The Definitive Guide to British Mushrooms and Fungi

Mushrooms are a delicious and easy to use ingredient in many dishes. It is important, however, to know which mushrooms you can eat and which British mushrooms and toadstools you should avoid. 

Many broader European guides specify different things, so we wanted to make this article as easy to follow as possible so you can identify more rather than fewer species.

There are nearly 15,000 types of wild mushrooms covering Britain and our complete guide aims to help you to accurately identify which ones are edible.

Just because it looks like a button mushroom doesn’t mean that is what it actually is. This complete guide will explain the different types of complete British mushrooms so that you can use them in your cooking with confidence! The below photographs help you identify different mushrooms and fungi too, so be sure to have a close look at them.

mushroom and fungus feature image

Table of Contents

Horse Mushroom

A mushroom with a strong, earthy taste and ring-like shape is great for large groups or those looking for a filling meal. It’s a great substitute for meat in dishes and can be used to flavour soups, stews and sauces.

Scientific Name – Agaricus arvensis

Cap – White, sometimes discoloured grey/brown and scaly or smooth. Beginning spherical then opening out flat. Can bruise slightly yellow in some cases.

Gills – The gills of the mushroom turn from pink and grey to brown with age. They are crowded on unopened caps, making them look like a cog wheel when seen close up.

Stem – Stout with a large double ring.

Skirt – Usually large in size at the beginning but can become damaged or shrink to ring size.

Flesh – Usually white and firm and can become yellow once bruised. The flesh has an aniseed aroma.

Taste – strong and earthy and has an excellent flavour. The smell of aniseed should be an obvious way to identify mushrooms found. This should be cooked before consumed.

horse mushroom

The Prince Mushroom

The mushroom is best picked from the wild away from urban spaces and busy roads to avoid heavy metal carcinogens.

Scientific Name – Agaricus augustus

Cap – This mushroom has a spherical shape when it is young, but as they age, the mushrooms start to grow in size and become convex. The shade ranges from chestnut brown scales on a white background that can turn yellow if touched.

Gills – The mushrooms gills start off white and mature to dark brown. They are crowded, not attached to the stem.

Stem – The mushrooms stem is white to pale cream and smooth above the skirt. On closer inspection, it’s obvious that below the cap of this mushroom lurks a patterned layer with small brown scales on its surface.

Skirt – A large skirt that usually hangs down loosely.

Flesh – In most cases in white but can have a yellow tinge when it is cut or bruised.

Taste – This mushroom is amazing. It smells like bitter almonds when raw, but tastes good in a meal once cooked.

Agaricus augustus

Pavement Mushroom

The common pavement mushroom is a reliable find for most people, but it’s important to check the underside of the cap before picking these mushrooms.

Scientific Name – Agaricus bitorquis

Cap – The hard white or greyish-brown caps are convex in form and have wrinkles around their edges where they join with the stem. They can be shaped like an umbrella or more round looking.

Gills – Pale cream that turns pale pink when bruised, crowded together on older specimens, running down from under the rim of the cap.

Stem – Brown colouration at joints between stem and gills, turning orange-brown as you go up closer to the skirt which usually has lighter colouring than rest of fungus.

Skirt – Usually long double-edged skirt which is relative to width visible above.

Flesh – white or cream and firm turning pink once cut.

Taste – strong with an obvious mushroom taste. Should always be cooked before consuming.

Agaricus bitorquis

Medusa Mushroom

This really delicious Agaric is still a rare find in most books but it seems to have become more common in the UK over the last couple of years, with patches and clusters being found all around. However, they need careful cleaning as there are still grit particles on them from where they grew near one another.

Scientific Name – Agaricus bohusii

Cap – These mushrooms literally burst out of the ground, so it’s easy to find them. They have pointed scales that are brown and triangular in form on their caps which often get covered with dirt from being underground.

Gills – Creamy white or pink in shade turning brown to dark brown. Crowded and free from the stem.

Stem – The mushroom has a long spindle-like stem and grows from the centre of each cluster. The mushrooms in the clusters are joined at their bases, with white flesh that becomes brown when bruised or damaged.

Skirt – This mushroom has a thick skirt that usually grows near the top of its stem. It’s pale brown, scaly and can appear double-ringed at times.

Flesh – Creamy white, then quickly turns a reddish-brown colour when cut and exposed, finally turning a darker brown colour.

