Mushrooms are quite diverse in itself.  Extremely interesting and complex however it is easy to become overwhelmed by the complexity of identification.  Every region has their own mushrooms, here we will discuss the American wild edible mushrooms using the basic families guidelines.  The most important aspect of identification is the spores.  Spore color, size, and appearance are necessary identifiers of mushrooms.  My suggestion to learning mushrooms is to first learn the basic families.

For me, when I first got into American wild edible mushrooms, I learned that there are two main families of mushrooms: gilled (Agaricales) and non-gilled. From there I learned the absolute basics of the mushroom groups and then because I forage I learned the poisonous mushrooms first before learning to identify American wild edible mushrooms.

Basic Mushroom Families

Gilled – Agaricales

– Most mushrooms are in the gilled family.  This family is then broken down further into species classifications by spore color and fruiting body characteristics.  Be Extremely Cautious when Identifying.


– Also known as Bracket Fungi, that is quite diverse some are edible, some are medicinal, some are woody and called conks.  Grows on wood most, not all some do grow on the ground these will have a mycorrhizal relationship with particular trees.  Polypores do not have gills, they can have a shelf like growing pattern with pores on the underside.


– grows on the ground, no gills but pores on the undersides that look sponge-like.  Usually very fleshy. Reticulation and blue bruising are common in this huge family.


– No gills or pores but tooth-like projections growing out of the fruiting body.  Hedgehogs is another common name.  Grow on wood


–  Grows on the ground, common after good rain in the grass.  Looks like a ball or oval shape.  When cut looks like a marshmallow inside and should be completely white.


– Grows on decaying wood or ground. Has sea coral-like structure very simple to identify and very delicate.


– Looks like a cup, grows on wood and ground



Jelly Family

– Looks Jelly like hence the name.  Grows on wood live or dead.  Cartilage type texture when cooked