Found these growing off the exposed-above-ground roots of a tree in my backyard. They are plentiful and I don't want them to weather uneaten -- unless they are poisonous.

A Google image-search claims, they are shiitake, but I'm doubtful. Could someone, please, help identifying them?

Some of the picture show them having been nibbled at by something, which suggests, they are not toxic...

Mystery shrooms Partially eaten by something More mystery mushrooms

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    I wouldn't jump to the conclusion that they're non-toxic because something appears to have "nibbled" on them.
    – DCookie
    Sep 17, 2019 at 2:57
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    For your own safety, forget “rules” like “it’s been nibbled on, it’s non-toxic”. They are complete nonsense and can kill you! There’s only one way to determine whether a mushroom is edible: A certain and positive id that also excludes any doppelgänger.
    – Stephie
    Sep 17, 2019 at 3:34
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    I agree w/ the comments to forget about "nibbles" or other rules. Slugs, snails & other animals will happily make a meal of mushrooms that would kill you or I. A photo alone is rarely enough to ID a mushroom, & this is no exception. There are half a dozen species I know that resemble this, some edible, some not. I will say with 100% certainty that these are NOT shiitake. Absolutely not, period. Also, do not trust your life to a random internet person giving an ID. FWIW, I've gathered wild and grown many species at home for years, I'd need more than photos before approaching this w/ a fork.
    – renesis
    Sep 17, 2019 at 6:05
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    @renesis second the “not shiitake”.
    – Stephie
    Sep 17, 2019 at 8:29
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    @Stephie Oddly enough, the original author of "1000 American Fungi" abebooks.com/book-search/title/one-thousand-american-fungi determined toxicity by first nibbling a tiny bit and seeing if he got sick. If not he ate a little more and repeated the process. You'd have to be a fairly brave person to do it that way. Sep 17, 2019 at 16:02

1 Answer 1


So to start off, this 100% without a doubt NOT Shiitake, but we'll come back to that. I'm glad you doubted the google image search results!

In response to the comment differentiating between mushrooms growing on roots vs. soil: It's not uncommon for wood decomposing mushrooms to look to be growing in soil when they are growing from buried wood. Species that grow on roots may also grow from above ground wood, stumps etc.

The mushrooms in your photos are growing in tight clusters, this is not a trait present in shiitakes. As for the general appearance, this is what shiitakes look like:


Now that said, to positively ID anything, shiitake included, you would need to be able to inspect the gills, flesh and stalk characteristics and more and understand what you are looking for. Another part of IDing a mushroom is feeling & sometimes smelling. We can't even get a close look at the gills in these photos (although they are very good as far as photos go). Also, I am NOT an expert.

It looks as though you are in the US North East, correct? I should note that my wild mushroom gathering is limited to the montane & coastal west of the US. Although many species are present in both areas, I cannot claim to be in the least familiar with what grows in your area. That is to say, there are undoubtedly many possibilities for what you have growing that I have never come across before. In no way is this next bit intended to ID these mushrooms, just to demonstrate the point that without more information there are too many candidates. Now, some possibilities as I see it are:

  • Galerina marginata (Deadly Galerina)Deadly Galerina
  • Hypholoma fasciculare (Sulfur Tuft)Sulfur Tuft
  • Hypholoma sublateritium (Brick Cap)Brick Cap
  • Armillaria solidipes (Honey Mushroom)Honey Mushroom
  • Armillaria mellea (Honey Mushroom)enter image description here
  • Lyophyllum decastes (Fried Chicken Mushroom)Fried Chicken Mushroom
  • Flammulina velutipes (Enokitake)Enokitake

I can't stress enough there is SO much more to IDing than just a photo IE: When broken, does the stipe snap like chalk, or is it stringy? Are the gills (if there are gills) free, decurrent, attached? Does the flesh change color when bruised? Does it exude any liquids when broken? What color is the spore print? Is the cap sticky, scaly, hairy? Is there a ring or partial veil? & on & on. Just one of these may be all you have to differentiate between something poisonous or not.

You can try to ID here: https://www.mushroomexpert.com/major_groups.html

Better yet, pick up a book, maybe something like: Mushrooms of the Northeastern United States and Eastern Canada by Timothy J. Baroni (never read it, but it appears to cover your area) and EVEN BETTER than that, get in touch with your local mycological society!

Also note though that there is huge variation in appearance within even the same species, depending on light, age, humidity, genetic variation.

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