Mushroom or toadstool?

I’ve heard that these terms are regional and can vary from mushroom type to mushroom type. So in your mind is the Amanita muscaria a mushroom or a toadstool?

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This fungus is one of my favorites to come across out in the field, partly because of its bright colors and size. Not something I would try eating however. The side effects can be rather extreme.

They sprout up from the earth as a ball

They change shape rather quickly though, spreading out and leaving a ragged edge where the edges of the cap pull away from the stem.

Notice the ring around the center?

These red beauties can really range in size. This is a medium to large size one. I’ve included a nickel to help give it scale. (lost my car key at the time, didn’t realize I dropped it when pulling stuff for scale out of my pockets… Had to hike back a mile or two from my car when I noticed I couldn’t get in…)

About Galen Leeds Photography

Nature and wildlife photographer, exploring the world on his feet and from his kayak. Among other genres, he is one of the leading kayak photographers in Northern California. To learn more about him, visit him on his website-
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7 Responses to Mushroom or toadstool?

  1. Victor Ho says:

    Feel free to edit my comment/search. We call them mushrooms. And when you say ‘toadstool’ – Alice in Wonderland comes to mind. I’m a bit stumped by comment number three below. But there it is. remains important about toadstools and mushrooms are the following facts:

    Toadstools and mushrooms are the same and no scientific distinction exists between them.
    You cannot define either by shape, color, or appearance since there is no standard differentiation between either.
    Mushrooms aren’t fungi with caps and stems while toadstools lack caps and stems.
    Toadstools and mushrooms are not defined by level of toxicity: anything classed as either may be nontoxic, mildly toxic, hallucinogenic or extremely poisonous.
    You should never consume anything classed as toadstool or mushroom without having it first examined by a professional mushroom hunter.

  2. Maggie L R says:

    Beautiful colours, these are a great photo subject.
    Mushrooms remind me of great meals enjoyed, while toadstools remind me of my childhood as a Brownie, dancing around a toadstool as a Fairy.
    If there is any real difference, perhaps it is simply a regional thing.

  3. I thought argaric toadstool, Amanita muscaria, but I see by Victor’s research I may be wrong. But I too though of Alice, or more accurately, a very happy and wild Lewis Carrol.

  4. danitacahill says:

    I think of them as big mushrooms from my childhood days growing up inland from the Oregon Pacific Coast. Beautiful. Mom said never, ever to eat them.

  5. ehpem says:

    toadstool is an old word in English that seems to have meant the same thing as mushroom. Makes you wonder about these words – has anyone ever seen a toad sitting on a mushroom? And mushroom, that’s also a strange word, though it appears to be derived and mangled from a Latin word. Words are pretty interesting things, and so are these photos of things that have interesting words associated with them.

  6. Stunning photographs, Galen! Can’t help with deciding what to call them but I see you’ve had suggestions from Victor about that. I’ve seen these in a patch of woods near my house – they’re amazing, aren’t they?

  7. Jan Timmons says:

    Most creative series of these delightful, cheery shrooms I’ve seen, Galen. We see them in Alaska in summer, and as belly shots go, your series rates tops in my view! Wikipedia terms “Amanita muscaria” a poisonous fungus, but their whimsical hues and giant size capture my attention more than the technical name. Great shots!

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