From mushrooms that bleed to mushrooms with bearded "teeth", we uncover seven of the strangest mushroom and fungi species in the world.
Mushrooms are the fruiting bodies of certain fungi, and once mature they produce microscopic spores (like pollen) that may number in the billions. While many ‘shrooms are considered a delicacy, even ordinary mushrooms look incredibly weird with their umbrella-like tops and mushy undersides. We’ve rounded up 7 of the weirdest mushroom and fungi species to date:
1. The Brain Mushroom (Gyromitra esculenta)
The Gyromitra esculenta fungus is a false morel that’s found in both Europe and North America. Unlike true morels, this species of fungus, commonly called the brain mushroom, was found to be poisonous and should not be eaten. The Gyromitra esculenta is characterized by its ruddy red-brown cap that resembles the human brain.
2. Bearded Tooth Mushroom (Hericium erinaceus)
Known as the bearded tooth mushroom or the lion’s mane mushroom, the Hericium erinaceus is an edible, medicinal mushroom that belongs to the tooth fungus group. This mushroom species is usually found sprouting from living, recently cut trees in North America, Asia or Europe.
Hericium erinaceus mushrooms are thought to protect the nervous system and boost immune function. Don’t worry, this bizarre mushroom can be purchased in tablet form—you don’t have to consume those raw dangling spines to reap the health benefits!
3. Amanita muscaria
The Amanita muscaria mushroom looks like it was plucked straight from the latest Alice in Wonderland movie. This mushroom species is a toadstool, meaning that it’s usually considered a poisonous species. Thankfully, reported deaths from consuming the Amanita muscaria are rare.
4. Morchella esculenta
The Morchella esculenta, commonly known as a morel, is one of the world’s most highly desired mushrooms, despite its unappealing appearance. Morels are characterized by a fruit body that expands into a large, yellowish sponge that contains deep pits. People have a hard time growing these tasty mushrooms commercially, which contributes to their high demand (and price) in many parts of the world.
5. Hydnellum pecki
While the Hydnellum pecki is undoubtedly a bizarre mushroom species, its appearance is also quite terrifying. This inedible fungus is found in various parts of the world and should not be eaten. While young fruit bodies “bleed” a pigment containing anticoagulant properties, older Hydellum pecki fungi are brownish and are thus less eye catching.
6. Indigo Milk Cap (Lactarius indigo)
The Lactarius indigo mushroom gets the name indigo milk because it exudes a blue milky liquid when cut with a knife. This bizarre mushroom grows in North and Central America and is usually characterized by its silvery-blue coloring. Lactarius indigo mushrooms aren’t particularly common, but they are one of the most beautiful (and bizarre) mushroom species in the world.
7. Coprinus comatus
Known as the shaggy mane, the Coprinus comatus is an edible mushroom that’s quite common. Unlike most other mushroom species, this bizarre mushroom will dissolve itself within hours of depositing spores or being picked. Therefore, this mushroom must be consumed shortly after picking, before it turns black.