Difference between mushroom and toadstool

“here is no fool-proof test that can be used for all mushrooms. Those species of mushrooms that are edible are known to be edible because someone at one time had tried it and discovered it to be safe to eat.” —University of Hawaii


In A Nutshell

The terms “mushroom” and “toadstool” are purely unscientific labels applied to different varieties of fungus. While there’s no real scientific difference or definition, the two terms have come to mean different things in the common parlance. The name “toadstool” is often given to those fungi that are inedible or poisonous, while “mushroom” is generally reserved for those that are safe to eat.

The Whole Bushel

There’s no real, scientifically accepted difference between a mushroom and a toadstool, and the terms can sometimes be used interchangeably to refer to the same types of fungus. However, in common, non-scientific usage, the term “toadstool” is more often given to those fungi that are poisonous or otherwise inedible.

This is by no means a worldwide, written-in-stone distinction, however, and shouldn’t be used to judge whether or not a mushroom is acceptable to eat. One of the most deadly members of the fungus family, the death cap, isn’t referred to as a toadstool, but a mushroom. There are an amazing amount of different varieties of mushrooms and toadstools, but one thing you should not do is use wives’ tales (e.g., “if you can peel it, it’s safe”) as a guide to what’s harmful and what’s not.

Both toadstools and mushrooms can be defined as the fruiting bodies of a fungus—that is, these are the part of the fungi that produce spores. Most of the fungus itself is underground, and the cap appears in the autumn months for most types. The only purpose of the cap is to release the fungi’s spores; the other parts of the fungi, including those that process and draw nutrients from dead and decaying matter, are underground, and we just never see them.

When most people envision a toadstool or a mushroom, they tend to think of a fungi that has a defined stalk and a cap. There are other types of fungi with less traditional forms, such as the puffball, an aptly-named round, white ball fungi with no apparent stalk. These types of rather non-traditionally formed fungi are typically referred to as mushrooms.

So why have toadstools become associated with the less desirable, more deadly type of fungus?

The answer is in the word itself. Toadstools were once believed to be exactly that—places that toads liked to sit. And since toads were also thought to be poisonous or carriers of disease, that quality transferred to the fungi they were said to favor. The term “toadstool” dates back to the 14th century and has also been recorded as “tadstoles.” Toadstools were also rumored to be a food source for the less-than-savory animals, sometimes called “toad’s meat,” “toad’s cap,” or “toad’s cheese.”

The poisonous variety of fungi have had a variety of names over the centuries, including “wart caps” and “Devil’s droppings.” Toads were also closely associated with the Christian devil, who took the form or attributes of a toad in many old European stories from Milton’s Paradise Lost to medieval folk tales, fairy stories, and wives’ tales.

It’s important to note that names like “Devil’s droppings” are completely warranted for some of the nastier types of poisonous fungi. Many cause mild to moderate gastrointestinal distress, but some types of mushrooms can cause internal hemorrhage, kidney or liver failure, and even psychosomatic symptoms like confusion and anxiety after eating. In some cases, symptoms might not set in for hours or even a few days after ingesting the poisonous toadstool—or mushroom—and in some cases a complete recovery may seem inevitable before organ failure or ruptures.

Show Me The Proof

Mushroom and Toadstool Toxicology
Royal Horticultural Society: Toadstools
Death cap: Amanita phalloides
The Word ‘Toadstool’ In Britain

Mushroom Identification – What Are Fairy Rings, Toadstools And Mushrooms?

Mushrooms are sometimes an annoyance to homeowners who do not welcome them in their gardens or lawns and often wish to get rid of them. However, mushrooms are considered decay fungi and make quick work of organic matter, such as thatch in lawns or compost materials. Their presence in the lawn and garden greatly improve the quality of soil. But how does one distinguish between various types of mushrooms? Continue reading to learn more about mushroom identification.

Mushroom Identification

A real mushroom is in the shape of an umbrella with a cup-shaped or flat cap on top of a stalk. Spores are produced by a group of cells, called basidia, found on the underside of the mushroom cap. While mushrooms come in all shapes, sizes and

colors, the general structure remains the same.

These funny looking structures are actually fruiting bodies, or flowers that are produced by fungi. The body of the fungus is actually underground. There are many kinds of fruit bodies that are not true mushrooms, including puffballs and morels. There are over 8,000 types of mushrooms found throughout the world. These include toadstools and fairy ring mushrooms.

Toadstool Info

Learning about mushrooms includes toadstool info. Many people are curious about the difference between a mushroom and a toadstool. In fact, the word is often used interchangeably. However, toadstools are actually considered poisonous mushrooms.

To be on the safe side, it is always best to consider all mushrooms as poisonous unless you are an expert at mushroom identification. Poisonous mushrooms, when eaten, can cause serious illness and, in some cases, even death.

What are Fairy Rings?

You’ve probably heard mention of fairy rings at some point or other. So what are fairy rings? Lawn mushrooms that form a distinctive arc or circle, especially in the lawn, are known as “fairy rings.” They are the result of a special fungus called fairy ring, and there are between 30 and 60 different types of fairy ring fungi.

Fairy ring fungi feed on decaying matter in the lawn and tend to be worse in poor or sandy soil. Fairy rings can become very dense and kill grass. Good lawn aeration generally helps improve the quality of soil and reduce the presence of fairy rings.

The key difference between mushrooms and toadstools is that the mushrooms are edible and delicious while toadstools are poisonous and not edible.

Mushrooms serve as a nutritious food since they are rich in proteins, vitamins and minerals and also they possess a very good taste and many health benefits. They are fruiting bodies of certain fungi that are commonly seen in lawns and gardens, though they are being produced commercially to meet the growing demands of people worldwide. However, not all mushrooms are edible. Some mushrooms are poisonous and toxic. Hence, they are inedible. Toadstool is a nonscientific name that uses to refer these poisonous mushrooms which are not suitable to eat.


1. Overview and Key Difference
2. What are Mushrooms
3. What are Toadstools
4. Similarities Between Mushrooms and Toadstools
5. Side by Side Comparison – Mushrooms vs Toadstools in Tabular Form
6. Summary

What are Mushrooms?

Mushrooms are fleshy umbrella-shaped fruiting bodies of certain fungi. These structures develop above ground while their mycelia grow underground. They are macroscopic structures having a cap and a stem. Many mushrooms are edible. White button mushroom is the most popular type of mushroom consumed by many cultures for its taste as well as the power to help in curing many ailments.

Figure 01: Mushrooms

Mushrooms are famous as low-calorie food. Moreover, we can consume them in both ways as raw or cooked. They are good sources of vitamins B and D. Likewise; they are a treasure house of many minerals such as selenium, copper, and potassium. Vegetarians all over the world often add mushrooms into their diet to compensate their nutritional requirements coming from the meat. Nearly half of the world’s mushroom products come from China where on an average, every person consumes nearly 6 pounds of mushroom every year.

What are Toadstools?

Toadstool is a common or nonscientific term that refers to mushrooms which are poisonous or non-edible. Actually, they are fruiting bodies of certain fungi. In fact, they are mushrooms that have the typical mushroom structure comprised of a cap and a stem.

Figure 02: Toadstools

However, the term toadstool does not include any edible or any commercially cultivating mushroom. It is a common belief that toadstools refer to poisonous mushrooms since both these mushrooms and toads are poisonous. Amanita muscaria or fly agaric is the most iconic toadstool species that possess a red cap with white spots as shown in figure 2 above.

What are the Similarities Between Mushrooms and Toadstools?

  • Mushrooms and toadstools are fungi of Kingdom Fungi.
  • Scientifically, they are the same.
  • Also, they belong to order Agaricales and phylum Basidiomycota.
  • In addition, they are multicellular filamentous eukaryotes.
  • Furthermore, they are heterotrophs.
  • Moreover, they are agarics, which imply both are fungi with gills beneath the cap.
  • Besides, both grow in damp areas and dark woods requiring no sunlight as they are not dependent upon photosynthesis.
  • Both include umbrella-shaped fruiting bodies.

