pop from the ground in forests throughout the U.S. in the late spring and summer. They may sprout in residential lawns near buried organic matter as well. These mushrooms grow 6 to 8 inches tall and 5 to 6 inches in diameter.
Hen of the Woods Mushrooms
Hen of the woods mushrooms, also known as sheepshead or maitake mushrooms, can be found in Tennessee and other eastern states in the fall. This mushroom grows in rosette-like clusters attached to a branching stalk; some say it looks like a hen sitting on her eggs. They are gray to brown-gray in color, edible, and can weigh around 10 pounds. The hen of the woods mushroom is a well-documented medicinal fungus in China, said to help alleviate palsy, nerve pain, arthritis and stomach aliments.
Sweet Tooth Mushrooms
Sweet tooth mushrooms are sweet treats in Tennessee. They are also called hedgehog mushrooms for their spiky appearance. They typically grow anywhere oak trees grow, but are sometimes found around spruce and pine trees as well. They can come in a variety of sizes; the caps can range anywhere from 2 to 8 inches in diameter. In the southeast, including in Tennessee, they are generally considered intermediate in size.