Oyster mushrooms are some of the most widespread and well-known edible mushrooms in the world. If you’re hoping to collect some of these tasty mushrooms in the wild, however, be aware. There are several types of mushrooms that look like oyster mushrooms, and some of them are poisonous. Read on to learn more about some of the oyster mushroom’s most common look-alikes.
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Mushrooms That Look Like Oyster Mushrooms
1. Jack O’Lantern
Jack o’lantern mushrooms can be found in North America, Europe, and parts of Africa. There are three different varieties of these mushrooms, but they are all fairly similar in appearance.
Jack o’lanterns share several features with oyster mushrooms.
First, both types of mushrooms tend to grow from dead and decaying plant matter, especially wood. They are both commonly found on dead or dying trees, stumps, and fallen logs.
Both mushrooms grow in layered clusters and have rounded, flattened or funnel-shaped caps.
Even their gills are similar. Both oysters and jack o’lanterns have decurrent gills, meaning the gills run all the way down the stem. The gills of both mushrooms are large and fleshy.
Despite these similarities, there are a couple of big differences between oysters and jack o’lanterns.
The biggest difference is the bright orange color of jack o’lanterns. Oyster mushrooms can come in a variety of colors, but orange is not one of them.
What’s more, jack o’lanterns are bioluminescent, meaning their gills can glow in the dark. Oyster mushrooms don’t have this ability.
Finally, jack o’lanterns are poisonous, as they can cause some nasty digestive symptoms if you eat them. You don’t want to confuse them with oyster mushrooms, which are edible and quite tasty.
2. Ivory Funnel
Ivory funnels are poisonous mushrooms found in Europe and North America.
These pretty white mushrooms tend to grow in small clusters. They look very similar to elm oyster mushrooms, which are not true oysters but are often mistaken for them.
Ivory funnels have several key differences from true oysters.
Despite their tendency to grow in clusters, they rarely layer or overlap, and they don’t appear to grow from the same stem base. They are single mushrooms that simply tend to grow in close proximity to each other.
Ivory funnels are usually found in open, grassy areas growing directly from the ground. Oyster mushrooms, on the other hand, tend to grow in wooded areas from dead and decaying plant matter.
Ivory funnels typically have longer, thinner stems than true oyster mushrooms.
Finally, ivory funnels do not have decurrent gills; the gills can be found on the underside of the cap, but they do not continue down the length of the stem.
Despite all of the differences, you should still be aware of these mushrooms when foraging for oysters. They tend to be white or buff-colored, which is very similar with the color of most oyster mushrooms.
3. Ghost Fungus
Ghost fungus mushrooms are found primarily in Australia, though they have also been identified in parts of Asia as well.
These mushrooms look very similar to oysters: they have the flattened, funnel-shaped caps, grow in clusters from decaying plant matter, and have gills running all the way down their stems. They are white to beige in color, which further gives them the appearance of oysters.
These mushrooms are poisonous, so you want to make sure you don’t accidentally gather some up while you’re foraging for oysters.
If you live in an area where both oysters and ghost fungus grow, the best way to tell the difference between them is to inspect them under the cover of darkness. Ghost fungus mushrooms are bioluminescent, while oysters are not.
Check out this video to learn more about these fascinating mushrooms:
4. Hen of the Woods
Hen of the woods mushrooms are found in Europe, Asia, and North America. These edible mushrooms have a few similarities with oysters.
Namely, both types of mushrooms grow on dead and dying plant matter, particularly trees. They both grow in large clusters made up of mushrooms with short and stubby stems.
That said, hen of the woods mushrooms have a much more fluffy, feathery appearance, similar to that of a chicken.
What’s more, they tend to be grayish in color, whereas most oyster mushrooms are white, brown, beige, or other colors such as pink or yellow.
5. Bear Lentinellus
These mushrooms, also known by their scientific name Lentinellus Ursinus, are found widespread throughout wooded areas of North America. They have several similarities with oyster mushrooms.
Both types of mushroom grow on dead and dying plants and trees. Bear Lentinellus mushrooms grow in clusters, and their caps are similar in color and shape to most oyster mushrooms.
Their gills also look similar.
Bear Lentinellus mushrooms don’t really have stems; instead, they tend to grow in layers directly from the wood.
Though not poisonous, they are extremely bitter; therefore, you wouldn’t want to confuse them with tasty oyster mushrooms, as cooking even one will end up spoiling the taste of the rest of your harvest.
6. Elm Oyster
Elm oyster mushrooms can be found in temperate forests throughout the world. Despite their misleading name, they are not true oysters.
These mushrooms grow on dead and decaying trees. They can grow either singly or in small clusters, and they are typically white in color.
Though their caps are similar in shape to those of true oysters, their gills are noticeably different. Elm oyster mushrooms do not have decurrent gills, so the gills typically end at the base of the caps–the stems are smooth.
Elm oysters are edible, so there’s no real harm if you end up mistaking them for true oysters. That said, many people find their taste to be different and less desirable than the flavor of true oyster mushrooms.
7. Mock Oyster
These mushrooms are found widely throughout temperate areas of the Northern Hemisphere. As the name suggests, they look somewhat similar to oyster mushrooms, but they are not true oysters.
Mock oysters grow from dead and decaying wood and are common in many hardwood forests. They are deeply gilled and tend to grow in layered clusters, which is what gives them the appearance of oyster mushrooms.
Mock oysters, however, are a unique apricot orange-yellow in color. True oysters do not have this coloration.
What’s more, mock oysters don’t have stems; instead, their caps emerge directly from the wood.
Finally, mock oysters are known for having a smelly aroma that has been compared to the odor of skunks. This is vastly different from the distinctive anise-like smell of true oysters.
Mock oysters are not poisonous but don’t taste very good, so you won’t want to confuse them with true oysters.
8. Angel Wing
Angel wing mushrooms are widely distributed throughout temperate forests of the Northern Hemisphere.
These delicate mushrooms look very similar to oyster mushrooms. They grow on decaying trees, especially hemlocks, and they have a short-stemmed, layered, clustered appearance.
Their gills are decurrent, and their flat to funnel-shaped caps further enhance their appearance to make them look like oysters. They are primarily white in color.
The main difference between angel wings and oyster mushrooms is that angel wings have thinner and more fragile flesh–in other words, they are more tender and easily damaged than oyster mushrooms.
These mushrooms were once considered edible, but in more recent years, they have been related to poisoning and death due to encephalopathy, or brain cell disease.
If you have any doubt about whether you have found angel wings or oysters, have a professional mycologist confirm your harvest before you eat it.
There are quite a few species of mushroom that can be confused with oyster mushrooms. Some of these include edible species like the elm oyster and hen of the woods, as well as toxic species like jack o’lanterns and angel wings.