What is the Difference Between Mushrooms and Toadstools?

Mushrooms and toadstools are macroscopic fruiting bodies of certain fungi. They have a similar structure composed of a cap and a stem. But, mushrooms are mostly edible while toadstools are mostly poisonous. In simple words, mushrooms refer to edible fruiting bodies of fungi while toadstools refer to non-edible fruiting bodies of fungi. Therefore, this is the key difference between mushrooms and toadstools. Also, mushrooms are commercially produced, but toadstools are not.

Furthermore, most toadstools produce colourful caps while most mushrooms have white caps. Thus, this is another difference between mushrooms and toadstools.

Summary – Mushrooms vs Toadstools

Mushrooms and toadstools are two nonscientific names that refer fruiting bodies of certain fungi. Technically, though there is no difference between mushrooms and toadstools, the use of these two names is different. Hence, in summarizing the difference between mushrooms and toadstools, we can say that the mushrooms refer to edible fruiting bodies of fungi while toadstools refer to inedible poisonous fruiting bodies of fungi. Mushrooms are commercially valuable, and hence, they are commercially cultivated. They supply many kinds of nutrients such as proteins, vitamins, minerals, etc. On the other hand, toadstools are not safe to eat. If consumed, they can cause illness. However, not all toadstools are highly poisonous. Similarly, not all mushrooms are edible.


1.“Edible Mushroom.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 20 Dec. 2018. Available here
2. “Mushroom.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 25 Sept. 2018. Available here

Image Courtesy:

1.”Edible fungi in basket 2009 G1″By George Chernilevsky – Own work, (Public Domain) via Commons Wikimedia
2.”2006-10-25 Amanita muscaria crop”By Amanita muscaria 3 vliegenzwammen op rij.jpg, Onderwijsgekderivative work (CC BY-SA 3.0 nl) via Commons Wikimedia

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From dictionary definitions, one can only infer that mushrooms are gilled fungi (no mention of edibility), while toadstools are fungi believed to be inedible or toxic.

Ancient folk tales used the term ‘toadstool’ to define poisonous, large-capped mushrooms on which toads were believed to habitually rest on. Since then, the difference between mushrooms and toadstools has become somewhat blurred.

Even Wikipedia clubs them together and defines mushroom synonymously with toadstool by placing it adjacent to the former in brackets, as in mushrooms (or toadstools) are fleshy, spore-bearing, fruiting fungi. Mushrooms are known as the meat of the vegetable world. They are used in the preparation of pizzas, casseroles, soups, noodles, rice and dozens of other common meals. Who would’ve thought that a fungus would taste so delicious!

(Photo Credit: Public Domain Pictures & Maxpixels)

Both names are therefore merely unscientific labels to define different varieties of fungus. However, there is a popular consensus that while mushrooms are white-capped species that grow in fields and are safe and edible, toadstools are inedible or poisonous species of fungi, which are identical twins to mushrooms, whose consumption can cause minor gastrointestinal infections, psychosomatic issues, such as confusion and anxiety, or worse, death. One cannot even refer to dictionaries to obtain clear and distinctive definitions. The Oxford Dictionary defines them as:

Mushroom: A fungal growth that typically takes the form of a domed cap on a stalk, with gills on the underside of the cap.

Toadstool: The spore-bearing fruiting body of a fungus, typically in the form of a rounded cap on a stalk, especially one that is believed to be inedible or poisonous.

(Photo Credit: Public Domain Pictures)

From these dictionary definitions, one can only infer that mushrooms are gilled fungi (no mention of edibility), while toadstools are fungi believed to be inedible or toxic. However, due to the fact that the resemblance in their appearances is so similar, any forager treading through a forest or hiking a dense hill may mistake a toadstool for a mushroom and end up either hallucinating vivid unicorns or sitting in a hospital with liver or kidney failure.

This is a terrifying thought considering the innumerable species of fungi out there and our essential lack of knowledge about any of them. Therefore, how can we identify the harmless ones?

How do we classify them?

Poisonous mushrooms were associated with toads because toads were known to be carriers of toxins and diseases. This is the reason why fungi are one of the least understood species on the planet. The repugnance is largely cultural, because, for centuries, fungi were believed to be the work of witches and evil spirits, for they had been proliferators of several infections and deaths.

A forager, in any case, however hungry, must not rely on old-wives’ tales – horribly played games of telephone – to pluck mushrooms for dinner. Caution is imperative, but classifying mushrooms is a difficult task. The term “mushroom” is loosely used and does not provide a full account of every species of mushroom there is – some have pores underneath, while some have spines, and several of them are not gilled. The term resembles a class of macroscopic fungal fruiting bodies, rather than a class structured on precise taxonomic knowledge.

There is no single trait by which all toxic or edible mushrooms can be identified. Visual or tactile identification requires meticulous attention to detail. By detail, I mean a myriad of criteria, not a species’ shape alone. One must parse its color, size, pores, gills, spore color, flesh color, habitat, vulva, stem color, roots, smell, latex and many other characteristics before devouring a bunch of mushrooms.

Or, we could simply refer to molecular data to gain indomitable clarity. Molecular classification is the optimum way to winnow the edible mushrooms from the toxic toadstools. However, I have yet to witness a forager who carries expensive microscopes and scalpels on his hikes. Modern classification is based on molecular differences, but the old standard (and inaccurate) methods still prevail.

  1. North American Mycological Association
  2. Nature.com
  3. GallowayWildFoods
  4. Wikipedia

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The fungi are a division of the plant kingdom, and mushrooms and toadstools are the reproductive or fruiting bodies that some of them (but by no means all) produce.

The plant body of a fungus consists of a tangled mass of threads called hyphae, the whole mass being called a mycelium. In the case of the mushroom this is underground in the soil.

Fungi differ markedly from almost all other plants in being devoid of chlorophyll, the green compound that enables plants to build up their food from simple chemical substances. They therefore feed on plant or animal matter, alive or dead. If they feed on living organisms they are said to be parasitic; if on dead matter they are called saprophytic. Most fungi that produce mushrooms and toadstools are saprophytic, getting their nourishment from leaf-mold and similar substances.

Most of us can recognise one or two kinds of mushroom and regard all ‘toadstools’ as poisonous. In fact, some toadstools are perfectly good and safe to eat. Mushrooms grow in fields; you will find toadstools most numerous in damp woods in the late summer and autumn. As we have said, a number of the fungi that we call toadstools are edible, in addition to the two common species of mushroom, the Field Mushroom (Psalliota campestris) and the larger Horse Mushroom (Psalliota arvensis).

Those illustrated here are: Cep (Boletus edulis). Not a very attractive fungus to look at but one that is excellent to eat. It is found in woods, especially beech-woods (Figure 5).

Amanita caesarea. A European species, highly thought of on the Continent but not found in Britain (Figure 3).

Russula (Russula cyanoxantha). The color of the cap varies from purple to greenish (Figure 3).

Field Mushroom (Psalliota campestris). This and its larger relative the Horse Mushroom grow in fields. The gills change with age from pale pink to a blackish color. Be careful if you eat any fungus other than mushrooms. Some toadstools are so poisonous that the doctor may not be able to save your life if you eat them. Such time-honoured tests at that of a silver spoon turning black, if put in the juice while the toadstool is cooking, is quite useless Figure 5).

Death Cap (Amanita phalloides). This is a common fungus and one of the most dangerous; numerous deaths have been caused by it. It grows in woods, has a greenish cap, white gills, and a cup-like volva at the base of the stem. Its great danger is that a careless person can mistake it for a mushroom. The symptoms of poisoning (severe abdominal pain) are not felt until ten to twelve hours after eating (Figure 4).