Taste – Has an obvious mushroomy taste, but make sure you wash these thoroughly before cooking to avoid having grit in your meal.

medusa mushroom

Field Mushroom

Field mushrooms are a delicious, edible mushroom that can be found in most woodland places. They grow wild and they’re fairly easy to spot, usually clustered together under trees or near stumps also found in pastures, lawns, meadows and on road verges.

Scientific Name – Agaricus campestris

Cap – The mushroom has a white, often it can become discoloured grey/brown and can be scaley or smooth. It starts spherical and opens out flat. It often bruises slightly pink but also displays the cuticle which hangs over the edge of the cap.

Gills – Deep pink in colour turning brown to dark brown and crowded

Stem – A white and smooth stem can be found on this mushroom which tapers at the base. The ring is delicate and can usually only be seen in traces if it can be found at all.

Skirt – Very small and delicate and doesn’t last very long

Flesh – White and bruises a soft pink colour

Taste – A mushroomy taste and should be cooked before being eaten.

field mushroom

The Great Wood Mushroom

This mushroom is a smaller mushroom that resembles The Prince mushroom but is slightly darker and has the same almondy smell. It bruises or oxidises red (more so than The Prince).

Scientific Name – Agaricus Langei

Cap – Spherical cap when young that matures into a convex form. They are covered in concentric reddish-brown scales on their white background.

Gills – Start out pink and mature to brown. They are crowded together with no stem attachment.

Stem – Is white to pale cream with red hints, smooth and silky above the skirt while rough below.

Skirt – Is a single white fleshy ring that hangs down with brown to grey floccules on the underside.

Flesh – Often white but when it oxidises turns to a pink/ reddish colour. The base of the stem of older mushrooms can be more of a yellowish colour.

Taste – Has an almond aroma and tastes strong and mushroomy.

great wood mushroom

The Blushing Wood Mushroom

Scientific Name – Agaricus silvaticus

Cap – Is brown on the top with a conical form. There are folds or wrinkles that appear on the surface of the cap and it also has a pronounced raised margin. The cap is rather fleshy and has an apricot colouring when young but matures to be a darker brown with red tones.

Gills – Broad and deep, they also have a pinkish-brown colour and can be seen through the cap. They are crowded.

Stem – Starting white when young but turns brown to grey in colour as it matures. It is solid and cylindrical with white flesh underneath. The stem also has patches that can be seen as lighter brown or white specks with a bulbous base.

Skirt – Has a white ring that hangs down from the stem and is also fleshy. It is often dirty-looking with brown floccules underneath.

Flesh – White with a slight tinge of pink, staining very red when cut and eventually turns brown

Taste – It has an almondy odour and tastes mushroomy.

The Blushing Wood Mushroom

Wood Mushroom

Scientific Name – Agaricus silvicola

Cap – White to grey with a conical form. It is often covered by patches of scales. It also bruises reddish-brown when handled or touched and becomes yellow with age.

Gills – Pale grey/ pink at the start but turn browner, its gills are crowded together and have no stem attachment.

Stem – Is solid white at first then matures into light brown which can be seen through the skirt if you look closely enough for it to change colour. It has a bulbous base

Skirt – Is a single white fleshy ring that hangs down from the stem and is also fleshy. The spores usually stain it.

Flesh – White and thin.

Taste – Has an almond/ aniseed odour that gradually becomes stronger and tastes mushroomy. Cook before consuming.

Agaricus silvicola

Macro Mushroom

This mushroom is one of the most common in Britain and can be found from May to November. Susceptible to maggots and rare to find without them.

Scientific Name – Agaricus urinascens

Cap – The cap is a brown to dark red colour. It has an umbo (a swelling from which the stalk arises) and there are scales on its margin.

Gills – Crowded and has a very distinctive pink gill, it later turns brown and almost black.

Stem – White/ creamy coloured, fleshy and has scales on its margin.

Skirt – White and flimsy and can easily fall off when brushed or washed

Flesh – White to cream coloured with red staining when cut

Taste – Has a strong mushroomy taste. Wash thoroughly before eating.

Agaricus urinascens

Orange Peel Fungus

One of the most unusual and edible fungu’s is completely unmistakable.

Scientific Name – Aleuria aurantia

Fruiting Body – The orange, bright red and brown coloured fruiting bodies are all edible. They have droplets on the underside of the cap when cut and will turn black or grey if stained by other substances (most likely to be dirt and soil).

