Put on your rubber boots and get out into the forest!
In nature you can find fungi in many different shapes and colors. The top of fungi (the part that is visible above the earth floor) is called fruiting bodies. Their function is to produce and disseminate spores and are how fungi reproduce.
We are challenging you to go mushroom hunting and experience the many different, fascinating fruiting bodies that can be found in forests. Fungi appear at different times of the year but they are most evident in late summer and autumn.
Warning: this is not a guide to edible mushrooms.
The Amethyst Deceiver
Features: The cap measures 2-6 cm and is violet in color. The middle of the cap has a slight depression and there is irregular corrugation around the edge of the cap. The gills are thick and violet but can become a dusty white from the presence of ripe spores. The fungus creates mycorrhizae and common mushrooms, which can be found in both coniferous and deciduous forests.
About: One of the elegant, colorful mushrooms that can be found in Danish forests. However, the color fades with time and it can therefore be difficult to characterize. The mushroom contains arsenic, a toxic metalloid, and should therefore not be ingested.
The Parrot Waxcap
Features: This mushroom is small and its cap and stem are very slimy; it has gills and is characterized by its green colors. The cap grows to 4 cm in width and is bell-shaped. The flesh has the same color as the mushroom’s surface. A common mushroom, particularly in Jylland.
About: Waxcaps are characterized by their slimy cap and vivid colors. The parrot waxcap has attractive shades of green.
Features: The mushroom is orange-red and the cap is 1-6 cm wide. It has orange-yellow gills under its cap. The stem is 5-7cm high. This mushroom is very common in Danish forests.
About: Waxcaps are characterized by their slimy cap and vivid colors. The scarlet waxcap has some attractive shades of red.
Features: This mushroom is small, with a short stem, and has an attractive turquoise color. The cap’s disc shape resembles a UFO. The mushroom is common and can be found on deciduous trees.
About: The mushroom secretes the substance xylindein, which is what gives the mushroom its blue-green color. Although the fungus’ fruiting bodies cannot always be found, one can nevertheless trace their presence in deciduous trees as it colors the interior of the tree green. This so-called “green oak” is used for decorative purposes and its use dates back to the 1500s in Italy.
Rarity: Rare, as it lives on large, old oak trees. It is designated as near threatened in the Nordic countries.
Features: The mushroom looks like a tongue or a piece of red meat. Its surface is slimy and red and often has scales and red drops. The pores on the underside are white or a light red-brown. The flesh is red, tough and “bleeds” when the mushroom is fresh.
About: The fungus parasitizes large old oak trees and is therefore rare and can be difficult to find.
Rarity: Moderately rare and can be found on the roots or stumps of conifers.
Features: The mushroom resembles a head of cauliflower and consists of densely packed, crumpled, leaf-like structures, which are cream to light brown in color. The mushroom can become fairly large and weigh more than 1.6 kg; its fruiting body measures between 5 and 30 cm2 and is shaped like a cauliflower.
About: With its densely folded fruiting bodies, the cauliflower mushroom is an example of how difficult it is to generalize about mushrooms.
Features: White mushroom with a cap, which grows to ca. 3-10 cm in width. It has gills on the underside, which extend down the stem and form a ring. The mushroom is closely associated with beech and can, in particular, be found on fallen tree trunks or trunks of standing beech trees.
About: The smooth, slimy, white cap resembles shiny porcelain. It has been discovered that the mushroom secretes powerful fungicides, which kill other competing fungi.
Features: This is a stinkhorn mushroom, the fruiting body of which, to begin with, looks like a white bulb or “witch’s egg.” As the mushroom grows, red tentacles break out from the witch’s egg. This mushroom originates from Australia and is rare in Denmark.
About: Octopus stinkhorn is also called Devil’s Fingers and looks like something from another world. The mushroom secretes dimethyl disulfide — a chemical compound that is distinctly foul-smelling.
Chicken of the Woods
Features: This mushroom is a parasite, which grows directly on the trunks of both living and dead trees. It can in particular be found on old oak trees and other deciduous trees. The mushroom can grow to an enormous size, as much as a meter high. It resembles a mass of yellow caps that are growing on top of each other. This mushroom is rare.
About: It is called chicken of the woods because it supposedly tastes like chicken meat. Make sure you find a book on mushrooms if you are interested in hunting for edible mushrooms.
Coral Tooth Fungus
Features: Hedgehog mushrooms are characterized by pointed spikes hanging vertically down beneath the cap. This mushroom resembles a piece of white coral and grows to 5-25cm in height and width. The mushroom can be found on old beech trunks, but also on birch and European aspen. It lives until there are no further nutrients available in the trunks. This mushroom is relatively rare.
About: One of the most attractive hedgehog mushrooms that can be encountered in nature.
The Mealy Tooth
Features: Hedgehog mushrooms are characterized by pointed spikes hanging vertically down beneath the cap. The mealy tooth cap measures 3-10 cm and has a velvety surface which varies in color from white to pink. The mushroom is rare in Scandinavia and very rare in the rest of Europe.
About: When young, the mushroom secretes orange-red drops on the cap and out of the spikes.
