Foraging Safety: 10 Poisonous Mushrooms In Ohio to Watch Out For

Having a four-season climate with cold winters and warm summers, Ohio is a suitable home for fungi to thrive. It’s not surprising that many Ohioans compete to explore the woods to look for edible, common mushrooms in Ohio forests. Unfortunately, the hidden dangers of poisonous mushrooms in Ohio lurk those foraging enthusiasts who seek edible Ohio fungal flora.

Moreover, spring and fall, particularly, are Ohio mushroom season dangers that foragers need to be aware of. Alongside the edible ones, native poisonous mushrooms in Ohio also thrive because of the moist conditions.

Knowing the importance of safe mushroom foraging in Ohio, our experts provide a brief Ohio mushroom identification guide. It will help you to distinguish edible vs. toxic Ohio mushrooms as a preventive measure against poisoning while enjoying your passion for mushroom hunting.

We also break down the dangerous Ohio fungi list with pictures to make it easier for you to navigate this guide. Let’s roll!

Key Takeaways

We also break down the dangerous Ohio fungi list with pictures to make it easier for you to navigate this guide. Let’s roll!

Top Poisonous Mushrooms in Ohio

Avoiding mushroom poisoning in Ohio is of paramount importance. That’s why our experts felt the need to compile the most poisonous mushrooms in Ohio whose toxins you can’t underestimate.

Some of them belong to the deadly mushrooms of Ohio since swallowing them can lead to liver and kidney failure without concerning symptoms for hours! We also include each mushroom poisoning symptom so you can be more aware to seek Ohio Department of Health mushroom advisory help immediately.

1. Amanita Phalloides (Death Cap)

Poisonous Mushrooms In Ohio
Amanita Phalloides, Commonly Known as the Death Cap

Let’s start the list of poisonous mushrooms in Ohio with the Death Cap or Amanita phalloides. As its name suggests, the Death Cap is one of the most highly toxic mushrooms in the world. Hence, it’s vital to learn about its characteristics to avoid poisoning. Let’s take a look!

Physical Description

At first glance, the Death Cap looks charming, with its skirt-like white ring attached to its stem. This toxic fungus also bears distinctive features, like a 5 to 15 cm pale green to yellowish cap and a silky smooth cap with white patches.

The gills are tightly packed, hidden under the cap. Compared to other Ohio toxic mushrooms, Amanita phalloides display tall, white stems that can reach 6 to 15 centimeters. These characteristics are what differentiate it from Amanita citrina, the edible look-alike.

Where It’s Commonly Found

Be careful if you spot thriving mushrooms near chestnut, oak, or beech trees in hardwood forests. Because, guess what? This area is Death Cap’s favorite place to grow. In general, you can easily find this notorious fungus in the late summer to autumn (August to November).

Symptoms of Poisoning

Don’t be fooled by its beautiful appearance because this Death Cap will make you fall ill without any symptoms. At 6-12 hours after ingestion, the signs of poisoning begin to appear, such as vomiting, nausea, and diarrhea.

And once you experience abdominal pain, the amatoxin is likely to reach your liver and kidney, causing system failure. Hence, it is crucial to seek immediate help when early symptoms occur.

2. Amanita Bisporigera (Destroying Angel)

Poisonous Mushrooms In Ohio
A Newly Emerging Amanita Bisporigera Destroying Angel Mushroom in the Woods

Just like the previous one, The Destroying Angel or Amanita bisporigera is one of the toxic mushrooms that you have to watch out for while foraging in the forests. Its appearance is not striking, like the characteristics of poisonous mushrooms in general, but it is considered deadly. Let’s learn its features below!

Physical Description

Bearing Angel on its name, this notorious mushroom indeed looks harmless with its white, smooth cap that closely looks like an edible button mushroom. Not only is the cap white but the gills are also covered in the same color.

Moreover, the characteristic of the Destroying Angel that differentiates it from edible fungi is its deceptively attractive skirt-like ring on its stem. Even though it looks beautiful, don’t be fooled by its appearance.