Pores – Too small to see with the naked eye and are round to angular. They can appear brown or white and they are visible through the top of the fruiting body. As the fungus grows, they will merge into larger pores as well as change colours.

Stem – Non-existent, This Britain’s fungi have a thickening in the middle of the cap that extends to the centre.

Flesh – Same colour as the underneath of the cap and very thin.

Taste – Mushroomy and delicious

orange peel fungus

Orange Grisette

This Amanita is a tricky mushroom to identify, as the veil will sometimes disintegrate and leave behind remnants on top of its cap. It can be found in varying shades from orange hues that are bright enough for you not to miss them against the woodland floor or yellow colourings so pale they seem almost white amongst other mushrooms.

Scientific Name – Amanita crocea

Cap – The cap is convex and the shade varies from yellow to orange, it has a broad, central and flattened umbo.

Gills – The gills are white with a few discolourations of olive-brown. They are crowded together.

Stem – The stem is pale orange and has a fragile ring that is usually stained yellow with brown stains. The base can be coloured orange with the same brown stains. It does not have a veil or volva.

Flesh – Thin and white.

Taste – It has a sweet, musty odour that is mushroomy with an almond after taste.

Amanita crocea

Grey Spotted Amanita

This mushroom is not safe for a keen amateur. It can be difficult to distinguish this species from the toxic Panther Cap which is extremely poisonous.

Scientific Name – Amanita excelsa

Cap – Is a tawny brown shade with apricot tones. There are also white spots all over the cap.

Gills – Broad and deep, they have pinkish-brown colours with dark red shades towards their margins. They’re crowded together which gives them a wavy appearance.

Stem – Starting white when young but turns brown to grey in colour as it matures. It is solid and cylindrical with white flesh which becomes bulbous at the base.

Skirt – Has a white ring that hangs down from the stem and is also fleshy. It has patches that can be seen as lighter brown. This can be similar with the poisonous Panther Cap, but they can be distinguished by their shade.

Flesh – White.

Taste – Has an almondy/ nutty taste and is edible when cooked.

Amanita excelsa

The Blusher

This is one of the most iconic mushrooms found in Britain and Ireland. It has a reddish-orange cap and should be cooked before being consumed.

Scientific Name – The Blusher

Cap – Ranges from brown or red to orange, but what marks this mushroom out are the white flecks that appear across its surface as well as on top of the stem.

Gills – They’re crowded together and range in colour from pale yellow to pinky-brown and free from the stem.

Stem – White/cream coloured which goes darker at the base where there’s often patches of dark material present too. It may have rings around it if some skin was left behind.

Skirt – The skirt is white, has fine grooves and hangs down from the stem.

Flesh – White but has hints of red when bruised or cut.

Taste – Has a nutty taste when cooked. Does contain toxins so must be cooked before consumed.

Amanita rubescens

Grisette

The Grisette mushroom is not so easy to find, as it’s usually found during the wetter months and in shady places.

Scientific Name – Amanita vaginata

Cap – The cap starts ovate, but will flatten out. Unlike some Amanitas it doesn’t usually have any remains of the volva sticking to the cap; instead, there are striations at its edge in line with that of the gills below.

Gills – Are white and very close together. They’re also pale brown in coloured towards their margins and will sometimes have a reddish-brown colouring at their edge. There’s often small amounts of dirt on the gill edges too that will need cleaning before cooking this mushroom.

Stem – The stem is usually white or pale in shade, but it has a rough appearance. The base will start to grey as the mushroom gets older and this stems from the gills turning brown.

Skirt – Doesn’t have one

Flesh – The flesh is thin, white and can become hollow.

Taste – Has a sweet, nutty taste when cooked.

Amanita vaginata

Honey Fungus

The honey fungus is usually found growing in small groups under coniferous trees or around decaying hardwood.

Scientific Name – Armillaria mellea

Cap – The surface of this mushroom is at first perfectly cone-shaped, and then it curves to become convex. It even sometimes has upturned edges! The color is a beautiful honey brown hue with an ochre tint that goes from light yellowish.

Gills – These range from light yellow through orange-yellow tones towards their margins; there’s not much of a contrast between the two colours.

Stem – The stem is white and has an almost woolly appearance to it; some have pink-

Skirt – This ring is usually so high on the stem that it appears as a double band of yellow with chrome edges.

