Don’t Eat Them! 10 Most Poisonous Mushrooms In Tennessee

Have you ever ventured into the lush forests of Tennessee, enchanted by the myriad of mushrooms that carpet the forest floor? Perhaps you’ve marveled at their various shapes and colors, wondering about the world of fungi that lies beneath your feet.

While the idea of foraging for wild mushrooms can be intriguing, it’s crucial to address the hidden danger that lurks amidst this natural beauty: poisonous mushrooms in Tennessee!

The state’s diverse ecosystems provide an ideal habitat for a wide array of Tennessee mushroom species, including highly toxic ones. As you meander through the forests or explore local parks, you may unknowingly encounter mushrooms with vibrant hues and fascinating shapes. Some of which could spell danger if consumed.

Hence, mushroom toxicity education becomes imperative in such scenarios. Understanding the differences between edible and deadly mushroom species can be a matter of life and death, especially for those curious about wild mushroom foraging.

In the pages that follow, we’ll equip you with a TN poisonous mushroom guide that can help you distinguish between these fungal treasures and potential threats. It allows you to appreciate the beauty of Tennessee’s wonders while staying safe with mushrooms. Let’s learn together!

Key Takeaways

  • Tennessee is home to many toxic mushrooms, including Destroying Angels and Fly Agaric.
  • It’s crucial to distinguish between edible and poisonous mushrooms to avoid potentially fatal mistakes.
  • Each poisonous mushroom, like the white-capped Destroying Angels or the red-capped Fly Agaric, has distinct characteristics.
  • The importance of joining mycological societies and using reliable field guides for safe foraging is emphasized.
  • Lists of local mycological societies and emergency contacts are provided for safe mushroom hunting.

Common Poisonous Mushrooms in Tennessee 

As enchanting as Tennessee’s wild mushroom population may be, a hidden realm of danger exists among the foliage—the world of dangerous mushrooms in Tennessee. Understanding the subtle distinctions between the benign and the toxic is paramount to enjoying nature’s bounty safely.

In the following list, we’ll delve into the world of mushroom toxicity symptoms and the art of recognizing poisonous mushrooms, equipping you with the knowledge needed to navigate the lush landscapes of Tennessee with confidence and caution.

1. Destroying Angels (Amanita Bisporigera)

poisonous mushrooms in tennessee
Destroying Angels (Amanita Bisporigera)

Let us first discuss the deadliest among other toxic mushroom varieties in Tennessee. The Destroying Angels mushroom, scientifically known as Amanita bisporigera, is a deadly fungal species known for its deceptively benign appearance and devastating toxicity.

This mushroom boasts a relatively short life cycle, characterized by a pristine white cap, slender stem, and a distinctive membranous sac-like volva at the base. Found primarily at the edges of woodlands, lawns, and near trees, shrubs, or grassy meadows, its elegant appearance can be misleading.

People usually think that these fungi are the edible Yellow Patches mushroom (Amanita flavoconia). But you can distinguish them by the yellow markings on the cap, hence its name.

What sets this mushroom apart and makes it deadly is potent amatoxins, which disrupt liver and kidney function when ingested. The effects of poisoning can be severe, often leading to a delayed onset of symptoms that can initially seem benign but ultimately culminate in organ failure.

One case reported a man foraged Destroying Angel, mistaking it for an edible one and fried them. The next morning, he threw up and got a massive diarrhea then ran to the hospital only to find that he ate Destroying Angel. He almost died, but he survived.

2. Banded Mottlegill (Panaeolina Foenisecii)

poisonous mushrooms in tennessee
Banded Mottlegill (Panaeolina Foenisecii)

Next on the list is Banded Mottlegill! Scientifically named Panaeolina foenisecii, this poisonous mushroom is a tiny, fragile fungus characterized by its delicate brown to tawny cap and slender stem.

Known for its relatively short life cycle, it thrives in various environments, commonly sprouting in fertilized lawns, gardens, and disturbed areas.

Moreover, the Banded Mottlegill possesses distinctive features that set it apart from the edible ones. One such feature is its dark spore print, appearing black to dark brown, and the ringless stem.