Fool’s Mushroom (Amanita verna). Just as poisonous as the Death Cap and even more like a mushroom because the cap (as well as the gills) is white. Fortunately it is rare (Figure 2).

Fly Agaric (Amanita muscaria). This beautiful and unmistakable toadstool seldom causes death, but eating it results in intoxication and mental disturbance. Some primitive tribes deliberately eat it for this reason. Broken up in milk, it can be used as a bait to kill flies (Figure 2).

Devil’s Boletus (Boletus satanas). This strangely colored fungus belongs to the same genus as the Cep and, like it, grows in woods. It is very unwholesome but is not regarded as dangerously poisonous (Figure 2).

Sickener (Russula emetica). A Russula not unlike the one illustrated, but the cap is red. It has an acrid taste and causes nausea and sickness if eaten (Figure 3).

Other kinds of fungus

We have mentioned that only some of the fungi produce mushrooms and toadstools. Other kinds include such varied forms as moulds and mildews, yeasts, and parasitic types which produce disease in plants and animals. The most famous of the moulds is Penicillium, from which the wonderful antibiotic drug penicillin is produced. Yeast is the valuable fungus which we use to promote fermentation in making beer and wine and in making bread rise. Examples of fungi that cause disease in plants are wheat rust, which can seriously damage cereal crops, and potato blight, the cause of the Irish famine of 1846–47. Ringworm, a skin disease of animals and humans, is caused by a fungus.

Development and anatomy of a toadstool

The greater part of the toadstool is made up of the cap and the stem (Figure 1).

The stem supports the cap and may be long and slender or thick and rounded, according to the species. The surface of the cap may be moist and sticky or covered by a dry skin. The young toadstool has a membrane stretched from the edge of the cap to the stem, covering the gills. As growth proceeds, this is torn and remains as a ring round the stem. Some kinds have a second membrane, the volva, which encloses the whole of the young toadstool; this is also torn when growth is complete.

How toadstools reproduce themselves

The reproduction of fungi is quite different from that of the flowering plants, in which the ovules are fertilized by pollen grain and seeds are produced (Figure 6). On the underside of the cap of the toadstool tiny spores develop. They are like fine grains of dust, much smaller than any seeds, and a single toadstool produces millions of them.

If they fall on suitable ground the spores germinate.

They grow into a filament called the primary mycelium, consisting of a chain of cells set end to end.

The filaments send out branches and also join and fuse together and the secondary mycelium is formed.

The mycelium forms a network under the ground and later grows up to form a new toadstool (the thickness of the threads is exaggerated in the picture).

Can you eat toadstools

The word toadstool is often used to indicate a poisonous mushroom. Since there is no If you do eat a mushroom you’ve picked, save a sample. In case you. Dec 15, Poisonous mushroom identification can be difficult, given that there are some and the hallucinogenic Fly Amanita or toadstool (Amanita muscaria). . The best way to identify a Florida mushroom you can eat is to start with. Toadstools and mushrooms start bursting through the soil and making their the types of habitats edible mushrooms grow in, you can discover some fabulous, It is essential that you know exactly what you’re picking if you intend to eat it.

Apr 29, This rule is not true, many animals can eat poisonous fungi with no ill Again you will be missing out on some good mushrooms but more. Jan 5, One of the most deadly members of the fungus family, the death cap, isn’t Both toadstools and mushrooms can be defined as the fruiting bodies of a even psychosomatic symptoms like confusion and anxiety after eating. Oct 12, The second question is tricky because I have to second-guess what the One is edible and delicious, one will give you a nasty tummy upset.

Apr 5, But how does one distinguish between various types of mushrooms? Poisonous mushrooms, when eaten, can cause serious illness and. From dictionary definitions, one can only infer that mushrooms are gilled fungi ( no mention of edibility), while toadstools are fungi However, I have yet to witness a forager who carries expensive microscopes and scalpels on his hikes. Mushroom poisoning, toxic, sometimes fatal, effect of eating poisonous mushrooms (toadstools). There are some 70 to 80 species of mushrooms that are .

Mushrooms and toadstools – As a mycologist (a botanist with an expertise in fungi ), Peter turn to silver black are not reliable indicators that a mushroom is safe to eat. If you can’t find a ring of tissue around the stem, it’s not a true mushroom. The study of the fungi is one of the most highly specialized, as there have been up to the edible from the poisonous is one of the most difficult that the novice can undertake, fungi); Most of the species are too small and woody to be eaten. Dec 15, Poisonous mushroom identification can be difficult, given that there are some and the hallucinogenic Fly Amanita or toadstool (Amanita muscaria). . The best way to identify a Florida mushroom you can eat is to start with.

Issue: February 3, 1997


Last year I had a lot of toadstools in my lawn. I’m worried about my grandchildren touching them and being poisoned. What can I do to get rid of the toadstools?


What can you do to prevent toadstools? Nothing. Toadstools are the structures that some fungi use to reproduce by producing spores. However, you don t need to worry so much. Your grandchildren cannot be poisoned by touching the toadstools. To be poisoned, they would have to ingest, that is chew and swallow, the toadstool. Then to be poisoned, the toadstool would have to contain poisonous substances. Relatively few poisonous mushrooms have been found in New Mexico. That being said, it is still wise to avoid eating wild mushrooms unless you are very competent at identifying mushrooms.

Don’t try to use fungicides or other products to prevent toadstools. This would not be effective and is unnecessary as most of the toadstool fungi are not harmful to the lawn or other plants. However, these fungi are beneficial in decomposing lawn thatch, dead roots, and other organic material. Without the fungi, dead organic material would accumulate and their nutrients would not be recycled to be used by other living things.

You can reduce the number and frequency of mushrooms by removing thatch and other organic matter to feed the fungus. Proper lawn care, avoiding over-fertilization and irrigation, and removal of the thatch should reduce the presence of fungi and toadstools. Just remember that they can not harm you or anyone if you only touch them.

Pretty lawn and dead trees


My neighbor installed a new lawn irrigation system last year. Her grass looked better than ever, but her shade tree died. I want to have a pretty lawn, but I don’t want to loose my shade trees. What happened? Can I avoid this and have both a pretty lawn and trees?


It is possible that there is no relationship between the death of the tree. Perhaps an herbicide was used incorrectly before the lawn was installed. However, the process of trenching and installing the irrigation system could have damaged the trees roots.

One of the common problems with installing irrigations systems is a poor understanding and consideration of the extent and shallow nature of tree roots. As interest in water- conserving landscapes grows, the problem can actually be even worse, but it need not be. Trees, water conservation, and attractive turf areas are not mutually exclusive. Irrigation systems can be installed to maintain trees in a water-conserving landscape.

The most likely cause of your neighbor’s tree problems was that the trenching to install the irrigation pipes cut the roots of the trees. While some tree root damage must occur when trenching, it can be minimized and the trees can survive. Do not trench on all sides of the trees within the drip line of the tree. When you must trench near the tree, dig the trench directly toward the tree (radially), rather than tangentially. If you trench radially and take care to avoid tree roots, you will minimize the number of major roots which are cut.

Tangential trenching will maximize the amount of root injury.

Irrigation following installation of the irrigation system is important. If roots were cut when the irrigation system was installed, it will be important to provide additional water until roots can be regenerated to replace those lost. After the roots have re-established, irrigation providing water to moisten the soil to a depth of two to three feet in the vicinity of the drip line should be sufficient. Irrigation every ten days to two weeks during the growing season should be sufficient. During the dormant season, irrigation should be needed once a month or less if the soil is moist. However, if there has been no precipitation, it may be necessary to irrigate during the winter.

Why toadstools in your lawn are nothing to worry about

Lawn care is a funny thing. Just when you think you’ve cracked it, Mother Nature offers up a different challenge. In this blog we’re looking at toadstools in your lawn. Where they come from and how to treat them.