Where It’s Commonly Found

In terms of habitat, Destroying Angel generally lingers around hardwood trees, like beeches and oaks, since they have a mutualistic symbiosis with those trees. Furthermore, they like moist, shady environments. Hence, you will easily find them around late spring to early summer.

Symptoms of Poisoning

Belonging to the same family, Amanita bisporigera has the same type of toxin as Amanita phalloides, the amatoxins. This toxin targets the liver and kidneys, causing failure and even death.

Suppose you experience vomiting and diarrhea about 6-12 hours after consuming mushrooms. In that case, you can suspect you have swallowed toxic Amanita species. Seek immediate help from a medical professional while keeping yourself hydrated.

3. Amanita Muscaria (Fly Agaric)

Poisonous Mushrooms In Ohio
Fly Agaric-Red Amanita Muscaria Poisonous Mushroom

We’re sure you’ve at least seen the cartoon version of Amanita muscaria or Fly Agaric. While it seems adorable, the bright red tone indicates that this mushroom must be avoided at all costs! Let’s break down its distinctive characteristics in the following list!

Physical Description

As you can see from the picture, Amanita muscaria or Fly Agaric have unique characteristics that make foragers quickly identify them. It displays a large, vivid red cap with a diameter of around 5 to 20 cm, depending on age.

On top of the cap, you can also observe white or cream-colored speckles that look attractive. In addition, the white stem makes an appealing contrast, bearing a skirt-like ring under the cap.

Where It’s Commonly Found

Slightly different from the previous Ohio poisonous mushrooms, Amanita muscaria is distributed among birch, pine, and spruce as they form mycorrhizal relationships with those trees.

Since they love cool and temperate climates, Fly Agaric prefers late summer to early autumn to fully develop. Hence, you can easily spot them while hiking or exploring the woods during these seasons. But please don’t pick them!

Symptoms of Poisoning

Similar to its fellow Amanitas, Fly Agaric possesses life-threatening symptoms if left untreated. But the toxins are different. Amanita muscaria contains muscimol and ibotenic acid that will lead to poisoning symptoms 30 minutes to 2 hours after swallowing the fungus.

Once you ingest the mushroom, you will experience several early signs of poisoning, including hallucinations, gastrointestinal upset, and delirium. Then, the symptoms will get worse as you begin to show confusion, muscle weakness, drowsiness, and even organ failure in some severe cases.

4. Chlorophyllum Molybdites (Green-Spored Lepiota)

Poisonous Mushrooms In Ohio
Chlorophyllum Molybdites Mushrooms

Nope, this mushroom is not what you imagine. Even though the bearing is “Green,” the Chlorophyllum molybdites do not have a green color on the cap or stems, or gills. So, how do you differentiate them from edible fungus species? Let’s check on its features below!

Physical Description

If you compare Green-Spored Lepiota with other toxic mushrooms on the list, this one has the more comprehensive, scaled cap, which is one of its characteristics. The diameter of the cap can reach 20 cm! 

Apart from the light brown, scaled cap, you can also notice free, crowded white gills underneath. And here’s the reason why it’s called “Green” is because of its green spore print, which differentiates it from other species. It will become most apparent when the cap matures.

Where It’s Commonly Found

Where most mushrooms like to grow near trees or dying trees and create symbiosis, Green-Spored Lepiota grows abundantly in groups in lawns and grassy areas. They prefer humid and warm conditions, so you can quickly notice its presence during late summer to early fall.

Symptoms of Poisoning

Here’s the nasty thing about Green-Spored Lepiota poisoning: the symptoms occur 6-12 hours after ingesting. This notorious mushroom contains molybdophyllysin, hence the scientific name, which causes severe gastrointestinal problems. 

If you consume a part of this fungus, you will likely show symptoms such as nausea, diarrhea, and vomiting, followed by abdominal cramps. These signs of poisoning can lead to extreme dehydration. Hence, seek help immediately when the early poisoning symptoms occur! 