So, do not eat them if you find one in your yard, especially if you are a budding forager! Consuming this Banded Mottlegill mushroom can lead to gastrointestinal discomfort, such as nausea and diarrhea. Fortunately, severe poisoning is rare and, thus, not many cases are reported.

Despite its mild toxicity, proper identification remains vital when foraging for mushrooms to avoid mushroom-related health risks. 

3. False Morel (Gyromitra Esculenta)

poisonous mushrooms in tennessee
False Morel (Gyromitra Esculenta)

Despite its tempting name, The False Morel (Gyromitra esculenta) is a highly toxic mushroom characterized by a unique and irregularly lobed, brain-like cap that ranges in color from reddish-brown to yellowish-brown.

This fungal species follows a relatively short life cycle, typically emerging in the spring and often found scattered or in groups on the ground beneath hardwood trees or coniferous forests.

While its appearance may be intriguing, the False Morel harbors a deadly secret—it contains hydrazine toxins, such as gyromitrin, which, if ingested within 48 hours, can lead to severe symptoms of poisoning.

Consumption of False Morels can result in nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, and severe damage to the liver and central nervous system, which can be life-threatening. A 65-year-old Kent County resident was hospitalized in 2016 after consuming this mushroom.

Moreover, the False Morel is sometimes confused with the true Morel (Morchella spp.), a prized edible mushroom when cooked properly. However, distinguishing between the two is crucial.

At a glance, True Morel’s color varies from light gray to dark brown, while False Morel shows reddish-brown, yellow-brown, or reddish-orange. Nevertheless, you better seek guidance from the local foragers community for mushroom poisoning prevention.

4. Fly Agaric (Amanita Muscaria)

poisonous mushrooms in tennessee
Fly Agaric (Amanita Muscaria)

You can’t dismiss the fact that Fly Agaric (Amanita muscaria) is visually appealing! Yet, it is one of the local poisonous fungi in Tennessee. Its iconic appearance features a bright red to orange cap adorned with white warts or patches.

Furthermore, the mushroom’s relatively short life cycle (weeks to months!) sees it scattered or grouped on the ground under hardwood trees and conifers.

While its vibrant colors may be enchanting, the Fly Agaric is notorious for its toxicity, containing psychoactive compounds like muscimol and ibotenic acid, which can induce hallucinations, confusion, and even lead to seizures or coma when ingested.

Although its appearance is somewhat reminiscent of the edible Caesar’s Mushroom (Amanita caesarea), distinguishing them is vital. The Caesar’s Mushroom boasts a striking orange-red cap, but unlike the Fly Agaric, it lacks the telltale white warts or patches.

Additionally, the Caesar’s Mushroom is a delectable edible, while the Fly Agaric joins a group of toxic fungi in Tennessee that remains a perilous choice for consumption due to its potentially lethal effects.

5. Jack O’Lantern (Omphalotus Olearius)

poisonous mushrooms in tennessee
Jack O’Lantern (Omphalotus Olearius)

Bearing the appealing name, the Jack O’Lantern mushroom (Omphalotus olearius) is a distinctive but dangerously toxic fungus. Its physical characteristics include a bright orange to orange-red cap with gills that run down the stem.

This one of the most poisonous mushrooms in Tennessee typically appears in clusters during late summer and autumn. You can commonly find them growing on or around hardwood trees, including oaks and maples.

Interestingly, this toxic mushroom features bioluminescent properties, as it can emit an eerie greenish glow in low-light conditions (hence the name!). However, this intriguing character should not mask its inherent toxicity.

Omphalotus Olearius contains toxins that can cause severe gastrointestinal distress if consumed. Symptoms of poisoning include nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. There’s even a case mentioned that seven adults got poisoned by Jack O’Lantern mushroom. Four of them even experienced weakness and dizziness in addition to the poisoning signs we mentioned.

Confusingly, the Jack O’Lantern can bear a resemblance to the edible Chanterelle mushroom. But it can be distinguished by its downward-running gills and, most importantly, its toxicity.