Flesh – The flesh is white and has a sponge-like texture.

Taste – This mushroom is a delicacy, and can be found in large numbers. When cooked it tastes great but some people may experience mild stomach problems when consuming them.

honey fungus

Wood Ears

The wood ear is a common mushroom, often found in hedgerows and damp patches.

Scientific Name – Auricularia auricula-judae

Fruiting Body – This is tan, red/brown in colour with ear-shaped folds that extend from the top to bottom of its cap.

Pores – When you look at a fungus from the bottom, it’s smoother and lighter than when you see it from above.

Stem – No obvious stem

Flesh – Translucent, thin and jelly-like.

Taste – Doesn’t have a strong distinctive taste, but is often cooked in Asian style cooking and ground into a fine powder to be used as stock.

wood ears

Butter Bolete

This mushroom is a great and usually large fungus, almost as good as the Penny Bun with a firm texture.

Scientific Name – Boletus / Butyriboletus appendiculatus

Cap – The cap of the mushroom is a rusty to red-brown colour with an irregular shape that becomes more cracked towards the centre.

Pores – Lemon yellow hue, tight sponge-like holes that darken to an Olive green. These will bruise into blue and Blue/Green tones with age.

Stem – Usually straight or clavate, club-shaped. It starts out with a lemon yellow top and then changes to pale orange at the base that has reticulation (a mesh-like covering).

Flesh – When the stem is young and fresh it has a creamy, buttery texture but will turn brick red when bruised.

Taste – Has a mild, creamy taste. Often cooked with bacon and butter in an oven dish to produce a rich flavour that’s delicious when paired with potatoes or pasta.

butter bolete

Peppery Bolete

The caps of the Chili pepper-like fungi are typically dried and ground to be used as a spicy condiment on food or cooked in dishes. 

Scientific Name – Boletus / Chalciporus piperatus

Cap – Cinnamon to brown in colour, the surface is dry and has a wavy edge.

Pores – Angular brownish pores.

Stem -cinnamon coloured with a reticulated (net-like) surface

Flesh – It starts off as pale yellow and then turns reddish.

Taste – Has a strong, peppery taste.

Peppery Bolete

Chestnut Bolete

The Chestnut Bolete is a common mushroom that can usually be found near the base of trees and underfoot. The most distinctive feature about this fungus is its pale yellow spore print, which helps to identify it from other mushrooms in the family Boletaceae.

Scientific Name – Boletus / Gyroporus castaneus

Cap – The surface of this fungus starts out as a pale brown colour and then changes to reddish-brown. It has a velvety, fibrous texture with intricate lines on its top layer.

Gills – These are a pale creamy-yellow and found in arcs.

Stem – They are off-white to pale orange to chestnut with a hollow stem and white flesh.

Flesh – Smooth, white, and unchanging when exposed to air. May have a pink flush.

Taste – Mild mushroom flavour. Must be cooked before eaten.

chestnut bolete

Hortiboletus bubalinus

This is one of the most popular wild mushrooms in England and Wales. It can be found around damp meadows, lawns, woodland verges or on heaths with a velvety texture to its cap that’s brownish/ orange.

Scientific Name – Hortiboletus / mutabilis

Cap – Pale brown and often with a slight red or yellow hue, lighter at the edges. Starts of round but becoming more flattened and less even as it ages.

Pores – Yellow to pale yellows and sometimes with olivaceous hints. They have angular shapes, not round and they bruise blue/green

Stem – Is thin, and its background has a pale colour with red vertical fibres.

Flesh – Off white/yellow in the stem. White in the cap which stains a bluish-pink colour under the cut

Taste – Very mild.

Hortiboletus bubalinus

Ruby Bolete

These mushrooms are not only rare in the UK, but they have a soapy taste too.

Scientific Name – Boletus / Hortiboletus Rubellus

Cap – a scarlet red that fades to an olivaceous hue and it’s dry with a velvety texture. It starts out convex but flattens as it ages, sometimes being concave in shape.

Pores – Pores that fade to a greyish-yellow, and bruise blue.

Stem – Red with a yellow top under the cap and yellow mycelial threads.

Flesh – Yellowish-blue-stained when cut on top of the cap, with red to pink under the cap’s skirt.

Taste – Has a soapy taste that isn’t overly pleasant.

Ruby Bolete
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