Amidst the bushy bush and beneath the forest canopy lies a world where organisms with peculiar shapes, colors, and behaviors thrive – the world of mushrooms. Let’s explore the weirdest mushrooms that nature has come up with, the kind of fungi that have an impact on us from the get go.
1. Devil’s Cigar (Chorioactis geaster)
Also known as the Texas star, is a rare and peculiar mushroom that resembles a cigar when closed and expands into a star-shaped structure when open. Found in Texas and Japan, this mushroom is neither poisonous nor edible. It just is.
2. Bleeding Tooth Fungus (Hydnellum peckii)
This one earns its name from the drops of red fluid it secretes, resembling the appearance of “bleeding.” An unusual mushroom that is found in North America and Europe and features spiny teeth-like structures underneath its cap. Gourmands beware as this one is incredibly bitter!
3. Octopus Stinkhorn (Clathrus archeri)
Resembling an angry octopus readying to attack, the Octopus Stinkhorn emerges from a gelatinous egg, unfurling into tentacle-like arms covered in a dark, foul-smelling spore mass. This bizarre mushroom is known for its distinct and unappealing odor so just stick to taking a photo and go on your way.
4. Wrinkled Peach (Rhodotus palmatus)
A small, fan-shaped mushroom with a velvety texture and a peachy-pink hue, the kind of mushroom you would expect to pop up in a fairytale. Found on decaying wood, it adds a touch of color to the forest floor. But it won’t be adding anything to your plate, it tastes like bitter rubber.
5. Cordyceps Mushrooms (Cordyceps)
The Cordyceps fungi are known for their macabre method of parasitism. They infect insects, taking control of their bodies and ultimately sprouting out in eerie, elongated forms. These fungi have even inspired the fictional “zombie fungus” in popular culture. Generally thought to be safe to consume, we recommend asking your doctor first since these could cause some mild side effects.
6. Lion’s Mane Mushroom (Hericium erinaceus)
With its shaggy appearance resembling a lion’s mane, this mushroom is not only unique in its looks but also has a ton of potential health benefits. Lion’s Mane mushrooms are known for their potential cognitive and nerve health benefits, making them a sought-after edible and medicinal fungus. Also, we can’t be the only ones that get strong Dr. Seuss vibes from these.
7. Blue Mushroom (Entoloma hochstetteri)
Native to New Zealand, these blue thingies stand out for their vibrant electric blue color. It might make an impression from the moment you set your eyes on it but it’s important to note that this mushroom is toxic and not suitable for consumption.
8. Bird’s Nest Fungi (Nidulariaceae)
Yes, they got their names from the fact that they resemble miniature nests containing “eggs.” These eggs are in charge of releasing spores so they’re not just for show. Raindrops falling into the nest-like cups can cause the “eggs” to be projected out, helping to disperse the spores. Not poisonous but not edible either so yeah, give them a hard pass.
9. Earthstar Fungi (Geastrales)
Known for their star-like appearance when reaching maturity, this mushroom has a long history of being used as traditional medicines in North America and China. The outer layer of the mushroom splits open, revealing an inner mass of spores held aloft on slender arms. However, this one is yet another mushroom that simply doesn’t taste good.
10. Amethyst Deceiver (Laccaria amethystina)
The Amethyst Deceiver gets its name from its color-changing ability. When wet or during its youth, it displays a vibrant purple hue that fades when it dries or as it grows older. This chameleon-like mushroom is found in forests and woodlands. Edible and the more you cook it, the more its color fades.
11. Red Cage Fungus (Clathrus ruber)
The Red Cage Fungus is a bizarre mushroom that erupts from an egg-like structure, unfolding to form a cage-like appearance. Its vivid red color and peculiar shape make it a captivating find in damp habitats. Aside from its unique appearance you might also be able to identify it by its smell; since it helps to decompose stuff around it, you will find it accompanied by an unpleasant rotting flesh smell.
12. Dead Man’s Fingers (Xylaria polymorpha)
Imagine seeing this after you had a couple beers… They are eerie-looking fungi that appear as charred, finger-like structures rising from the forest floor. Found in woods and forests, they add a spooky touch to their surroundings. If you’re on a mushroom picking trip, skip them as they have absolutely no taste.
13. Veiled Lady Mushroom (Phallus indusiatus)
Also known as the Bridal Veil Stinkhorn, this mushroom features a bell-shaped cap covered by a net-like veil. As it matures, the cap opens, revealing a phallic-like structure underneath. This one is one of those rare edible stinkhorns so if you’re tempted, give it a try.
14. Bioluminescent Mycena (Mycena chlorophos)
Certain species of Mycena mushrooms possess the unique ability to emit a soft, eerie blue-green glow in low light conditions due to bioluminescence. These “fairy lights” create a magical atmosphere in forests and woodlands. They sure make for one interesting setup!
15. Brain Mushroom (Gyromitra esculenta)
Resembling a hard-working brain, this mushroom is easy to spot. Now that you’ve spotted it, keep in mind that this type of mushroom contains toxic compounds and should not ever be eaten.
16. Comb Tooth (Hericium coralloides)
With its coral-like structure, this mushroom is another member of the tooth fungi family. It is characterized by its branching, comb-like spines hanging from a central stalk and while it’s not poisonous it certainly doesn’t bring anything to the table, it’s considered to be quite bland.
17. Jack-o’-Lantern Mushroom (Omphalotus olearius)
This luminescent mushroom gets its name from its glow in the dark feature, reminiscent of a flickering candle. However, it’s important to note that the Jack-o’-Lantern Mushroom is toxic and should not be consumed despite its resemblance to the all so popular chanterelles.
And there you have it – a tour through the whimsical world of the weirdest mushrooms, where nature’s creativity just went wild. However, these mushrooms aren’t just organisms; they’re living works of art that have a clear purpose, to help other plants thrive while healing the natural habit around them.
Recommended reading next: The 15 Weirdest Plants You Can Grow At Home
What’s the deal with magic mushrooms, and are they really magical?
Magic mushrooms, also known as psilocybin mushrooms, contain a compound called psilocybin that can induce psychedelic experiences. No, you won’t get magical powers! They’ve been used for centuries for their spiritual and therapeutic purposes. Basically they’re mind-bending mushrooms that can and will alter perception, mood, and consciousness.
Are there any mind-blowing facts about mushrooms?
Yes! Did you know the largest living organism on Earth is a fungus, Armillaria ostoyae, spanning over 2,384 acres in Oregon?
Can mushrooms really save the planet?
They sure can help! Some fungi, like mycorrhizal mushrooms, play a vital role in ecosystems by forming symbiotic relationships with plants, thus helping to increase nutrient absorption and soil health. Researchers are also exploring ways to use mushrooms to tackle environmental challenges, such as breaking down pollutants or even creating sustainable packaging materials.