Chanterelles are highly sought-after edibles, known for their vibrant color and delicious flavor. Therefore, identifying harmful fungi is vital for safety.

6. Deadly Galerina (Galerina Marginata)

poisonous mushrooms in tennessee
Deadly Galerina (Galerina Marginata)

Don’t be fooled by its tiny appearance! The Deadly Galerina mushroom (Galerina marginata) is a small but lethally toxic fungus.

Its cap typically ranges from a dull brown to yellow-brown, and it has a bell-like or conical shape. This mushroom follows a typical mushroom life cycle, emerging from the ground in various environments, including woodlands, particularly near decaying wood and moss.

Its cap typically ranges from a dull brown to yellow-brown, and it has a bell-like or conical shape. This mushroom follows a typical mushroom life cycle, emerging from the ground in various environments, including woodlands, particularly near decaying wood and moss.

Moreover, this deadly species is distinguished by its potent toxicity, as it contains the same deadly amatoxins found in the notorious Death Cap and Destroying Angel mushroom

Ingesting even a small amount of the Deadly Galerina can lead to severe liver and kidney damage, often with delayed symptoms. If poisoned, symptoms may include nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, and eventually liver and kidney failure, which can be fatal.

Nevertheless, it is vital to differentiate the Deadly Galerina from edible species like the Honey Mushroom (Armillaria mellea). Both grow in similar environments but have a distinct honey-colored cap, white spore print, and lack the deadly amatoxins found in the Deadly Galerina.

Hence, seeking mycology safety guidelines is crucial when foraging for wild mushrooms to avoid the grave risks associated with toxic species like the Deadly Galerina.

7. Deadly Webcap (Cortinarius Rubellus)

poisonous mushrooms in tennessee
Deadly Webcap (Cortinarius Rubellus)

Similar to the previous one, the Deadly Webcap (Cortinarius rubellus) is a deceptive but fatally poisonous mushroom distinguished by its striking reddish-orange cap. This deadly fungus thrives in coniferous and mixed woodlands, often in moist, mossy areas.

What makes the Deadly Webcap particularly dangerous is its production of the toxin orellanine, which can cause delayed kidney failure when ingested, making it a perilous choice for foragers.

Some symptoms of poisoning may not manifest until days or even weeks after consumption and can include fatigue, nausea, vomiting, and, eventually, kidney dysfunction.

With this fact, it’s essential to differentiate the Deadly Webcap from edible mushrooms like the Chanterelle (Cantharellus cibarius), which shares a similar habitat. Luckily, it can be distinguished by its trumpet-shaped, wavy cap and vibrant orange or yellow coloration.

In addition, proper identification of edible vs. toxic mushrooms is paramount when foraging forest mushrooms. It is especially crucial to prevent the severe health risks associated with wild mushroom dangers.

8. False Parasol (Chlorophyllum Rhacodes)

False Parasol (Chlorophyllum Rhacodes)
False Parasol (Chlorophyllum Rhacodes)

True to its name, the False Parasol (Chlorophyllum rhacodes) is a fungus with distinctive physical characteristics, including a large, beige to brown cap, often featuring scales or patches. It is commonly scattered in a variety of habitats, including lawns, gardens, and grassy areas.

Just like the intriguing appeal, this mushroom hides its toxicity. False parasol mushrooms contain compounds that can lead to gastrointestinal distress when consumed raw, including symptoms like nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.

However, when thoroughly cooked, it becomes edible, and its taste has been compared to the edible Shaggy Parasol (Chlorophyllum olivieri). Furthermore, distinguishing between the two is vital.

The Shaggy Parasol has a shaggier cap, lacks the reddish or pinkish hue seen in the False Parasol’s stem base, and should be safe for consumption when properly cooked.

But, we do not recommend eating them if you don’t have knowledge related to Tennessee mycological hazards. Thorough and accurate identification is essential for avoiding mushroom poisoning.