Mushrooms and toadstools are types of fungi. You expect to see them growing in woodland and wild places but they can come as a surprise when they appear in your lawn. However, believe it or not, they are a sign that your lawn and the soil beneath it are a healthy ecosystem. Let me explain.

What are fungi for?

Fungi are living things, they are neither plants nor animals but have a class all of their own. There are millions of different species of fungi in the world, including the microscopic ones that cause lawn diseases such as redthread and fusarium patch. Some fungi are easy to see, others are invisible to the naked eye. But just because you can’t see them, it doesn’t mean they’re not there.

These amazing organisms have a big job to do in the world. They help to break down organic waste and turn it into plant food. In other words they are recyclers.

Some fungi, known as, actually team up with plants. They attach themselves to the plants’ roots and physically feed the plant with the nutrients they have made. In return, the plant offers up some of the sugars it has made from sunshine. It’s an amazing partnership that benefits both the fungi and plant.

Why have toadstools suddenly appeared? I’ve never seen them in my lawn before

The soil in your garden is teeming with fungi and their spores. You can’t see them, they don’t hurt you and most of the time the spores are dormant, just waiting until all the conditions are right for them to grow and produce the next generation of their species.

It’s not unusual to see toadstools in newly laid turf, especially in autumn time. Don’t worry, they’ll soon disappear.

If you have mushrooms or toadstools in your lawn, take it as a compliment. It means that the soil is nutritious and has a healthy ecosystem.

The fungi you sometimes see in the lawn have larger fruiting bodies than their microscopic cousins. The spores (spores are the fungal equivalent to seeds) of these species tend to stay dormant in the soil until they have the correct temperature, amount of moisture and a suitable food source all at the same time. Most years, that time is autumn. This year (2018) it’s come a bit earlier.

How the seasons affect lawn fungi

Nature never looks at the calendar. The weather this year has been odd to say the least. We had late frosts, then a very wet spring, followed by an incredibly hot dry summer. Seeds and spores tend to be triggered by weather patterns and some are uber-sensitive to them.

Take primroses as an example. The little perennial plants flower in spring and drop their seeds in early summer. But the seeds don’t grow straight away. They sit in the soil until next spring so that they can germinate when there’s a good chance of the baby plants having enough water to get established. How do they know it’s spring? The seeds need to sit in frozen soil for a while and when the soil begins to warm up the germination process will switch on. (that’s why gardeners sometimes put seeds in the fridge for a few days before they sow them in the greenhouse)

Fungal lawn diseases and wild mushrooms are at their most prolific in autumn. My guess is that the weather tells them when summer is coming to an end and it’s time to grow fruit and send out new spores.

It’s not unusual for toadstools to appear in newly laid turf. That’s because the spores have been disturbed during the harvesting and transporting of the turf and they’re enjoying all the water you’re giving them.

Are lawn mushrooms edible?

Fungi are mysterious lifeforms. Occasionally on a lawn they’ll form a circle, known as a fairy ring. It’s quite enchanting to see but one type of fairy ring (there are 3 types) can cause long term damage. If you see a circle or arc of fungi with dead looking grass between them, get professional help as soon as possible

During my training, I learned that there are around 400 different species of mushrooms and toadstools that grow in lawns. So far, the ones that have been tested haven’t been poisonous. BUT unless you are an expert in mushroom identification, it would be sensible to assume that the mushrooms in your lawn are NOT edible.

If you have children or pets who are likely to eat the mushrooms or toadstools, then it’s a good idea to either pick the fungi and throw them away, or restrict access to the lawn. You will rest easier if you know they’re not being devoured.

How to get rid of mushrooms and toadstools in your lawn

First of all, don’t panic. The life of a toadstool can be measured in days not weeks. They are very short lived and if you leave them alone, they will disappear on their own as soon as they have distributed their spores and completed their life cycle.

Spores are carried in and out of the garden on the wind. (Another possible reason why fungi tend to fruit in autumn time). You cannot keep the spores out and there’s no guarantee that they will grow into mushrooms next year. They could stay dormant in the soil for years and years. So don’t drive yourself mad trying to destroy the mushrooms before the spores escape. You may not gain much from it.

Mowing the lawn will usually destroy the fruiting bodies. You may see a second or even a third flush of them, depending on the weather but you can mow again to get rid of them.

What can you do to avoid mushrooms next year?

Scarifying and aerating your lawn in autumn will get rid of most of the fungal spores that are hiding in the thatch layer. Keeping your lawn well fed will ensure that there are fewer spaces between grass plants for a mushroom to grow in. Keeping trees, hedges and shrubs well-trimmed will help create a microclimate on your lawn that doesn’t suit fungi. Remember that fungi in general seem to favour places that are cool, damp and poorly ventilated – like woodland edges.

The important thing to remember though is that your lawn is to be enjoyed. For it to be healthy it needs a strong ecosystem in the soil beneath it. Changes in moisture levels and temperatures will change the balance in the ecosystem and may throw up some surprises for you. It’s all part of the challenge of growing a beautiful lawn and I’m always on hand to help you meet that challenge.

Learn more about autumn lawn scarification

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Mushrooms In The Lawn

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The key difference between mushrooms and fungus is that the mushrooms are fruiting bodies of certain fungi belonging to the order Agaricales of phylum Basidiomycota while the fungus is any member of eukaryotic microorganisms such as yeast, moulds, mildews, mushrooms, etc., that belong to kingdom Fungi.

Kingdom Fungi is one of the five kingdoms of living organisms. However, they are a separate class of microorganisms that reproduce from spores and are thus different from plants that can do photosynthesis to make food for themselves. Fungi consist of moulds, yeast, mildew, and mushrooms. Moreover, fungi can be either unicellular or multicellular. Mushrooms are fruiting bodies of a certain group of fungi, and most common or famous of these are those that have a button like structure with a stem. Mushrooms can either edible or non-edible (poisonous).

1. Overview and Key Difference
2. What are Mushrooms
3. What is a Fungus
4. Similarities Between Mushrooms and Fungus
5. Side by Side Comparison – Mushrooms vs Fungus in Tabular Form
6. Summary

Mushrooms are reproductive structures of certain types of fungi that belong to phylum Basidiomycota. In fact, a mushroom is just an attempt of a microorganism (fungus) to reproduce. It is a fruiting body appearing during the reproduction of macroscopic fungi of the order Agaricales.

Figure 02: Mushroom

Moreover, they develop above ground commonly on dead logs and faeces. Their mycelium grows below the ground. Structurally, they are different from other fungi such as yeasts and moulds since they produce visible macroscopic fruiting bodies. Mushrooms are two types; edible or non-edible (toadstools). Non-edible mushrooms produce colourful caps, and they are poisonous.

What is a Fungus?

Fungi (singular – fungus) are a group of eukaryotic organisms belonging to the kingdom Fungi. The kingdom fungi include organisms such as moulds, rusts, smuts, mushrooms and yeasts that are totally different from plants and animals. Likewise, kingdom fungi comprise four major phyla namely Chytridiomycota, Zygomycota, Ascomycota and Basidiomycota. Study of fungi is called mycology, which is a part of microbiology. The fungus lives on soil and plant materials. They show certain similar characteristics with animals, not with plants. The main reason for this is the inability to photosynthesis and lack of chlorophylls. Most fungi are multicellular while yeasts are unicellular.

Moreover, most of the fungi are saprophytic. They release extracellular enzymes, digest dead organic matter and absorb nutrients. Hence, they are the best decomposers in the environment. Furthermore, some fungus is parasitic while some are pathogenic.