The Destroying Angel
Features: Deadly poisonous, and can be confused with the champignon. The mushroom is completely white and has gills and a ring underneath the cap. The cap is 5-10 cm in width and the stem 8-12 cm in height. This mushroom is common in both deciduous and coniferous forests. It is an example of how important it is to treat anything one finds in nature with caution.
About: This mushroom is one of the most poisonous in the country and contains the deadly toxin amanitin. The toxin is taken up by the liver cells and eventually causes the cells to burst.
Dark Honey Fungus
Features: The cap measures 3-10 cm, is brown to dark brown and has scales. The gills are white to begin with and later turn brown. The stem is 6-10 cm high. The mushrooms can often be found in dense clusters. Common in coniferous forests.
About: A particular individual belonging to this mushroom species holds the record for the world’s largest organism. Read more about this mushroom at funky fungi. Moreover, its hyphae are bioluminescent and one can therefore see an infected tree shining in the dark.
Features: A large mushroom, which resembles a ball or an egg. Its color is white to beige. The mushroom occurs, in particular, alongside nettles, on meadows or on old landfills, which are nutrient-rich.
About: This mushroom has been found to have huge fruiting bodies, which have weighed almost 13 kg. One might be lucky and find a fairy ring.
Features: The false truffle is the easiest to find. Truffles create bulbous fruiting bodies under the ground. When ripe, truffles begin to smell strongly, which attracts animals that dig them up and thereby spread their spores. The false truffle is brown and 2-5 cm wide, and is black inside.
About: The false truffle is particularly easy to find as it is parasitized by another mushroom, Elaphocordyceps. This parasitic fungus forms 5-10 cm-high club-like structures above ground. No, the false truffle is NOT edible.
Features: The mushroom is one of the stinkhorns; to begin with its fruiting body resembles a white bulb: ”witch’s egg.” A whitish stem grows up from the witch’s egg to a height of 20 cm and forms a bell-shaped cap which is dark green and slimy.
Om: The mushroom emits a strong unpleasant smell, which attracts flies. The flies eat the mushroom’s spore mass, some of which sticks to them. In this way, the flies are used to further spread the mushroom’s spores.
Bird’s Nest Fungus
Features: A small, bright mushroom, circa 5-10mm in height and width. The mushroom resembles a bowl, which is covered with a yellow-brown hood prior to ripening. Small white “eggs” lie at the bottom of the bowl.
About: When the mushroom is ripe, the hood over the mushroom disappears and the small “eggs” become visible. These “eggs” are closely packed with spores. Raindrops landing in the bowl eject these packages, thereby spreading the spores.
Cheilymenia granulata (cow pat fungus)
Features: As the name suggests, this very small mushroom grows on dung. The fruiting bodies are red-orange and resemble small smooth disks which grow up to 2mm in diameter. This fungus lives especially on cow pats and is relatively common.
About: The mushroom is a good example of how some fungi choose to live in a particular niche. The various dung-loving fungi include both generalists, which can grow on many different types of dung, and specialists, which only grow on dung from a particular organism, e.g. from deer or geese.
Kendetegn: The fruiting body grows to circa 2-9 cm and resembles a ball with a stem. The color is white to grayish beige and small spikes are formed on the ball. The mushroom grows in dense colonies on forest floors. It is very common in both deciduous and coniferous forests.
Om: It belongs to the puffball family of fungi and is characterized by its production of spores within the fruiting body. The spores are spread in a cloud from the dust ball when the mushroom is subjected to physical pressure, either from raindrops or from animals. Over time, a hole is formed at the top through which spores can be blown out.
Giant Club Fungus
Features: One of the larger examples of the clavarioid fungi. This mushroom grows up to 20 cm high and 7 cm wide. It has the same color as clay and in many ways resembles a “club fungus.” It creates mycorrhizae with deciduous trees and often lives on calcareous soil. It is quite rare in Denmark.
About: This fungus has a fruiting body with a very peculiar and atypical shape.
Features: One of the largest and most common earthstar fungi. Its distinctive fruiting body resembles a ball on top of a star with turned-down edges. The ball is white and the star is brownish. The fruiting body grows to circa 4-12 cm in width and often in clusters. The mushroom can be found in deciduous forests.
About: Earthstar fungi have some of the mushroom world’s most weird fruiting bodies. They belong to the puffball family and hide their spores inside the fruiting body. With ripening, the top bursts open and the spores can thereby be blown out in a “dust” cloud.
When: Hele året.
Features: The mushroom can be found on living and dead trees, in particular beech trees, and resembles a massive horse hoof. It grows up to 50 cm in width and can extend 25 cm out of the tree trunk. The cap is gray and the underside is brown. It is very common in most forests in the northern hemisphere.
About: The mushroom has been used for many different practical purposes throughout the course of history. The inner parts of the mushroom in particular are used to start bonfires. When soaked and pounded the mushroom can be used as a form of artificial leather to make clothing and hats, and the mushroom has been used by dentists to stop bleeding after dental extraction.
Recommendations for more discoveries in nature
If you are interested in finding food in nature, we recommend that you look at VILD MAD (wild food). A guide on how to forage in various landscapes. https://vildmad.dk/dk
Many good mushroom books can be loaned from the library and it can be a great advantage to have good images of the many different mushrooms when one goes mushroom hunting.
Denmark’s mushroom atlas allows you to examine other people’s mushroom finds and is a good tool for mushroom hunters.