How to Identify Wild Mushrooms in North Carolina

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North Carolina, home to a wide array of soil, plants and climates, provides an ideal atmosphere for a diverse collection of wild mushroom species. These mushrooms grow naturally in yards, forests and pastures on all types of soil and mulch, living and dead trees and stumps and even in basements and caves. While some of these mushrooms provide yummy raw or cooked treats for humans and animals, other types may upset stomachs, cause hallucinations and even death. Learning how to identify the wild mushrooms growing throughout North Carolina helps you to prevent sickness and death to yourself and others.

A bowl of assorted fresh-picked wild mushrooms.
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Step 1

Study the types of mushrooms that grow in North Carolina. Use the Internet or a field guide on North Carolina mushrooms to learn the scientific and common names of mushrooms, what they look like and whether the mushroom is edible or poisonous. This helps you to identify quickly the mushrooms when you visit the wilderness or simply encounter the fungus in your yard or garden. Begin by familiarizing yourself with the poisonous types of mushrooms found in North Carolina, so you know which to avoid eating in dire situations.

A basket filled with chantarelles covered with a sun hat.
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Step 2

Take your field guide with you into the woods and look up each mushroom you find before you pick it up or touch it at all. Take note of the mushrooms surroundings to help you in identifying the mushroom in the future. Some mushrooms prefer damp, shaded areas while others prefer dry ground and lots of sunlight.

A woman reads a field guide in the woods.
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Step 3

Learn the growing seasons for North Carolina mushrooms. Knowing which season a mushroom flourishes during helps in identifying many types of mushrooms. The edible morel mushroom, for example, grows during mid-spring when the area has received adequate rainfall in the early part of the season.

A morel mushroom grows on the forest floor.
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Tips & Warnings

  • Determine if a mushroom is edible or poisonous by watching the wildlife. If animals safely eat the plant, you can rest assured that you can safely consume or touch the mushroom.

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