Figure 02: Fungi

Furthermore, fungi live in associations with cyanobacteria, plants, animal, etc. A beneficial association of fungi with higher plant roots is the mycorrhizal association. Mycorrhizae are very much important in plant nutrition. Fungus helps plants to absorb nutrients. The association of fungi with cyanobacteria is the lichen which is an important environmental indicator. Some fungi such as Penicillium and Aspergillus, are industrially important since they are the microorganisms used to produce antibiotics, organic acids and some useful secondary metabolites.

What are the Similarities Between Mushrooms and Fungus?

  • Mushroom is a fruiting body produced by a certain group of fungi.
  • Both types have chitin in their cell walls.
  • Moreover, both lack chlorophylls, and hence, unable to photosynthesize.
  • Also, both are heterotrophs.
  • Furthermore, they produce spores to reproduce.
  • Besides, mushrooms and fungus are very good decomposers in the environment.

What is the Difference Between Mushrooms and Fungus?

Mushrooms are macroscopic fruiting bodies of certain fungi. On the other hand, the fungus is any member of the kingdom fungi that mainly includes yeasts, moulds, and mushrooms. Therefore, this is the key difference between mushrooms and fungus. Furthermore, another difference between mushrooms and fungus is that the mushrooms belong to the phylum Basidiomycota while the fungus belongs to the phyla Chytridiomycota, Zygomycota, Ascomycota and Basidiomycota. Also, mushrooms develop above ground while fungus can grow below ground.

Moreover, a further difference between mushrooms and fungus is that the mushroom fungi are filamentous while fungi can be either unicellular or filamentous. Besides, all mushrooms are fungi but, not all fungus produce mushrooms.

Summary – Mushrooms vs Fungus

Fungi are multicellular eukaryotic microorganisms that belong to the kingdom Fungi. They can be either unicellular or multicellular. Furthermore, they can be filamentous or non-filamentous. Fungi include yeasts, moulds, mildews, smuts, rusts and mushrooms. When considering mushrooms, mushrooms are fruiting bodies of a certain group of fungi. Not all fungi are producing mushrooms or fruiting bodies. Mushroom has a cap and a stem. They bear spores or basidiospores. All these summarize the difference between mushrooms and fungus.

1.“Introduction to Fungi.” American Phytopathological Society. Available here
2. “Mushroom.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 25 Sept. 2018. Available here

1.”1419943″ by Cimi (CC0) via pxhere
2.”Fungi collage”By BorgQueen (CC BY-SA 2.5) via Commons Wikimedia

Fungi vs. Plants

In the early years of scientific study, fungi were part of the plant kingdom. Since that time they have been given their own kingdom because of their unique structure and function. Botany is the branch of science that deals with plants and mycology is the study of fungus. Plants are easily identifiable by their green color. Some examples of fungi are mushrooms, yeast and mold.

Main Differences Between Plants and Fungi

One of the main differences between plants and fungi is that fungi have chitin as a component of their cell walls instead of cellulose. Both chitin and cellulose are comprised of polysaccharide chains. In plants the monomer in this chain is glucose and in fungi it is a modified form of glucose called N-acetylglucosamine. Another contrast between plants and fungi is the presence of chlorophyll in plants and not in fungi. Fungi absorb all the nutrients they need from the soil unlike plants which require chlorophyll to conduct photosynthesis.

The table below shows more differences between plants and fungi.

Comparison Chart

Feature Fungi Plants
Major cell wall component Chitin (N-acetylglucosamine) Cellulose (glucose)
Has chlorophyll for photosynthesis? No Yes
Digests food before uptake? Yes No
Has roots, stems and leaves? No, has filaments Yes
Can make their own food? No, heterotrophic Yes, autotrophic
Types of gametes Spores Seeds and pollen
Trophic level Decomposers Producers
Food storage form Glycogen Starch

One difference between plants and fungi is in the main substance that makes up their cell walls. The image above shows how N-acetylglucosamine polymerizes into chitin (in fungi cell walls) and how glucose polymerizes into cellulose (in plant cell walls).


Mushroom, the conspicuous umbrella-shaped fruiting body (sporophore) of certain fungi, typically of the order Agaricales in the phylum Basidiomycota but also of some other groups. Popularly, the term mushroom is used to identify the edible sporophores; the term toadstool is often reserved for inedible or poisonous sporophores. There is, however, no scientific distinction between the two names, and either can be properly applied to any fleshy fungus fruiting structure. In a very restricted sense, mushroom indicates the common edible fungus of fields and meadows (Agaricus campestris). A very closely related species, A. bisporus, is the mushroom grown commercially and seen in markets.

Honey mushroom (Armillaria mellea)H.R. Allen—NHPA/Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.

Umbrella-shaped sporophores are found chiefly in the agaric family (Agaricaceae), members of which bear thin, bladelike gills on the undersurface of the cap from which the spores are shed. The sporophore of an agaric consists of a cap (pileus) and a stalk (stipe). The sporophore emerges from an extensive underground network of threadlike strands (mycelium). An example of an agaric is the honey mushroom (Armillaria mellea). Mushroom mycelia may live hundreds of years or die in a few months, depending on the available food supply. As long as nourishment is available and temperature and moisture are suitable, a mycelium will produce a new crop of sporophores each year during its fruiting season.

Fruiting bodies of some mushrooms occur in arcs or rings called fairy rings. The mycelium starts from a spore falling in a favourable spot and producing strands (hyphae) that grow out in all directions, eventually forming a circular mat of underground hyphal threads. Fruiting bodies, produced near the edge of this mat, may widen the ring for hundreds of years.

A few mushrooms belong to the order Boletales, which bear pores in an easily detachable layer on the underside of the cap. The agarics and boletes include most of the forms known as mushrooms. Other groups of fungi, however, are considered to be mushrooms, at least by laymen. Among these are the hydnums or hedgehog mushrooms, which have teeth, spines, or warts on the undersurface of the cap (e.g., Dentinum repandum, Hydnum imbricatum) or at the ends of branches (e.g., H. coralloides, Hericium caput-ursi). The polypores, shelf fungi, or bracket fungi (order Polyporales) have tubes under the cap as in the boletes, but they are not in an easily separable layer. Polypores usually grow on living or dead trees, sometimes as destructive pests. Many of them renew growth each year and thus produce annual growth layers by which their age can be estimated. Examples include the dryad’s saddle (Polyporus squamosus), the beefsteak fungus (Fistulina hepatica), the sulfur fungus (P. sulphureus), the artist’s fungus (Ganoderma applanatum, or Fomes applanatus), and species of the genus Trametes. The clavarias, or club fungi (e.g., Clavaria, Ramaria), are shrublike, clublike, or coral-like in growth habit. One club fungus, the cauliflower fungus (Sparassis crispa), has flattened clustered branches that lie close together, giving the appearance of the vegetable cauliflower. The cantharelloid fungi (Cantharellus and its relatives) are club-, cone-, or trumpet-shaped mushroomlike forms with an expanded top bearing coarsely folded ridges along the underside and descending along the stalk. Examples include the highly prized edible chanterelle (C. cibarius) and the horn-of-plenty mushroom (Craterellus cornucopioides). Puffballs (family Lycoperdaceae), stinkhorns, earthstars (a kind of puffball), and bird’s nest fungi are usually treated with the mushrooms. The morels (Morchella, Verpa) and false morels or lorchels (Gyromitra, Helvella) of the phylum Ascomycota are popularly included with the true mushrooms because of their shape and fleshy structure; they resemble a deeply folded or pitted conelike sponge at the top of a hollow stem. Some are among the most highly prized edible fungi (e.g., Morchella esculenta). Another group of ascomycetes includes the cup fungi, with a cuplike or dishlike fruiting structure, sometimes highly coloured.

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Other unusual forms, not closely related to the true mushrooms but often included with them, are the jelly fungi (Tremella species), the ear fungus or Jew’s ear (Auricularia auriculara-judae), and the edible truffle.

