We all grew up thinking that mushrooms were those cute little red plant/vegetable things with white polka dots. And then, as adults, we started eating the normal grey ones with our eggs and steaks. But these are not the mushrooms you want to sauté on your frying pan.
These are the mushrooms you actually want to run away from if you see them in real life. But chances are, you’re not going to see them since many are found in jungles and forests around the world. So let’s just sit here in the safety of our homes and offices and look in awe at the strangest fungi species you won’t believe are actually real.
Scientific Name: Hydnellum peckii
Also Known As bleeding tooth or tooth of the devil
This scary thing is a fungus known as the bleeding tooth in which its thick red fluid oozes through its tiny pores, creating the appearance of blood. In one word: ew.
Scientific Name: Auricularia auricula
Also Known As Jelly ear, Wood ear
If I didn’t see this photo on a weird mushroom list, I would really have figured that this tree was growing ears. I mean, come on! I swear, it’s stuff like this that makes me think Mother Nature is playing with our minds.
Scientific Name: Cordycep
Also Known As zombie fungus
Forget about the Walking Dead. This is the real deal! Ants, moths, grasshoppers, wasps and hundreds of insect species regularly fall victim to a deadly fungus that hijacks their bodies and brains! It causes causing strange behaviors and eventually leads them to their deaths. it’s all due to the fungus called cordycep. It’s so deadly that the ants have actually figured out how to avoid it.
Scientific Name: Coprinus comatus
Also Known As The shaggy ink cap, lawyer’s wig, or shaggy mane
This is going to sound weird, but this fungus is poisonous only for people who drink alcohol. People have died from eating these ink caps and then drinking afterward. People who drink alcohol anywhere from 3 hours to 5 days after eating an ink cap will feel their face turn red, their limbs tingling, and their heart beating fast. Then comes the nausea, vomiting, and in severe cases, heart problems.
Scientific Name: Xylaria polymorpha
Also Known As Dead man’s fingers
If this mushroom species doesn’t look like the fingers of a dead person escaping his grave, then I don’t know what does. This mushroom is commonly found in forests and woodland areas, usually growing from the base of rotting or injured tree stumps and decaying wood.
Scientific Name: Gyromitra esculenta
Also Known As False morels
This mushroom has a real cerebral appearance, looking like a mini brain. It’s widely found across Europe and North America. It typically fruits in sandy soils under coniferous trees.
Scientific Name: Nidulariaceae
Also Known As: Birds nest fungi
The Nidulariaceae are commonly known as the bird’s nest fungi due to their fruiting bodies that resemble little egg-filled birds’ nests. These are less creepy as they are cute. You kind of just wish that those mushroom caps would hatch into little mushroom babies.
Scientific Name: Phallus indusiatus
Also Known As Bamboo mushrooms, bamboo pith, long net stinkhorn, crinoline stinkhorn or veiled lady
Wanna know what this pretty mushroom smells like? Just imagine a dead animal mixed up with mushroom and garlic. Yeah… The reason it smells like that is to attract flies and help spread its spores.
Scientific Name: Hericium Erinaceus
Also Known As lion’s mane mushroom, monkey head mushroom, bearded tooth mushroom, satyr’s beard, bearded hedgehog mushroom, pom pom mushroom, or bearded tooth fungus
Believe it or not, this mushroom is actually edible and even considered a delicacy. It also has medicinal properties thanks to all of its treitol, arabinitol, and palmitic acid.
Scientific Name: Clathrus archeri
Also Known As octopus stinkhorn, or devil’s fingers
Clathrus archeri, aka the octopus stinkhorn and devil’s fingers, looks like a zombie hand protruding from the ground. When this fungus reaches maturity, it smells like putrid flesh. These have been reportedly seen in the Shola Forests in India.
Scientific Name: Gomphaceae Amethystina
Also Known As amethyst deceiver
What a mystical sounding name, huh? Why the name deceiver? Because its bright amethyst coloration fades with age and weather, becoming difficult to identify. The mushroom is edible, too, but it can absorb arsenic from the soil.
