Death cap mushrooms are some of the most poisonous in the world–if you eat them, they will kill you slowly over several days by causing your internal organs to shut down. The scary thing is, these mushrooms look completely innocuous–and they are similar in appearance to various other fungi species. Keep reading to learn more about the mushrooms that look like death caps.
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Mushrooms That Look Like Death Caps
1. False Death Caps
False death caps are found in temperate forests of Europe and North America.
These mushrooms are in the same family as true death caps. Though they are not deadly, they taste bad and can cause gastrointestinal symptoms in some people.
False death caps look almost exactly the same as death caps. Both mushrooms boast white to greenish to beige-colored caps, fleshy stems, and distinctive volvas.
Some sources indicate that false death caps smell like raw potato, but this isn’t a good identifier because the smell is not overly strong.
It is hard to tell these mushrooms apart from the deadly death cap mushrooms, so it is best to leave them alone to avoid misidentification.
Champignons are common field mushrooms found throughout Europe, Asia, and North America.
When young, these mushrooms are often called button mushrooms, crimini mushrooms, and baby bellas, among other names. They are some of the most commonly seen mushrooms at most grocery stores.
Champignons look very similar to death cap mushrooms–they are both white, though sometimes champignons take on a more brownish appearance. They are both fleshy mushrooms with rounded caps.
There are a few things that set champignons apart from death caps.
One of the most reliable differences is that champignons don’t have volvas. They also have more pinkish-colored gills, while death caps have white gills.
Finally, as they mature, their caps tend to flatten out and become more ragged than death caps.
Even with these differences, always be extremely careful when you’re foraging for champignons, especially when they are young.
3. Albino Blushers
Blusher mushrooms are closely related to death caps, but they are edible because they don’t contain the same deadly toxins.
Albino blushers tend to be lighter in color than regular blushers, which have brownish caps. The light-colored caps of albino blushers make them look almost indistinguishable from death caps.
Albino blushers have smooth, whitish caps, white gills, and white stems with bulbous bases. They even have a white ring around the stem, which is one of the identifying features of death cap mushrooms.
Albino blushers are found in many of the same temperate forested regions as death caps. With this in mind, it would be a good idea to avoid foraging for them unless you know for certain that you are collecting blushers and not death caps.
4. Caesar’s Mushrooms
Caesar’s mushrooms are generally easy to tell apart from death caps when they are mature; but the young mushrooms look quite similar to each other.
Specifically, when they are in the egg stage, both Caesar’s mushrooms and death caps are covered in a white membrane. Once they break through this membrane, death caps will be white or greenish white, while Caesar’s mushrooms will typically be bright orange or yellow.
If you are foraging for young Caesar’s mushrooms, you will want to peel back a bit of the membrane to expose the color beneath. Caesar’s mushrooms will be brightly colored, while death cap mushrooms will not.
There are various species of puffball mushrooms, and some of them look quite similar to death caps that are in the egg stage.
Puffballs can be various colors, including white and beige, and when they are young, they have rounded, egg-like caps–much like immature death caps.
The good news is, there are a variety of ways to tell puffballs and death caps apart.
First, their texture is different. Puffballs feel soft and spongy to the touch, while death caps have a more leathery feel.
Puffballs typically have spiky or bumpy caps, while death caps have smooth caps.
Puffballs are primarily egg-shaped–if you were to cut them in half, you might have a hard time identifying the stem and cap. Meanwhile, death caps are well-defined–even when they are young, you can easily see the stem, volva, and cap if you cut the mushroom in half.
6. Paddy Straws
Paddy straw mushrooms are found primarily in subtropical regions of Asia, where they are often cultivated.
These mushrooms look very similar to death caps, especially before they have reached maturity. Both mushrooms are white, greenish white, or beige in color, and they are similar in shape, texture, and smoothness.
The primary difference between paddy straws and death caps is their spore print. Paddy straws have pinkish spores, while death caps have white spores.
It’s also worth noting that paddy straws don’t grow in the same areas as death caps. Paddy straws are more commonly found in open fields, while death caps are found in forests.
What’s more, paddy straws are found primarily in Asia, while death caps are mostly found in Europe and North America (though they are becoming more widespread throughout the world).
Check out this video to learn about cultivating paddy straw mushrooms:
7. Parasol Mushrooms
Parasol mushrooms can sometimes be confused with death caps due to their similar shape–both mushrooms are shaped rather like parasols.
What’s more, both types of mushrooms have a membranous ring around the stem, and the bases of their stems are both thick and bulbous.
That said, parasol mushrooms are generally a little darker in color than death caps, and their caps have a ragged, shingled appearance. They also have a distinctive dark brown nipple in the middle of the cap.
Additionally, the ring on parasol mushrooms is loose and can be moved up and down the stem. With death cap mushrooms, this ring is attached to the stem.
Finally, parasol mushrooms mostly grow in open grasslands, while death caps prefer wooded areas and forests.
8. Destroying Angels
Destroying angels are in the same family as death caps and can be found in some of the same regions of Europe and North America. Along with death caps, they are considered some of the deadliest mushrooms in the world.
These mushrooms look almost exactly the same as death caps, except that they may be lighter in color. They share all of the same distinguishing features, such as a distinctive volva, smooth, round cap, and ring around the stem.
Again, the only main difference is that destroying angels are usually pure white to yellowish, while death caps are usually bronze, beige, or greenish white.
Avoid both destroying angels and death caps when you are out foraging for mushrooms.
9. Green Russulas
Green russulas are found widespread throughout temperate evergreen forests in the Northern Hemisphere. When young, they can have a similar appearance as death caps.
The caps of both kinds of mushroom tend to be a bit sticky to the touch, and they are both greenish in appearance. The caps are also both smooth.
That said, russula caps, which are flat when young, tend to spread out and curl up, becoming more funnel-shaped as they age.
Their stems lack the ring and volva which death caps have.
Finally, russulas are typically shorter and grow closer to the ground than death caps do.
Part of what makes the death cap so deadly is that it is easy to mistake for other types of mushrooms, including edible ones. Some of the mushrooms that look similar to death caps include paddy straws, Caesar’s mushrooms, and green russulas.