Mushrooms are free of cholesterol and contain small amounts of essential amino acids and B vitamins. However, their chief worth is as a specialty food of delicate, subtle flavour and agreeable texture. By fresh weight, the common commercially grown mushroom is more than 90 percent water, less than 3 percent protein, less than 5 percent carbohydrate, less than 1 percent fat, and about 1 percent mineral salts and vitamins.

Poisoning by wild mushrooms is common and may be fatal or produce merely mild gastrointestinal disturbance or slight allergic reaction. It is important that every mushroom intended for eating be accurately identified (see mushroom poisoning).

The two questions I get asked most often when guiding fungi forages are ‘Is this edible?’ and ‘What’s the difference between mushrooms and toadstools?’ I tend not to answer either directly.

In the case of the former, I encourage the asker to work out for themselves what species they are holding by observing its key features then answer the question for themselves. This may sound evasive, but its much more useful in the long run. The most satisfying foraging moments for any forager comes when they finally ‘crack’ a new species after years of searching and wondering. Its also important that we take personal responsibility for what we put in our mouths. And besides all that…I may not know anyway.

The second question is tricky because I have to second-guess what the asker means by ‘toadstool’. Sometimes they mean ‘any poisonous fungi’, others they mean ‘mushrooms that don’t look like field or cultivated mushrooms’. Occasionally they are wondering about the precise definitions like I am. The dictionary doesn’t help much:

Mushroom: a type of fungus, usually shaped like an umbrella, many of which are edible.

Toadstool: any of several mushroom-like fungus, some of which are poisonous.

Err…thanks…that really helps. The inference is, I suppose, that mushrooms tend to be edible and toadstools tend to be poisonous. This is no use at all for the forager who has to deal in certainties. And besides, I think the cultural distinction in the UK is more subtle.

“Oh, I only pick mushrooms. They are easy, we get them in the horse field. But I wouldn’t know about the toadstools that come up in the woods…”. I hear this sort of thing quite regularly. The inference here is that species that grow in fields (often with white caps and pink to chocolate coloured gills) are safe and edible, but the odd, brightly coloured stuff in the woods may be edible but should be treated with extreme caution. This is muddled thinking that will not only mean you miss out on the best edible species, but may give you a nasty tummy upset, land you in hospital, or worse.

Take a look at these three pictures. One is edible and delicious, one will give you a nasty tummy upset, and one will probably kill you. So which are toadstools and which are mushrooms?

The answer is they are all both and neither…

Left is the yellow stainer, which is unpleasantly poisonous, and virtually indistinguishable from horse and field mushrooms but for the yellow staining that occurs on its base when scuffed.

Centre is a death cap (amanita phalloides) – the one in this picture would be enough to kill you. Read more about Death Caps…

Right is a horse mushroom which is delicious – like an intense version of cultivated mushrooms with aromatic aniseed overtones.

The point here is, if we go around trying to pigeon-hole fungi into arbitary ‘mushroom’/’toadstool’ categories based on some unscientific concept of what ‘looks’ edible, we wont just miss out on the tastiest species, we are in danger of making ourselves seriously ill – or worse.

So here are my 5 steps for distinguishing edible ‘mushrooms’ from inedible ‘toadstools’.

1. Closely observe all the characteristics of the mushroom (colour, size, shape, pores/gills/spines, spore colour, flesh colour, habitat, season, stem colour, ring, volva, root, mycelium, smell, taste, latex, warts, colour change, growth medium) and compare them against at least one quality identification guide until you are 100% sure of the species you have.

2. If not 100% certain, repeat step 1.

3. If not 100% certain, repeat step 1.

4. If not 100% certain, repeat step 1 or throw it away.

5. If it is an edible species, prepare in accordance with guidelines and enjoy.

And remember, any old wive’s tales and rules of thumb you may have heard, such as “if you can peel the cap its safe to eat” etc, are all complete rubbish and likely to land you in hospital or worse. And you would miss out on tasty oddities like these…

  • “The Day I Ate A Deadly Plant: The Spectrum of Edibility“
  • Poisonous species
  • Know Your Carrots

Browse edible wild mushrooms on the fungi guide…

Death cap mushrooms: What do they look like and where are they found?

Updated February 27, 2015 17:36:41

The death cap mushroom, Amanita phalloides, is a deadly fungus commonly mistaken for edible mushrooms.

The poisonous fungus is usually found during autumn but wet weather has prompted its early arrival in 2015. So what do we know about this little fungus?

How dangerous is the death cap?

Ingesting one death cap mushroom is enough to kill a healthy adult.

All parts of the mushroom are poisonous; cooking or peeling does not make the mushroom safe to eat.

There is no way to remove the poison from the mushroom.

The poisonous compounds are extremely stable. You cannot remove them by soaking, cooking or drying.

The poisons are found throughout the cap, gills, stem and spores.

What does it look like?

The caps of the mushrooms are 40-160mm wide, usually pale green to yellow in colour, with distinctive white gills and white stem.

It has a membranous skirt on the upper part of the stem and a cup-like structure around the base of the stem (called a volva).

Sometimes the bulbous base and the volva are partially buried in the soil or hidden by grass and leaf litter.

The cap may be slippery and sticky to touch and shiny when dry.

Variations can see the cap an olive to light brown colour.

“It also always has a slight ammonia-like smell, sometimes quite pronounced like household ammonia,” said fungi expert Heino Lepp.

Mr Lepp, who is an honorary scientific associate at the Australian National Botanic Gardens, said the death cap was easily identifiable to those experienced in identifying mushrooms.

But he said it was better to err on the side of caution and avoid picking wild mushrooms during autumn.

He said there were far more “unknowns than knowns” when it comes to native Australian mushrooms.

“In Canberra because we have a mix of native vegetation as well as exotic vegetation, a lot of mushrooms grow in association with trees,” he said.

“There are a lot of unknown species of Australian mushrooms. Australia has quite a number of native amanita species which grow in symbiotic association with gum trees of which nothing is known about the toxicity.

“It would be surprising if there weren’t native species that were poisonous.”

Where is it found?

Death caps are common in many Canberra suburbs and can be found growing near established oak trees during warm, wet autumn weather.

It is also well-established in several Melbourne suburbs and in some Victorian country towns near Melbourne.

It is not native to Australia and was accidentally introduced from the northern hemisphere.

Death cap v straw mushroom

The straw mushroom (Volvariella volvacea) is grown and eaten throughout Asia but it does not grow naturally in Australia.

However the species Volvariella speciosa is found naturally in many parts of Australia and looks very similar to the straw mushroom.

Each species of Volvariella has a volva at the base of the stem and the gills do not reach the stem – just like the death cap.

But with Volvariella there is no ring on the stem and the gills are pale pinkish-brown, rather than white.

The cap is also more brown to greyish and more-or-less conical.

However you could easily overlook some of these differences in a hasty examination and much depends on the weather.

Mr Lepp said some Asian migrants or new Canberra residents pick death caps accidentally.

“If you’ve grown up with straw mushrooms and think you recognise them, you might go and pick one of these and think you know what it is,” he said.

What are the symptoms of death cap poisoning?

Symptoms of poisoning generally appear between six and 24 hours after ingesting the death cap and can begin with nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea.

Those who fall ill can improve after a day or two, giving a false impression of recovery. But by that stage the toxin can have caused serious liver damage which can be fatal.

Death cap poisoning is considered a medical emergency. If you suspect you have eaten some go to hospital immediately. If possible, take a sample of the mushroom with you.

If you need more information or assistance regarding a suspected poisoning call the Poisons Information Centre on 13 11 26 (24 hours a day, seven days a week).