9. Sickener (Russula Emetica)

Sickener (Russula Emetica)
Sickener (Russula Emetica)

Remember, what looks striking may be dangerous; just like this one! The Sickener mushroom (Russula emetica) is a strikingly vibrant but dangerously toxic fungus known for its distinct physical characteristics, featuring a bright red to scarlet cap and white stem. 

As for habitats, this mushroom flourishes in mixed woodlands and coniferous forests. Despite its intriguing visual characteristics, its distinctive feature lies in its toxicity. 

Eating the Sickener mushroom can cause severe gastrointestinal distress, including nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea, often occurring within a few hours (approx. 3 hours) after ingestion. If not treated promptly, dehydration can be a significant concern. 

One case of Russula species poisoning occurred in 1981 among seven Laotian Refugees, according to the CDC. Six of them had nausea, vomiting, dehydration, and even elevated liver enzymes. Apparently, they had collected wild mushrooms from the forest, thinking they were edible, where one of which was Russula emetica.

To avoid confusion between the edible and poisonous mushrooms in Tennessee, it’s essential to differentiate the Sickener from the edible Russula species, such as the Russula virescens or the Russula delica

Both have less intense coloring, ranging from greenish to yellowish, and lack the toxic properties of the Sickener. Thus, they are safe for consumption when properly identified and prepared.

10. The Green-spored Lepiota (Chlorophyllum Molybdites)

The Green-spored Lepiota (Chlorophyllum Molybdites)
The Green-spored Lepiota (Chlorophyllum Molybdites)

We agree that The Green-spored Lepiota (Chlorophyllum molybdites) is closely similar to False Parasol we’ve discussed previously. And, indeed, it has another name “The Green Parasol”.

It is a mushroom distinguished by its greenish-brown cap and white stem. It is often found in grassy areas, lawns, and meadows during warm, humid weather. Moreover, this mushroom is treacherous because it contains the potent gastrointestinal irritant toxin called molybdites toxin.

Hence, the ingestion of the Green-spored Lepiota can lead to severe symptoms, including nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain, usually occurring within hours of ingestion. In some cases, the effects can be so severe that hospitalization is necessary.

Sadly, it happened to some people in Sicily who mistakenly thought they harvested parasol mushrooms, but got poisoned by the toxic Lepiota.

To avoid confusion, it’s essential to differentiate the Green-spored Lepiota from the edible parasol mushroom (Macrolepiota procera), which shares a similar appearance.

The edible parasol mushroom has a more elongated stem, a ring on the stem, and a scaly cap, making it a safe choice for consumption when properly prepared.

We also recommend raising your fungus toxicity awareness by visiting TN forager clubs or communities which usually provide guidance and knowledge to identify edible wild mushrooms you can collect.

Understanding The Dangers of Poison Mushrooms

When does the forest mushroom collection season start in Tennessee? As spring’s warmth breathes life into the state’s woodlands, many enthusiastic foragers begin their quest for nature’s treasures.

However, amidst the excitement of Tennessee mushroom foraging, it is crucial to exercise caution. The lush forests may hide a perilous secret: poisonous mushrooms in TN. Fungi poisoning risks are real, and awareness is paramount.

Understanding The Dangers of Poison Mushrooms
Understanding The Dangers of Poison Mushrooms

Consuming poisonous mushrooms can have severe health consequences, ranging from gastrointestinal distress to life-threatening organ failure. In Tennessee, where the allure of wild mushrooms is strong, understanding the potential risks is essential.

Accurate identification of mushrooms is the first line of defense against mushroom poisoning. Mistaking toxic species for edible ones can lead to dire consequences. Therefore, every forager must equip themselves with knowledge to differentiate between the delectable and the deadly.

Before embarking on a Tennessee mushroom foraging adventure, arm yourself with mushroom foraging precautions. Consult field guides or, even better, join local mycology clubs or workshops to learn from experienced foragers.

Remember, the beauty of the forest is best enjoyed when you’re informed and cautious, ensuring that your foraging escapades are not only delightful but also safe. You can also keep scrolling down to check our list of poisonous mushrooms in Tennessee to help you with mushroom identification tips.

