Best Wild Mushroom Field Guides

Updated December 2019
Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
Bottom Line
Pros
Cons
Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
How we decided

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

21 Models Considered
5 Hours Researched
1 Experts Interviewed
361 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Buying guide for best wild mushroom field guides

Last Updated December 2019

Many mushroom lovers also love mushroom foraging: exploring nature while gathering wild mushrooms, typically for food or medicinal purposes. But foraging for wild mushrooms can be dangerous. Even experienced mushroom hunters rely on wild mushroom field guides to help correctly identify their discovered delicacies. For beginning foragers, having a wild mushroom field guide in their packs is essential.

The fascinating challenge of identifying mushrooms in their natural habitat quickly turns into an aggravation if you do not have the proper field guide. You’ll need a comprehensive guide with plenty of photos to make sure the wild mushrooms you’re picking aren’t poisonous. The field guide should also cover the region where you are foraging.

Our buying guide has everything you need to know when choosing the best wild mushroom field guide to facilitate your search. When you are ready to purchase, consider our recommendations for the best field guides on the market, which you can find in the matrix above.

When foraging, always carry a wild mushroom field guide with photos and drawings. It is your survival guide.

Know your mushrooms

In the early spring and during the damp days of autumn, wild mushrooms abound. They spring up seemingly overnight in our yards and gardens, in open fields, pastures, and meadows, on trees and on the floor of the forest. There are more than 3,000 varieties of wild mushrooms in the United States and more than 38,000 varieties worldwide. It is important to keep in mind that while many wild mushrooms are a gastronomical delight, others are pure poison.

While some poisonous wild mushrooms are easy to identify, others mimic non-toxic varieties. Some poisonous mushrooms can make you very sick, while others are fatal. That’s why it is so imperative to always carry a wild mushroom field guide when foraging.

Parts of a mushroom

  • Cap: Round, conical, cup-shaped, or parasol-shaped, a mushroom’s cap may be smooth, rough, mottled, or covered with tiny nibs.
  • Stem: Mushroom stems can be short or long, thin or thick, hollow or solid.
  • Gills: The spore-producing part of the mushroom, gills are found on the underside of the cap. Gills may be ribbed or composed of a series of small holes.
  • Annulus or ring: If a ring is present around the mushroom, it is normally found just under the cap. The ring is a vestige of the veil membrane the mushroom had to pierce as it sprouted.
  • Volva: Typically located underground, the volva is a bulge around the bottom of the stem. If a volva is present, it is likely the mushroom is poisonous.

Edible mushrooms

Meadow mushrooms, morels, puffballs, shaggy manes, and chanterelles are the most common edible wild mushrooms found in the United States. Edible wild mushrooms are found in a diverse array of shapes, textures, colors, and flavors. Some are so rare that they can be found only one week per year.

If after comparing a mushroom to the data in your wild mushroom field guide, you are not confident that the mushroom is edible, take a photo, make notes for your foraging journal, and leave the mushroom where you found it.

EXPERT TIP

When purchasing a wild mushroom field guide, choose one that offers maps showing the regions where mushrooms grow and what time of the year to look for them.


Staff  | BestReviews

Key considerations

Key

A wild mushroom field guide should have a key: a checklist of questions about the main features of the mushroom that will lead you to proper identification. If you cannot correctly identify a mushroom, do not eat it. Each genus of mushroom includes both edible and inedible species. Many look deceptively similar. The genus Amanita is a good example. This genus includes the deadly Destroying Angel, the hallucinogenic Fly Amanita, as well as the highly sought-after and incredibly delicious Caesar’s mushroom.

Region

Choose a wild mushroom field guide that is region-specific, showing the types of edible mushrooms to look for in your part of the country and the times of the year you are most likely to encounter them. A wild mushroom field guide that covers the world won’t be specific enough for identifying fungi that flourish in your local area.

Photos

Color photos are the most useful for mushroom identification. Keep in mind that many mushrooms look alike, and there is often only a subtle difference in form or color between those that are delicious delicacies and those that are deadly. That’s why color photos are so important in a wild mushroom field guide.

Publication date

For identification of mushrooms in the field, make sure to choose a recently published wild mushroom field guide. New mushrooms are discovered all the time. A vintage guide with hand-drawn images is not as useful as a recently published guide complete with digital photos.

Incidental use

In the United States, picking five gallons of mushrooms per season is allowed on all public lands managed by the United States Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management. This is considered incidental use and does not require a permit or fee. Mushroom foraging is not allowed in U.S. national parks. Keep in mind that each state has separate rules that cover state lands. You should not harvest wild mushrooms on private land without permission.