Topics: food-poisoning, health, act, canberra-2600

First posted April 30, 2014 14:20:54

Common Toadstool Coral

Animal-World > Aquarium Coral Reefs > Leather Corals > Common Toadstool Coral

Common Toadstool Coral Care Parameters Reader Comments Common Toadstool Coral Videos More Pictures

Toadstool Leather Coral, Cup Leather Coral, Toadstool, Mushroom Leather Coral, Umbrella Coral, Mushroom Coral

Sarcophyton glaucumPhoto © Animal-World: Courtesy David Brough Latest Reader Comment – See More I will like soft corals fo r my nano reef at a reasonable price Gerardo

The easy care Common Toadstool Leather is large and handsome, and a plentiful soft coral!

The Common Toadstool Coral Sarcophyton glaucum is one of the well-known and readily available soft corals. Like other leather corals in the Sarcophyton genus, it resembles a mushroom or toadstool. Consequently the S. glaucum has many names similar to other leathers such as Toadstool Leather Coral, Mushroom Leather Coral, Cup Leather Coral, Toadstool, Umbrella Coral, and Mushroom Coral. When ordering this or any other leather coral, its best to make sure you use the scientific name.

The Sarcophyton sp. have a thick smooth, single stalk with a flared, smooth mushroom-shaped top that can be folded or funnel-shaped. Depending on the species, younger colonies are mushroom-shaped and mature colonies are more lobed and folded like a toadstool. Some keep the toadstool look their entire life. The flesh is firm and soft, yet can be easily torn. The “top” is called a capitulum and within that area are found long autozooid polyps for feeding and many also have siphonozooid polyps for water movement. The polyps can retract all the way, giving them a smooth look.

The S. glaucum tends to be rather plain in color. Its flesh is a yellow/tan and the polyps, which are rather long when extended, are typically tipped in green. Higher lighting levels, 10K or higher, can bring out the green. Its capitulum is also less convoluted (folding) than on some of the others in this genus, like that of the Elephant Ear Toadstool S. trocheliophorum. The Sarcophyton leather corals can grow quite large, with mature males reaching 4″ (11 cm) across and 24″ (61 cm) across or more for females.

The Common Toadstool Coral is one of the hardiest of corals. It is easy to keep and propagate, making it a great coral for the beginner. They like a moderate water flow, medium to high lighting, and for nutrition they use the symbiotic algae, zooxanthellae, that lives within their tissue, as well as extracting nutrients from the water. They do grow large and are aggressive if allowed to touch other corals, so they need plenty of space.

The Sarcophyton sp. tend to produce a lot of toxic compounds compared to other leathers. The Common toadstool leather is one of the better understood leathers. According to the Department of Chemistry and Bioscience, and several other notable Bioscience institutions around the world, there are properties in the cells of this coral found to slow leukemia. With the production of toxins however, care must be taken when handling. They are also toxic toward other corals due to their release of terpenes (poisons used to ward off encroaching corals). They have been known to harm some stony coral species of Acropora like the Staghorn Acropora A. formosa, some species of Porites like P andrewsii, as well as the death of Catalaphyllia, Euphyllia, and Plerogyra species.

To learn about other types of soft corals, see:
Soft Coral Facts

Common Toadstool Coral, Sarcophyton glaucum
Report Broken VideoBeautiful captive specimen

The Common Toadstool Coral grows to 4″ if it is a male and 24″ if it is female! There is no way of knowing the sex, so an aquarist may find themselves either fragging or giving away their giant female Toadstool Coral! In some instances, such as adding a small Common Toadstool Coral to a tank that has larger and more mature softies, the growth may be stunted. While their toxins that they emit into the water is detrimental to stony corals, they can be stung by corals that come in contact with them. If your tank is 30″ deep and at least 24″ front to back, give it a go!

Scientific name

Family: Alcyoniidae
Species: Sarcophyton glaucum

Distribution / Background

Leather Coral Information: The Sarcophyton genus was described by Lesson in 1834. They belong to the family Alcyoniidae, which are referred to as octocorals. There are over 35 species of Sarcophyton. Some of their common names are Toadstool Leather, Leather Coral, Mushroom Leather, Sarcophyton Coral, Mushroom Leather, and Trough Coral.

The Common Toadstool Coral S. glaucum was described by Quoy and Gaimard in 1833. This leather has many names similar to other leathers such as Toadstool Leather Coral, Mushroom Leather Coral, Cup Leather Coral, Toadstool, Umbrella Coral, and Mushroom Coral. They have been propagated in captivity, but since they tend to be rather bland in color, many times these corals are dyed. Dyed corals tend to not do as well and are dyed because the areas some come from have been bleached due to pollution and weather patterns.

According to the Department of Chemistry and Bioscience, and several other notable Bioscience institutions around the world, there are properties in the cells of this coral to slow leukemia. They removed 4 novel biscembranes (parts of a cell) and found that 2 of them “had a weak, yet present activity against the rapid increase of human promyelocytic leukemia cells (HL-60).” In layman’s terms, they may have found a way to slow leukemia down.

Where Sarcophyton Corals Are Found: The S. glaucum are one of the most wide spread of the genus. They are found in the Red Sea, Indo-Pacific, and around South Africa.

Sarcophyton Coral Habitat: The S. glaucum are found on reef flats, fore reefs, reef slopes and lagoons with hard and soft coral species. On reef slopes they frequently grow in groups.


The Sarcophyton glaucum is not listed on the IUCN Red List for Endangered Species.


What do Sarcophyton Corals look like: The Common Toadstool Coral S. glaucum, like others in this genus, resembles a mushroom or toadstool, with their capitulum (top) having autozooid and siphonozooid polyps that are rather long when extended and are typically tipped in green. Higher lighting levels can bring out the green, with 10K or higher. When the polyps are completely retracted, the surface has a very smooth look to it.

Elephant Ear Coral
Toadstool Leather CoralS. trocheliophorum

In varying amounts, depending on the species, Sarcophyton leathers will warp their upper surface and direct the water flow by forming ridges that direct the water to feathery pinnules on their tentacles. These feathery pinnules are designed to sieve the water for nutrients.

The capitulum of the Common Toadstool Coral S. glaucum is less convoluted (folding) than others in this genus. The flesh is yellow/tan with a tapering spindle like appearance at the surface of the trunk and are double-tapered inside the trunk. The flesh is firm and soft, yet easily torn, so care should be taken when handling the S. glaucum. The Sarcophyton leather corals can grow from 4 x 4 x 4″ for males to 24 x 24 x 24″ or more for females.

Difficulty of Care

Leather Coral Care: The Common Toadstool Coral S. glaucum is very easy to keep and propagate, making them a great coral for the beginner. They like a moderate water flow, medium to high lighting, and for nutrition they use the symbiotic algae, zooxanthellae, that lives within their tissue, as well as extracting nutrients from the water. They do grow large and are aggressive if allowed to touch other corals, so be sure to leave enough room between species.

Foods / Feeding

Leather Coral Feeding: The Sarcophyton leathers have reduced digestive systems. They do not use mucus nets, nor are their tentacles designed to catch prey. To make up for this, they will warp their upper surface and direct water flow by forming ridges that lead to feathery pinnules on their tentacles. These feathery pinnules are designed to sieve the water for nutrients. They can also absorb dissolved organic matter, and have a symbiotic relationship with a marine algae known as zooxanthellae, where they also receive some of their nutrients.

Because these corals are photosynthetic, they receiving nutrients from the marine algae, zooxanthellae, that lives within their tissue so really do not need to be fed in mature systems. For maximum growth, more intense lighting is needed since this type of coral thrives on light, which supports its zooxanthellae.

Though it is often stated that the Common Toadstool Corals do better in tanks that have regular feedings, it is not because they benefit from direct feeding. Their digestive anatomy has not developed to capture larger foods (even “sand” sized). But with feedings of other corals, extra nutrients are inevitably added to the water and in turn do benefit this coral. The feathery pinnules at the top of their tentacles will sieve nutrients out of the water. These nutrients are especially important if the light is not on the higher end.

