As we dive deeper and deeper into the world of fungi, we are finding out that there are a lot of myths about mushrooms that are NOT true! Humans have had much of this knowledge for a very long time! Science is allowing us to figure out which ones are true and which are just myths and rumors.
As we work with mycologists and medicinal mushroom experts to dispel some of these myths and get to the hard facts, we have found some myths that may just be rooted in mycophobia, a fear of fungi, and some that are a bit more complex. A particularly dangerous mushroom myth that we have come across on our journey to learn more about medicinal mushrooms and mushroom foraging is about mushroom color:
Toxic mushrooms always have bright colors.
This is NOT TRUE! Though this rule sometimes applies to things like amphibians, where really poisonous frogs sport bright reds, blues, and yellows, it does not work at all for fungi!
Though mushroom color may be an important factor in helping you to identify a species, like the classic red and white Amanita muscaria, not all toxic mushrooms are bright, in fact some of the most dangerous mushrooms are pure white, such as the “Destroying Angel,” and some of our favorite medicinal mushrooms are very colorful, like Turkey Tail!
So when learning how to identify mushrooms for foraging, it is really important to get rid of the idea that a toxic mushroom is a colorful one.
Though mushroom foraging can seem tricky, and can be dangerous if you don’t know what you are doing, it is worth noting that we don’t want anyone to get discouraged from learning how to forage mushrooms. At the end of the day, we just want everyone to make sure they are learning all they can about fungi and how to identify which mushrooms are safe, and which are not, before they try anything on their own.
Read more about the coloration in mushrooms and some ideas behind how these myths came to be in this blog here!