5. Clitocybe Dealbata (Ivory Funnel)

Poisonous Mushrooms In Ohio
Clitocybe Dealbata, also Known as Ivory Funnel

The physical appearance looks like oyster mushrooms but a bit larger. Unfortunately, Clitocybe dealbata or Ivory Funnel is a poisonous mushroom that commonly grows in North America, including in the state of Ohio. So, don’t fall into its trap!

Physical Description

Many people think that Ivory Funnel is edible because it cannot be denied that its appeal seems harmless. This delicate mushroom has a 3 to 10 cm flat cap with an ivory color, hence the name. 

But, the color will change to yellowish as the fungus matures. Meanwhile, the closely spaced gills support the cap, running down to the stem. The stem itself is generally 0.5 to 1 cm thick with a length of around 4 to 10 cm.

Where It’s Commonly Found

Following the earlier fungus, Ivory Funnel typically grows in grassy areas, gardens, lawns, and woodlands. 

They also like to grow in groups, making their presence easily spot on. Furthermore, Clitocybe dealbata likes warm air temperatures with damp conditions. Thus, you can observe them during late summer to early fall.

Symptoms of Poisoning

Even though Ivory Funnel poisoning generally does not cause death, you cannot underestimate the muscarinic toxin contained in this mushroom. Early signs of poisoning appear typically 6 to 12 hours after swallowing the fungus. 

Like mushroom poisoning, you may experience abdominal pain, nausea, diarrhea, and vomiting. Some additional symptoms, such as sweating, salivation, and blurred vision, may also occur. If left untreated, it may lead to severe dehydration and even cardiovascular complications. Hence, you better call medical help to treat this poisoning. 


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6. Conocybe Filaris (Cone Cap)

Poisonous Mushrooms In Ohio
Conocybe Filaris (Cone Cap)

It’s tiny, but don’t be silly to fall into its trap! Conocybe filaris, or Cone Cap mushroom, is one of the most dangerous mushrooms in Ohio that you must be aware of. While the appearance may not stand out as the Fly Agaric, learning about its physical characteristics and poisoning symptoms may deter you from being poisoned. 

Physical Description

We can judge from its picture that Cone Cap mushrooms are relatively small in size, bearing a 1-4 cm diameter of a brownish cap, which is similar to an ice cream cone. Initially, the cap is convex before turning into bell-shaped or conical as it ages.

Moreover, its close, light brown gills are attached to its thin, pale, and fragile stem. Well, we can agree that Conocybe filaris looks harmless but will upset your stomach when swallowed. So beware!

Where It’s Commonly Found

Conocybe filaris love rich, organic soil to thrive. Hence, you will quickly find them among wood chips, in the gardens, or on grassy lawns. Besides, they also prefer damp conditions where late summer or fall can be offered.

Symptoms of Poisoning

When we say don’t overstate this mushroom, we really mean it! This mushroom contains the same toxins as the Amanita species, the amatoxins which can cause severe problems to your kidney and liver. 

The early symptoms, such as nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, and abdominal cramps, generally appear 6-12 hours after consuming the fungus. Considering the type of toxin and the severity it causes, we strongly recommend going to the hospital once you realize you have eaten this notorious mushroom.

7. Galerina Marginata (Autumn Galerina)

Poisonous Mushrooms In Ohio
The Funeral Bell (Galerina Marginata) is a Deadly Poisonous Mushroom

Just like autumn, which is synonymous with golden yellow, Galerina marginata or Autumn Galerina features the exact color as the season portrays. While its appeal may not be intimidating, it’s crucial to learn more about its characteristics and possible toxicity to avoid poisoning.

Physical Description

Autumn Galerina has a petite size compared to other mushrooms we have discussed. Its slime stem only reaches 2 to 6 cm with a delicate veil or ring usually attached. Apart from that, its yellow-brown to reddish-brown cap features an enrolled margin, which is one of the characteristic features of this fungus. 

In addition, you can observe closely spaced, pale to dark brown gills underneath the cap. One of the unique things about this mushroom is that the cap will turn sticky when the environment is damp, showing its rusty brown spore print.

