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What is the Difference Between Toadstools and Mushrooms?

Tricia Christensen
Updated Jun 04, 2024
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Many people have incorrect ideas about the differences between toadstools and mushrooms, and this can get them into a great deal of trouble if they’re amateur mushroom hunters. Some think that the main difference is that toadstools are all poisonous versions of mushrooms, while mushrooms are not poisonous. This is incorrect, however, and can cause serious problems for a mushroom hunter. In reality, there is no real scientific difference between toadstools and mushrooms, and the names are basically interchangeable.

Those mushrooms classed as toadstools may not be toxic, or only mildly so, and many mushrooms are deadly. It’s often not possible to tell if a mushroom is edible (unless you’re buying it in a grocery store) based on looks alone, therefore, unless a person is an expert. In general, people should never eat wild mushrooms unless a professional mushroom hunter evaluates them.

Some people define toadstools as any fungi that do not have a centrally located cap, lack a stem or don’t have "gills" underneath the cap. In fact, fungi commonly found in woods that might be identified as toadstools, like polypores, are still mushrooms, even though they don’t have stems. These, however, like the Trametes versicolor, which looks like tiny rainbows and often grows on the bottom of trees or on fallen logs, may be called toadstools to distinguish them from mushrooms that are more typically “mushroom shaped.” This distinction from a scientific standpoint is not correct.

Others define certain fungi that have the mushroom shape as toadstools, among them, the fly agaric or Amanita muscaria, a red capped stemmed mushroom that is both poisonous and possesses hallucinogenic properties if ingested. The main distinction here is degree of toxicity. Again, this mushroom, though bright red with white polka dots on the top, looks very “mushroom-like” in shape and resembles those mushrooms shapes people can buy at a grocery store.

What remains important about toadstools and mushrooms are the following facts:

  • They are the same and no scientific distinction exists between them.
  • They cannot be defined by shape, color, or appearance, since there is no standard differentiation between them.
  • Mushrooms aren’t fungi with caps and stems while toadstools lack caps and stems.
  • Fungi are not defined by level of toxicity: anything classed as either may be nontoxic, mildly toxic, hallucinogenic or extremely poisonous.
  • People should never consume anything classed as toadstool or mushroom without having it first examined by a professional mushroom hunter.
All Things Nature is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a All Things Nature contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.
Discussion Comments
By anon210636 — On Aug 31, 2011

Come on how do you tell what the difference is? If its got a stem? Yes/No?

By anon193290 — On Jul 04, 2011

Mushrooms are good in your garden. They help rot wood and give your plants nutrients.

By anon136156 — On Dec 21, 2010

had to read through a lot of crap before i get to the 'there is no difference' bit - what a let down. i don't care about the destruction of the arguments of what 'other people classify' as what. I just wanted an answer.

By anon124860 — On Nov 07, 2010

how do I get rid of them in my garden?

By anon109315 — On Sep 07, 2010

# Mushrooms aren’t fungi with caps and stems while toadstools lack caps and stems. Looks like there is an error there.

By anon104946 — On Aug 18, 2010

tell people they are drugs and you don't want them in your yard. they will disappear in hours or even minutes on their own.

By anon47360 — On Oct 04, 2009

how do I get rid of them in my yard?

By anon42481 — On Aug 21, 2009

Why do mushrooms grow in house and plants and how do you get rid of them?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a All Things Nature contributor, Tricia...
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