Scientific Name: Phillipsia subpurpurea
Also Known As: There’s no official nickname, but to me, they look like cups
The phillipsia subpurpurea is found in Australia, where it grows on wood. The fungus was first described scientifically by English mycologists Miles Joseph Berkeley and Christopher Edmund Broome.
Scientific Name: Banksia oblongifolia
Also Known As Fern-leaved, dwarf or rusty banksia
Sure, it’s called the dwarf banksia, but to me, this fungus looks like a tree monster. It’s found along the eastern coast of Australia and generally grows in sandy soils, open forest or swamps, and wet areas.
Scientific Name: Ascocoryne sarcoides
Also Known As: Jelly drops or the purple jellydisc
This fungus is known as jelly drops, but really, it looks a lot more like chopped intestines. Sorry to give you an unpleasant vision, but that’s just what it resembles.
Scientific Name: Lycoperdon perlatum
Also Known As Puffball, warted puffball, gem-studded puffball, or the devil’s snuff-box
This puffball is off-white with a top covered in bumps or “jewels,” which can easily be rubbed off to leave a netlike pattern. When mature, it becomes brown, and a hole opens to release spores in a burst either when the body is pushed, or there are falling raindrops.
Scientific Name: Clathrus Archeri
Also Known As octopus stinkhorn, or devil’s fingers
This is another fungus in the Clathrus Archeri. It has the nickname devil’s fingers (which the previous one did look like), but this one looks more like a bizarre alien species that could easily be used in a sci-fi flick.
Scientific Name: Pseudocolus fusiformis
Also Known As: Stinky Squid
The Fusiformis Psuedocolus looks like the child of a monstrous squid creature. It’s a stinkhorn mushroom that’s widely distributed in the United States, Australia, Japan, Java, and the Philippines. It is known as the stinky squid because of its fetid odor, and its three or four “arms.”
Scientific Name: Gymnosporangium juniperi-virginianae
Also Known As: Cedar-apple rust
Cedar-apple rust is a fungus that lives on apples and juniper trees, but it can’t survive completely on either of them. They drive the juniper to develop round, tumor-like galls. These are what are called “cedar apples.” When the first warm rain touches the orange horns, spores are released to infect the apple trees and continue the cycle.
Scientific Name: Microglossum viride
Also Known As: Green tongues of earth
It seems like all these mushrooms and fungi were nicknamed by people who came up with the first thing that came to their minds. Green earth tongues? Yup. That pretty much sums it up.
Scientific Name: Exidia Glandulosa
Also Known As Black witches’ butter, black jelly roll, or warty jelly fungus
These black jelly rolls are wood-rotting species commonly found in Europe, growing on dead attached branches of oak. The fruit bodies are up to 1.2 inches wide, shiny, black, and blister-like. They grow alone or in clusters.
Scientific Name: Craterellus cornucopioides
Also Known As Trumpet of the dead, black chanterelle, black trumpet, trompette de la mort (French), or trombetta dei morti (Italian).
This is one of the edible mushrooms. It Greek mythology, the Cornucopia is referred to as the magnificent horn of the nymph Amalthea’s goat that filled itself with whatever meat or liquid its owner requested. It became a symbol of plenty.
The name “trumpet of the dead” came from the belief that the mushrooms were seen as being played as trumpets by dead people underground.
Scientific Name: Colus hirudinosus
Also Known As: There isn’t a nickname for this fungus, but I think it looks like a crown
Colus hirudinosus is found in Asia, Australia, northern Africa, and southern Europe. The fruiting body divides into spongy, wrinkled, and orange to red columns that collect at the top, forming a lattice.
Scientific Name: Cookeina
Also Known As Mini birdbath mushrooms, or Cup Mushrooms
Cookeina is a family of tiny Cup Mushrooms that grow on rotting wood all over the world. When it rains, the mushroom cup fills up with water like a mini birdbath.
Scientific Name: Pholiota aurivella
Also Known As Golden scaly cap mushroom
It’s found in the American West and Southwest, typically in the late Summer and Fall. Some say it’s edible, but other sources list its edibility as “to be avoided.”
Scientific Name: Mycena Chlorophos
Also Known As Night light mushrooms
Many fungi are bioluminescent, but no one is certain as to why. The main idea is that the light lures insects the same way that stinkhorns use their odor. There have been suggestions that such genetic engineering could eventually be used to make trees that glow in the dark to light paths.