CAUTION

Know the danger signs. Mushrooms with a ring around the base of the stem as well as those with a volva are poisonous. Because the volva is typically underground, it is imperative to dig around the base of the mushroom to look for it.

Accessories

Magnifying glasses: AIXPI Magnifying Glass
A small, portable magnifying glass with a light, like this one from AIXPI, proves useful when examining fungi and looking for identifying characteristics.

Gathering baskets: UJoylify Durior Wicker Basket
A basket of loosely woven natural material is the best way to carry the mushrooms you harvest. A woven basket allows for airflow, and the mushrooms can be laid gently in the basket to avoid damage, which is likely if they are transported in a plastic tote or bucket.

Pocket knives: Grand Way Spring-Assisted Knife
A clean, sharp knife is a crucial piece of mushroom-foraging equipment. This Grand Way folding pocket knife can be used to sever the mushroom stem.

Handheld GPS units: Garmin ETrex 10 Outdoor Handheld GPS Navigation Unit
Mushrooms growing in the wild are elusive. When you find a bountiful mushroom patch, it is helpful to make a note of the location in your nature diary. With a handheld GPS unit, you can easily revisit the same spot the following season.

Wild mushroom field guide prices

Wild mushroom field guides are published in several formats, including paperback books, hardcover books, and eBooks.

Inexpensive: eBooks offer comprehensive wild mushroom field guides at the lowest price. Load a digital wild mushroom field guide on your smartphone or tablet for easy access in the field. Guides in the budget-friendly range cost $3 to $6.

Mid-range: In this price range, expect to pay $8 to $18 for a more comprehensive ebook guide and $10 to $24 for a paperback pocket guide.

Expensive: For those passionate foragers, hardcover wild mushroom field guides are available from $27 and up. These guides are the most comprehensive, with thousands of color photos and extensive data on regional varieties.

EXPERT TIP

Study your wild mushroom field guide to familiarize yourself with the edible mushrooms found in your region of the country.


Staff  | BestReviews

Tips

  • Never touch or ingest a mushroom with a red cap or stem. Mushrooms with red coloration on the stem or cap are either hallucinogenic or poisonous.
  • When searching for mushrooms in nature, carry several sets of disposable gloves. Some mushrooms are toxic, and you do not want to handle potentially deadly mushrooms with your bare hands.
  • Talk to your local county extension office to find out what types of edible mushrooms are typically found in your local area. Your county extension office can also provide helpful information on areas to search, the best time of the year to find specific fungi, and hints for identifying edible mushrooms.

Other products we considered

If you want to hunt for mushrooms closer to home, these guides to growing your own wild mushrooms are a great way to get started. Richard Bray’s Mushroom Cultivation: Become the MacGyver of Mushrooms – Easy Step-by-Step Instructions to Grow Any Mushroom at Home is a homesteader’s handbook for mushroom cultivation. This book shares the secrets of successful mushroom cultivation in an easy-to-read format. It’s a great gift for any gardener or fungi lover on your gift list. The Kindle download is a terrific value. Paul Stamets’s Growing Gourmet and Medicinal Mushrooms is a must-read if you love to watch your garden grow. Available as a paperback or ebook, this guide details how to have fresh mushrooms at your fingertips year round. Delight your dinner guests with homegrown mushroom delicacies and keep your immune system in tip-top shape with medicinal varieties.

There are more than five million different kinds of fungi. A mushroom is the fruiting part of the fungus, known as a mycelium. The mycelium has a weblike structure that develops and grows underground or inside decaying wood.

FAQ

Q. How do I know if a mushroom is safe to eat?
A.
You don’t. That’s why it’s important to always consult a comprehensive wild mushroom field guide and ask yourself the key questions. What time of year is it? Where is the mushroom growing? Is it growing in the shade or full sun? If it’s growing on a tree, what kind of tree? If it’s attached to wood, what kind of wood? Mushrooms growing out of cedar, eucalyptus, or conifer trees can make you very ill.

Q. Why should I carry a knife when mushroom hunting?
A.
When harvesting mushrooms, use a sharp pocket knife to sever the stem so as not to damage the delicate mycelium below.

Q. How large should a mushroom be before I pick it?
A.
Avoid picking hedgehog mushrooms, winter chanterelles, and other small mushrooms that have a cap diameter less than half an inch. Make sure boletes, horse mushrooms, russulas, parasols, and other larger mushrooms have caps larger than two inches in diameter before foraging.

The team that worked on this review
  • Katherine
    Katherine
    Editor
  • Marlene
    Marlene
    Writer
  • Melinda
    Melinda
    Web Producer

BestReviews wants to be better. Please take our 3-minute survey,
and give us feedback about your visit today.

Take Survey