Where It’s Commonly Found

Knowing it loves damp growing conditions, you can find Autumn Galerina among decaying woods, leaf litter, and tree stumps in deciduous or coniferous woodlands. It’s because they build mycorrhizal associations with trees to exchange nutrients. 

Moreover, the best seasons for them to thrive are late summer and fall because they can offer proper temperature and humidity suitable for fungus growth.

Symptoms of Poisoning

Amatoxins are deadly toxins you must be aware of in Autumn Galerina. These toxins cause kidney and liver failure while poisoning symptoms are dismissed. In general, the signs of poisoning are not visible in the first hours after consuming mushrooms but only after 6-12 hours. 

You will experience diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting and will seem to get better afterward. However, 24-48 hours later, your condition worsens because the toxin has attacked your internal organs. Hence, you must immediately rush to the hospital if early symptoms occur.

8. Gyromitra Esculenta (False Morel)

Poisonous Mushrooms In Ohio
A Brown Brain-shaped Mushroom (Gyromitra Esculenta)

Novice foragers may think it is a tasty True Morel. But in fact, it is Gyromitra esculenta or False Morel that possesses perilous risks. To avoid mistakenly collecting this fungus, it’s vital to learn about its physical features and signs of poisoning before foraging. Let’s get going!

Physical Description

Judging from its physical appearance, False Morel does not look as attractive as other poisonous mushrooms in Ohio. But, this is the deceptive thing because it looks closely similar to edible True Morel.

It features a reddish-brown, brain-like, wrinkled cap with a pale or whitish stem that often appears chambered. Luckily, it has a lack of hollow interior, which makes it easier to distinguish from True Morel.

Where It’s Commonly Found

One of the factors that makes people often mistake False Morel for True Morel is the similar habitat. False Morels are often found scattered on deciduous and coniferous woodlands, especially near decaying woods, as they are rich in organic matter. 

Like most mushrooms, it also loves humid and cool weather. Thus, early spring is a prime time for its fruiting season.

Symptoms of Poisoning

As its scientific name suggests, False Morel contains the toxin gyromitrin, which can be fatal if the poisoning symptoms are not treated properly. In general, you will experience nausea, abdominal pain, and vomiting around 6-12 hours after consumption. 

In addition, the severity of these symptoms depends on how much you swallow this notorious fungus. Hence, once you feel something doesn’t sit right, seek immediate medical attention because the toxin may lead to kidney and liver damage. 

9. Gyromitra Caroliniana (Big Red False Morel)

Gyromitra Caroliniana Mushroom Growing Up from The Forest Floor
Gyromitra Caroliniana Mushroom Growing Up from The Forest Floor

Commonly known as Big Red False Morel, Gyromitra caroliniana is a striking mushroom yet hides the danger behind its appeal. Just like the previous one, it also looks like a True Morel. Thus, it can lead to confusion. Therefore, we’re here to rescue you and give you some insights about this toxic fungus.

Physical Description

You can already tell that this mushroom has unique features. It displays a bright red to reddish brown lobed cap, holding onto a pale and stout stem with vertical ridges. Instead of smooth and silky, the cap surface is wrinkled. 

Furthermore, this fungus can grow pretty tall, around 15 cm or 6 inches, setting it apart from the edible morel and the other toxic morels within the same species. Despite its stunning appearance, Big Red False Morel is highly poisonous. 

Where It’s Commonly Found

Since it belongs to the same family as False Morel, it also shares a closely similar habitat. Big Red False Morel loves rooting trees in hardwood forests to support them with organic matter. 

They also prefer moist and cool conditions to flourish, particularly around spring or early summer, which regions with temperate climates, like Ohio, can provide.

Symptoms of Poisoning

Eating Big Red False Morel is a rash decision and, in fact, can cause severe health issues. Typically, the early poisoning symptoms, such as vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, and nausea, occur between 6 to 12 hours after ingestion. 

They can lead to seizures, jaundice, and even death if you don’t take immediate medical support. Hence, if you suspect Big Red False Morel ingestion, it is better to go straight to the hospital to get emergency mushroom ingestion treatment.