Scientific Name: Chorioactis
Also Known As The devil’s cigar or the Texas star
In the US, this mushroom is known as the Texas Star, while in Japan, it is called kirinomitake. This extremely rare mushroom is known for its unusual appearance and disjunct distribution – it’s found only in select places in Texas and Japan.
Scientific Name: Morchella Esculenta
Also Known As common morel, morel, yellow morel, true morel, morel mushroom, or sponge morel
This is a fungus that looks like a combination of a giant walnut, a mutant sponge, and a brain. Funnily enough, it’s one of the most readily recognized edible mushrooms and highly sought after.
Scientific Name: Actaea pachypoda
Also Known As Doll’s eye mushrooms
This wicked fungi sprouts eyeball-like orbs and carry a deadly cariogenic toxin that can lead to a cardiac arrest if eaten by humans. So don’t even try to be brave with this one.
Scientific Name: Aseroe rubra
Also Known As Anemone stinkhorn, sea anemone fungus, and starfish fungus
This is a mature Aseroe Rubra, recognizable for its foul odor and its sea anemone shape. Found in gardens and grassy areas, it resembles a red star-shaped creature covered in brown slime.
Scientific Name: Phallus Impudicus
Also Known As Common stinkhorn… and if you want, you can think of better nicknames
This widespread fungus is recognizable for its foul smell and phallic shape when mature. It’s actually a common mushroom in Europe and North America. Despite its smell, it’s poisonous. The immature mushrooms are eaten in parts of France and Germany.
Scientific Name: clavarioid fungi
Also Known As Coral fungi
Would you be willing to stick your fingers in there? It would take the bravest of the brave to do something like that in a creepy fungus like this. But don’t worry, it’s harmless.
Scientific Name: Tacca chantrieri
Also Known As Black Bat flowers
This fungus really does look like a bat. And bats are scary. The fungi’s dangling fruit looks like bats sleeping upside down. Basically, if I see this thing, I’m running the other way.
Scientific Name: Calostoma fuscum
Also Known As Common pretty mouth
Pretty mouth? Why? It’s probably because an orange star-shaped mouth (stoma) covers a hole in the top, allowing white spores to be released when pressure is applied by animals or moving vegetation.
Scientific Name: Psychotria elata
Also Known As Hot lips or hooker’s Lips
Psychotria elata is found in rainforests in Central and South America, where its bright red color resembles puckered lips. These are often given as a gift of affection.
Scientific Name: scutellinia scutellata
Also Known As eyelash cup, the Molly eye-winker, the scarlet elf cap, the eyelash fungus or the eyelash pixie cup
You’ll recognize a scutellinia scutellata when you see one since it looks like its edge is growing eyelashes. The fungus is common in North America and Europe and has been seen on every continent.
Scientific Name: Lactarius indigo
Also Known As Indigo or blue milkcap
Commonly known as the indigo or blue milk cap, the fungus produces thick azure milk when pierced. It’s a color not seen very often in nature. And surprisingly, it’s edible.
Scientific Name: Trametes versicolor
Also Known As Turkey tail mushroom
The turkey tail mushroom is quite beautiful and is one of the most common mushrooms in North American woods. You can find it just about anywhere where dead logs and stumps are found.
Scientific Name: Spinellus fusiger
Also Known As: The bonnet mold
These are parasites that attack your basic mushroom-looking fungus. When its cap is sprouting a crazy fungal hairstyle, it can still be identified by snapping its stem to find its characteristic “blood.”
Scientific Name: Leotia lubrica
Also Known As: Jelly babies
The fungus produces small fruit bodies up to 2.4 inches in height. It’s described as inedible, despite its jelly nickname. Yet it’s been reported as a good edible. The mushroom is found in Europe, North America, Asia, and Australasia.
Scientific Name: Amanita muscaria
Also Known As Fly agaric or fly amanita
I felt like I needed to end this list with the classic red and white mushroom that we all saw in the fairytales and storybooks from the past. it’s so cute and pretty, isn’t it?