Mushroom Foraging Safety Tips

Foraging for mushrooms in Tennessee can be a rewarding and educational experience. However, it comes with inherent risks, given the presence of potentially poisonous mushrooms in Tennessee’s woodlands and meadows. To ensure your safety, it’s vital to seek guidance from experts or experienced foragers.

First and foremost, consider joining local mycological clubs or foraging groups where seasoned enthusiasts can offer valuable insights and mentorship. They can help you understand the nuances of identifying edible and poisonous species, impart knowledge about habitat and seasonal variations, and provide hands-on guidance during forays.

Mushroom Foraging Safety Tips
Mushroom Foraging Safety Tips

Additionally, invest in a reliable field guide specific to your region and study it thoroughly. A comprehensive guide will help you recognize key physical characteristics, spore prints, and habitat information that are critical for accurate identification.

Remember that accurate identification is the foundation of safe foraging. Always err on the side of caution when in doubt, and never consume a mushroom unless you’re absolutely certain of its edibility.

Lastly, foraging mushrooms in Tennessee requires patience and respect for the environment. Harvest responsibly by taking only what you can use and avoiding any harm to the ecosystem.

By adhering to these tips and seeking guidance from knowledgeable individuals, you can enjoy the rich world of mushrooms while minimizing the risks associated with poisonous mushrooms in Tennessee.

Resources and Organizations

Embarking on the enchanting journey of exploring Tennessee’s wild mushrooms demands knowledge, caution, and a network of resources to ensure a safe and rewarding experience. To aid you in this pursuit, we have compiled a list of valuable resources and organizations dedicated to the world of Tennessee’s wild mushrooms. 

Journey of Exploring Tennessee's Wild Mushrooms
Journey of Exploring Tennessee’s Wild Mushrooms

From local mycological societies to online identification forums and emergency contacts, these resources serve as invaluable tools for both novice and seasoned foragers. Check it out!

1. Local Mycological Societies

Amidst Tennessee’s lush landscapes, a passionate community whispers tales of fungi, merging wonder with science. These Local Mycological Societies, both a haven for experts and a beacon for novices, unravel nature’s most enigmatic characters. Venture with us as we unearth the mycological magic thriving in the Volunteer State’s heart.

Cumberland Mycological Society

This is a non-profit organization dedicated to the study and appreciation of mushrooms in Tennessee. They offer forays, workshops, and valuable resources for mushroom enthusiasts.


Tenessee Foragers & Mushroom Hunters

This is an active Facebook group with almost 17,000 members who love to collect mushrooms and nature wonders in Tennessee.

Facebook Page:

Field Guides and Books

Mushrooms of the Southeast” by Todd F. Elliott and Steven L. Stephenson: A comprehensive field guide specific to the Southeastern United States, including Tennessee.

2. Emergency Services and Poison Control Centers

In the pulse-pounding moments of crisis, certain heroes stand ready, unsung yet indispensable. Emergency Services and Poison Control Centers serve as our silent guardians, turning potential tragedies into tales of swift action.

Dive with us into the labyrinth of these life-saving networks, where every second spells the difference between peril and protection.

Poison Control Center Hotline

In case of mushroom poisoning or emergencies, contact the Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222. They can provide guidance on immediate first aid and medical assistance.

Local Emergency Services

In any life-threatening situation, call 911 for immediate assistance.

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Final Thought

In the beautiful woods and fields of Tennessee, wild mushrooms can be fascinating, but we must also be aware of the hidden dangers–the presence of poisonous mushrooms in TN. Mistaking them for safe ones can lead to serious health problems, like stomachaches or, even worse, death.

That’s why it’s crucial to be careful when picking mushrooms, learn how to identify them correctly, and seek advice from experts. As you explore the world of Tennessee’s mushrooms, remember that staying safe should be your top priority.

Connect with local mushroom groups, study easy-to-understand guides, and ask experienced foragers for help. By focusing on safety and learning, you can enjoy the beauty of Tennessee’s wild mushrooms while avoiding the dangers of toxic ones.

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