Identifying edible mushrooms requires recognizing their unique appearance, and key identifiers include stem spore print and base structure. Identifying wild edible mushrooms must be done with extreme caution, and those picking mushrooms should always consult a good regional wild mushrooms guide, which provides photos and information about different species.
Individuals can join local fungi groups associated with the North American Mycological Association for identification help. People new to mushroom foraging should consider partnering with an experienced forager who can point out distinct characteristics of edible mushrooms. Do not eat wild mushrooms unless they are clearly identified as safely edible because mistakes can cause serious toxic reactions or death. When foraging for wild mushrooms, take two baskets, and put easily identifiable edible mushrooms in one basket and those that require more identification in another.
Several species of poisonous wild mushrooms are often mistaken for similar looking edible varieties. The green-spored parasol mushroom has a long white stem and button cap top, appearing very similar to edible button mushrooms commonly sold in supermarkets. Green-spored parasols proliferate on numerous lawns and cause for the highest number of accidental mushroom poisonings in North America. The death cap mushroom ranks among the world's most toxic fungi and is commonly confused with the edible paddy straw mushroom common in some regions of Asia.