10. Omphalotus Olearius (Jack-o’-Lantern)

Omphalotus Olearius, Commonly Known as The Jack-O'-Lantern Mushroom
Omphalotus Olearius, Commonly Known as The Jack-O’-Lantern Mushroom

Last but not least is Omphalotus olearius, better known as the Jack-o’-Lantern mushroom. It seems the name was chosen because the color of this fungus looks like a burning lantern. However, don’t be fooled by its enchanting appeal because this fungus is toxic.

Physical Description

Jack-o’-Lantern, as the name suggests, is colored like a lantern. It features a bright orange to yellowish-orange cap with pale gills. The fungus also bears a prominent central stem whose color resembles its cap. 

Moreover, the most distinctive characteristic of the Jack-o’-Lantern is that it has bioluminescence, which can glow green in the dark, making it even more attractive. However, you must remember that eating a Jack-o’-Lantern can make you fall ill.

Where It’s Commonly Found

This toxic mushroom commonly grows on tree stumps, logs, or decaying trees, as they can support them with rich organic matter. Regarding the seasons, Jack-o’-Lanterns flourish between late summer and early fall, which typically have cool and humid environments, just like the mushroom needs. 

Symptoms of Poisoning

We can say that the poisoning symptoms of Jack-o’-Lantern may not be severe like most toxic fungi in Ohio. But you must not underestimate them. If you are exposed to this fungus, you will experience nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain, which will be followed by confusion and muscle weakness in serious cases.

Unfortunately, these signs of poisoning may escalate to neurological effects. Therefore, we strongly encourage you to seek medical attention immediately once you have ingested the fungus that contains illudins.

The Fascination of Mushroom Foraging in Ohio

As we briefly mentioned, mushroom picking in Ohio is quite popular, knowing the fungus flourishes abundantly within the rich woodlands of the state. Hence, the forests are fun destinations for those eager to explore the forest floors and find these delights.

Not only that, but collecting mushrooms has become a tradition passed down from generation to generation for Ohioans. If you ask any of your Ohioan friends, we believe they have fond memories of mushrooms foraging with their relatives.

Mushroom Forager Identifying Mushrooms
Mushroom Forager Identifying Mushrooms

Furthermore, most of them even have Ohio family-safe mushroom picking rules to avoid mistakenly harvesting toxic Ohio mushroom species. Additionally, some edible mushroom species that are popular within the Ohio community are Morels and Chanterelles.

The Morels, in general, will be made into springtime dishes by adding to sautees, thanks to their earthy and nutty tastes. Meanwhile, Chanterelles, with their fruity, apricot-like flavor, are excellent to pair with soups.

This combination of experience and knowledge on fungi risks in Ohio woodlands builds deep connections between individuals and traditions with their land. Besides, the culinary significance preserves the local tradition, emphasizing the role of mushroom foraging as a treasured Ohio pastime.

Safe Mushroom Foraging Practices

Foraging is indeed a fun gig to do with your loved ones, hunting for mushrooms in the wilderness and getting some tasty meals afterward. But what happens if you are not familiar with safe mushroom picking?

Well, there’s a high chance you encounter Ohio toxic fungi, thinking they are edible! That’s precisely what we want to avoid, aren’t we?

Mushroom Picking in Season
Mushroom Picking in Season

Unfortunately, there are still many people who dismiss the importance of mushroom safety in Ohio while hiking and picking. Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows that accidental mushroom poisoning reached 1,400 cases per year, with 9% of which experienced severe health issues, including seizures, kidney and heart failure, and irregular heartbeat.

Meanwhile, obtained from Cincinnati News, local Ohio toxicology reports mushroom poisoning has increased by 50% since 2021, reaching 60 patients submitted to the hospital in 2023.

Given these facts, we highly recommend asking an Ohio mycologist for advice before looking for wild edible fungi in the woods.

Foraging in The Pine Forests for Wild Pine Ring Mushrooms

Generally speaking, you will be equipped with how to differentiate edible and toxic ones based on physical characteristics or spore prints. It is also better to dive deeper into Ohio mycology studies to learn more about the mushroom world.

