Gilled mushrooms of NW Ontario
When: August through September
Where: In Birch Trees, other hardwoods and sometimes conifers in mixed forests. Always on wood.
Distinguishing features: Colour and shelf like clusters on wood.
Cap: White to brown, funnel to convex shaped cap with off centered stem.
Gills: White to grey tinged closely packed gills, run partway down short stem (if any)
Identifiable: Forms shelf like overlapping clusters on living or dead wood.
When: August into October
Where: Mixed Boreal forests – look for old large moss covered poplars with abundant fallen/dead stumps and logs.
Distinguishing features: Colour with black “hairs” / spots on cap. Clustered on dead or living wood with a well defined ring on stem.
Cap: Brown to tan with convex cap. Black dots/hairs more pronounced near center.
Gills: White to tan
Identifiable: Growing in clusters on wood, in clusters with brown tops, small black dots, white gills and a ring around the stem.
Shaggy Mane Mushrooms
When: August into October
Where: Roadsides, disturbed areas, wood chips, grass
Distinguishing features: elongated egg shape, white with shaggy appearance.
Cap: Appears white shaggy / scaly elongated “egg shape” morphs to convex parasol shape with inky black edges
Gills: White, very fragile and turn black/inky very quickly.
Identifiable: color, unique shape and shagginess. Older specimens nearby will be inky as the cap disintegrates.
Preservation: Very Fragile and will turn to ink within hours of picking. Cook immediately. Saute and freeze.
Gill Types: Note colour, staining and type of gills present.
True Gills: narrow platy fins radiating from the stalk out to the tips of the caps. Note the density colour and the bruising colour of the gills. Honey mushrooms are good local example.
Pores: No defined gills as above, instead a series of pores under the cap. This is a hallmark of Bolete mushrooms. Boletes are many and varied in their edibility and or toxicity.
Teeth/spines: Gills appear as narrow teeth or spines hanging from the cap. Scaly Hedgehog mushrooms are a local variety.
False Gills: No true gills, instead may have ridges that appear as gills, however they are not easily breakable, thin or platy. Lobsters and Chantrelles are great examples of false gills.
Tips and Tricks
Never eat a mushroom you are not 100% sure of its identification. Even when 100% sure, only ingest a small amount as some people have reactions to normally edible mushrooms. Always cook them first.
The underside of mushrooms are its gills. They are typically fragile blades, some have spines/”teeth”, some are more ridges, some are pores and others have no gills at all.
Spore print mushrooms – place the cap, gills down on a piece of white AND a piece of dark paper for an hour or two. This will tell you the colour of its spore print.
Stay away from young “button stage” mushrooms and older, bruised or damaged mushrooms.
Where does the mushroom grow? On wood? Mossy forest? Hardwood? Softwood?
How does the mushroom grow? Clusters? Alone? In spaced out groups?
What time of year is it? Most mushrooms have a season, finding a fall mushroom in the spring means its not likely what you were looking for.
Start out with easier mushrooms, join groups and go on identification walks. Always ask for help with identification.
Identification and resources
It is important to identify and be sure of edible plants, mushrooms and berries in the wild. There are numerous resources available however nothing is better than going with an expert and growing your knowledge over time.
Pictures and videos are very important and a simple google search (images) will return a wide range of a specific plant you are looking for. There are numerous Facebook groups as well, where the users are usually more than happy to help identify something. Simply upload a good quality picture (or 3 or 4 from different angles) and see what the collective consensus is.
Keep in mind that no one can identify by picture alone 100% of the time.