If you’re a homeowner in Australia, you’ve likely encountered mushrooms popping up in your lawn. While some of these fungi can be visually attractive, it’s important to be aware of the mushrooms in your yard and what their presence indicates about the condition of your soil.
What Are Lawn Mushrooms?
Lawn mushrooms are a common sight in Australia, particularly during the rainy season. They can appear suddenly and are often seen as signs of changes in the underlying soil conditions.
Lawn mushrooms can indicate the presence of decaying organic matter, high levels of moisture, or other environmental factors that can affect the health of the soil and the plants growing in it.
The more you know about your lawn, the easier it will be to get rid of mushrooms or manage their growth. If you have concerns about the growth of mushrooms in your yard, it’s always a good idea to consult with a lawn care expert or a horticulturist for advice and recommendations.
Lawn Mushroom Types
There are several different types of lawn mushrooms in Australia, each with unique characteristics and behaviours.
Giant Puffball Mushroom (Calvatia gigantea)
The most commonly seen mushroom on lawns in Australia is the “puffball” mushroom. It is easily recognisable by its round shape and its white colour.
The Calvatia gigantea has a leathery texture, similar to that of a sponge, and if you touch it or cut it open, it will release a puff of spores into the air.
Although these mushrooms are not poisonous, they are not particularly tasty either!
Field Mushroom or Meadow mushroom (Agaricus campestris)
The field mushroom is one of the most common edible mushrooms found in Australia. It has a slightly nutty flavour, and its cap is creamy white with small scales.
The gills on the underside are initially pink but darken as they age. Field mushrooms typically grow in grassy fields during late spring to early autumn.
Fairy Ring Mushrooms (Marasmius oreades)
Another popular mushroom to appear on Australian lawns is the fairy ring mushroom. This type of mushroom grows in circular patterns, often appearing overnight after a period of rain.
The fairy ring mushroom has a unique flavour that some people find appealing, although others find it too strong for their palates. The best way to enjoy this type of mushroom is to sauté it with garlic and butter for a delicious side dish.
Ringless Honey Mushrooms (Armillaria tabescens)
The ringless honey mushroom is a fungus commonly found growing on trees, stumps, and other woody materials. Ringless honey mushrooms can cause serious damage to hardwood trees but are not considered harmful to humans.
One of the distinctive features of this mushroom is its lack of a ring around its stem, which sets it apart from other honey mushrooms. It can be identified by its fan-shaped caps, which are typically 3-8 cm in diameter and range in colour from light tan to dark brown.
Bitter Oyster Mushroom (Pleurotus ostreatus)
The Bitter Oyster Mushroom (also known as the Grown Sheep’s Head, Big White or Winter Mushroom) is a unique species of mushroom that can be found all over the world.
Despite its name, the Bitter Oyster mushroom is not actually very bitter, and its flavour is considered mild and slightly sweet.
It is named for its distinctive oyster-shaped caps, which are typically 3-10 cm in diameter and range in colour from pale to dark brown. The stems of the Bitter Oyster mushroom are short and usually grow from the sides of the cap.
Poisonous Lawn Mushrooms
Fly Agaric Mushroom (Amanita muscaria)
The Fly Agaric mushroom is a vibrant and recognisable fungus with a bright red cap covered in white spots atop a stem lined with a white cup-like base.
Although extremely poisonous and potentially fatal if ingested, the Fly Agaric mushroom is considered by many to be an iconic symbol of nature and folklore for its symbolic links to fairies and elves.
Yellow Stainer Mushroom
The Yellow Stainer Mushroom is a well-known lawn mushroom that often appears in turf grasses. It has an unmistakable bright yellow cap and white base, with lilac-tinted gills on the underside of the cap.
Yellow Stainers are relatively short mushrooms, usually growing up to only 8cm tall. No matter how appetising they might look, they are inedible and can cause stomach problems and nausea.
Ink Cap Mushroom (Coprinopsis atramentaria)
Although they may look out of place at first, Ink Cap mushrooms are harmless and help decompose organic material.
Ink Cap mushrooms have a distinctive appearance, with a white or light-coloured cap that is 2-10 cm in diameter and a thin, white stem that can reach up to 10 cm in height.
Once the sun comes out, their fragrant white caps will slowly melt away into an inky-black goo, giving them their name.
While many species of Ink Cap mushrooms are considered edible, others are toxic if consumed.
Shaggy Ink Cap Mushroom (Coprinus comatus)
This variety of lawn mushroom is unsafe to eat because of its strong taste and coprine toxin content, which can cause nausea if ingested raw or improperly cooked.
Shaggy Ink Caps have caps that start white before turning greyish-brown with age and thin gills that turn black from the edge towards the stem as they mature.
As its name implies, this mushroom is covered with shaggy fibres and may be found on lawns throughout summer and autumn.
Common Stinkhorn (Phallus impudicus)
One of the odder garden mushrooms you’ll encounter is none other than the Common Stinkhorn. It gets its name from its distinctive shape and pungent odour, which attracts insects and helps to disperse its spores.
Despite its unpleasant odour, the common stinkhorn is not known to be toxic to humans or animals. However, it is important to exercise caution when handling or touching the mushroom, as the slime can cause skin irritation for some people.
How to Identify Poisonous Lawn Mushrooms
While mushrooms have valuable nutritional benefits, they can pose a serious health risk if not properly identified.
Take note of their colour and shape to tell if the mushrooms growing in your yard are poisonous or edible. Some types of toxic mushrooms come in reds or blues, while others may have easily identifiable triangular caps.
Also, check the environment — certain varieties only grow in specific regions or climates and can indicate certain levels of toxicity. Even if all signs point to an edible mushroom species, always consult with experts before consuming mushrooms from your backyard.
Prevent Mushroom Growth with Regular Lawn Care
The next time you see a lawn mushroom, don’t be so quick to judge. These spore-bearing fruiting bodies can tell you heaps about your soil’s quality and whether it needs tending.
Learning to identify mushrooms can help you better understand your yard and the natural world around you. In the meantime, mow regularly to prevent future fungal growth — your lawn will thank you for it.