Additionally, we also highly encourage you to participate in Ohio mushrooming workshops. By doing so, you will meet fellow foragers and exchange knowledge and experience.

In addition to learning mushroom identification, you can also learn from the mycologists about Ohio mushroom ingestion treatment just in case there is an accidental ingestion of poisonous mushrooms in Ohio.

Where to Seek Expert Guidance?

For those who enjoy the excitement of hunting mushrooms, we have several helpful resources to equip you with knowledge of edible and poisonous mushrooms in Ohio.

One that our experts recommend is mycological societies like the Ohio Mushroom Society. This organization is a platform for novice or seasoned foragers to learn about mushroom identification, safety, and even Ohio emergency care mushroom ingestion to avoid further intoxication.

Mushroom Forager Identifying Mushrooms with Mushroom Identification Book
Mushroom Forager Identifying Mushrooms with Mushroom Identification Book

Moreover, the Ohio Mushroom Society also often holds workshops and educational events where you can meet fellow foraging enthusiasts and exchange insights about Ohio fungi. To learn more about this organization, you can click here to visit the website.

Apart from this society, we also recommend visiting the Ohio Department of Natural Resources to exercise the safety of mushroom hunting. Hence, you can ensure collecting edible mushrooms from the forests without worrying about the danger of poisoning lurking.

Besides, it turns out that this government department is also collaborating with the Ohio Mushroom Society to educate foragers about mushrooms in Ohio. Visit here to learn more.

Conclusion

Pursuing the hobby of picking mushrooms from your backyard, forests, or city parks is indeed enjoyable. It’s even a cultural activity that you should preserve. Besides, you can score yourself some free protein and fiber!

However, it’s essential to exercise safety when mushroom foraging to avoid the potentially fatal risk of poisoning. You wouldn’t want your fun to turn into a disaster due to carelessness.

Therefore, we highly recommend joining your local mycology society to enrich your insights and knowledge about mushrooms. That way, you can have a great time harvesting fungi, preserving culture, and implementing safety measures all at once.


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FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

Ohio recently experienced a surge in mushroom poisoning. The cases reported by the Cincinnati Drug and Poison Information Center reported a 50% jump, from 30 to 60 people from 2021 to 2023, in patients submitted to the emergency room due to toxic mushroom ingestion.

It is unfortunate since the state has a mushroom society and a department dedicated to giving educational information regarding mushroom identification and safe foraging.

Are there specific regions or habitats in Ohio where poisonous mushrooms are more prevalent?

There are no specific habitats in Ohio where you can find most poisonous mushrooms. However, they are generally scattered around hardwood forests and grassy areas like parks or even your backyards. So, we recommend you inspect the fungi growing around these locations before collecting and cooking them.

What are the most prevalent poisonous mushrooms found specifically in Ohio?

The Ohio State University mentioned several poisonous mushrooms you can easily find in Ohio, including Amanita muscaria (Fly Agaric or Fly Amanita), Omphalotus (Jack-o’-Lantern), and Amanita Sp. (Destroying Angel).

The Amanita species are the deadliest ones, while the Omphalotus will lead to severe gastrointestinal upset when the poisoning is left untreated.

Are there certain times of the year in Ohio when poisonous mushrooms are more abundant?

Generally, poisonous mushrooms are more abundant during the warmer months in Ohio, around spring to early fall. During this time, the air tends to be cool to warm with high humidity levels, the growing conditions the fungi need to thrive.

Therefore, foragers must be extra cautious when identifying and collecting mushrooms so as not to eat the toxic ones.

What should Ohioans do if they suspect they’ve consumed a poisonous mushroom?

If Ohioans suspect they’ve ingested a poisonous mushroom, they must seek medical help by calling 911 or rushing to the nearest health facility. And in case you live in Cincinnati, you can call the Cincinnati Drug and Poison Information Center at 1-800-222-1222. It’s a national hotline that will lead you to the nearest center that serves your area.

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