Aquarium Care

Stable tank conditions are needed to keep the Sarcophyton genus. A water change that is a standard for any reef system, not to exceed 30% is needed. In general, a typical water change of 20% a month or 10% biweekly, depending on the bio load, is sufficient. Some have found success by doing a 5% water change once a week, keeping water quality high and reducing the need for most additives. Soft corals do need to have proper chemical levels for good growth.

Iodine is used up quickly in captive environments, and does need to be added to the top off water or to the tank regularly. Make sure you have a test to make sure your levels are sufficient. Frequent water changes are preferred over adding supplements other than those listed here.

Suggested levels for Sarcophyton species are:

  • Calcium: 385 – 450 ppm (Seachem makes a calcium additive that states 385 as sufficient. Anything over 400 tends to wear on pumps and other moving parts.)
  • Alkalinity: 3.2 – 4.8 MEQ/L (8 to 12 dKh – 10 is recommended)
  • Phosphates: 0, zero.
  • Magnesium: 1200 – 1350 ppm. (Magnesium makes calcium available, so if your calcium is low, check your magnesium levels before adding any more calcium.)
  • Strontium: 8 – 10. Strontium levels are suggested to keep the coral happy, and a kit for testing proper levels is suggested.

Aquarium Parameters

Quick Reference Chart


Water Flow:


A typical live rock/reef environment is what is needed for your Common Toadstool Coral, along with some fish for organic matter production and plenty of room to grow.

Provide proper lighting and water movement. They need a moderate water flow and they also like moderate to high lighting. Make sure the water flow does not shoot a straight hard stream directly at the coral, only random water current. The Sarcophyton genus is aggressive toward other sensitive corals, like stony corals, so be sure to provide plenty of room between these and all other species.

  • Minimum Tank Size / Length: 50 gallon (190 L) or larger
  • Marine Lighting: All, though moderate to high is suggested.
  • Temperature: 68° – 84° F (22° – 29° C)
  • Salinity / Specific Gravity: 1.023 – 1.025
  • Water Movement: Moderate, with a random flow is suggested.
  • Water Region: All areas of the aquarium.

Compatibility and Social Behaviors

The Common Toadstool Coral is aggressive. The S. glaucum is toxic toward other corals due to their release of terpenes (poisons to ward off encroaching corals). They have been known to harm some stony coral species of Acropora like the Staghorn Acropora A. formosa, some species of Porites like P andrewsii, as well as the death of Catalaphyllia, Euphyllia, and Plerogyra species.

This species can generally be housed with fishes, shrimp, and hermit crabs. Be careful if a clownfish decides to use a S. glaucum as a surrogate anemone. The irritation of the clown can prevent the coral from expanding. In this case removal of the clown, or screening off the coral from the fish may be needed.

In the wild there are various copepods (tiny, shrimp-like crustaceans) found on this species. There are also several species of flatworms (planaria), nudibranchs, and other parasites that tend to feed on its tissue. If these pests are present, they can usually be removed with a simple 5 minute freshwater dip.

Sex – Sexual differences

Males of the Common Toadstool Coral S. glaucum tend to be smaller than females, but mature quicker. Males will reach 4 x 4 x 4″ (11 x 11 x 11 cm) and sexual maturity in 6 to 7 years. The females will reach 24 x 24 x 24″ (61 x 61 x 61 cm) and sexual maturity at 10 years.

Breeding and Reproduction

Sarcophyton “Bud” Photo © Animal-World

In the wild, the Sarcophyton genus will reproduce naturally by spawning as well as by budding and fragmenting. They will drop off clones of themselves by self fission. A sign of reproduction is a hole that may appear in the middle of the capitulum, and as it reaches the edge, a small piece falls off.

As can be seen in the photo this coral is reproducing by “budding” in which a small coral grows from the base and starts its own coral. The “bud” can be severed from the parent coral at this point and glued to its own rock.

The S. glaucum only spawns once a year. It takes egg production 22-23 months to form, thus females have 2 sets of oocytes. The male’s sperm takes 10-12 months to form. Their annual spawning (around July in the Red Sea area) occurs in one night with the external fertilization producing larvae. The larvae is mobile within 36 hours. The larvae will swim for 14 days, thus resulting in this coral being one of the most wide spread leathers in the Sarcophyton genus.

The Common Toadstool Coral is very easy to propagate, for just a small piece or for a large frag, but with a few variations in procedure. Using either procedure, the coral will more than likely deflate, but with good water flow it will recover. Corals can emit a nasty and at times noxious odor, so be sure there is good ventilation. Clean up any mucous when finished to prevent any possible health problems.

To frag a small piece:

  • Make sure your leather is healthy.
  • You may use a pair of very sharp scissors or a scalpel.
  • Simply cut a small forked frag (1-2″ frag size) away from the mother colony while still in the tank.
  • Loosely rubber band the frag between branches and affix to a small piece of rubble that has a natural indent or a plug.

For larger fragging:

  • The leather coral should have all polyps retracted before proceeding.
  • Remove the coral from the tank, and quickly perform the fragmentation from a mother colony with a clean razor, scalpel, or knife. (scissors can damage tissue from larger fragging cuts.)
  • Provide a bath of clean, temperature and salinity adjusted, water (same as main tank) with a little iodine before returning to the tank. This bath will help clear out the mucous that the leather will produce from this procedure.
  • The frag can be glued, tied, sewn to a rock or plug, or just set on rubble where the current will not take them away, but will help them heal.
  • Return the leather to the same spot it was in before fragging and discard bath water.This placement will depend on the size and shape of the frag. At the very minimum place it at least close to where the mother colony is located, perhaps using the mother colony to block a water flow that is too quick for the frag.

Potential Problems

The Sarcophyton genus is generally very hardy and adaptable, but can contract disease. Coral diseases are commonly caused by stress, shock (like pouring freshwater into the tank and it coming in contact with the leather), and incompatible tank mates including specific fish, or pests such as a Rapa rapa Snail which will eat them from the inside out.

If the coral goes limp for a prolonged period of time, lasting over a week, there may be underlying conditions such as poor water quality, a predatorial snail, or a nearby coral starting chemical warfare, competing for room. Look for rotting tissue and holes that will show up under the capitulum. If the coral sheds for a prolonged period of time, aim a powerhead or return flow at the leather to clear off the mucus.

Some diseases and treatments include:

  • Flatworms, Brown Jelly Infections, cyanobacteria
    Treat with a freshwater dip of 1 to 3 minutes in chlorine free freshwater of the same temperature and pH as the main display.
  • Cyanobacteria, Brown Jelly Infections
    These can also be treated with Neomycin sulphite, Kanamycin and other broad-spectrum antibiotics. The pill can be pulverised into a fine powder, mixed with sea water to make a paste, and then applied to the wound or affected site of the coral with a simple artists brush.
  • Necrosis, Black Band Disease
    To prevent necrosis, and fight black band disease, according to one author the corals can be treated with Tetracycline at 10 mg per quart/liter.
  • Lugol’s Solution (as a preventative/cure)
    Use a Lugol’s dip at 5-10 drops of 5% Lugol’s solution per quart/liter of newly mixed sea water that has been mixing for 10-20 minutes. Start with a 10 minute dip and observe the reaction of the coral. A daily dip can be done until the coral is cured.
  • Amputation
    One procedure that can save a coral’s life if nothing else is working is amputation of the affected area. This must be done in a separate container consisting of some of the tank’s water. Cut slightly into healthy tissue surrounding the diseased flesh then reattach the coral to the substrate with the open wound cemented on part of the reef structure.
  • “Liquid Band Aid”
    For wounds that are on the side or top, some have used “liquid band aid” or super glue to seal the wound.


Soft Corals for Sale: The Common Toadstool Coral S. glaucum is very easy to find pet shops and on line. Online they can run about $50.00 USD and up, depending on size and/or color.

  • Animal-World References: Marine and Reef
  • Anthony Calfo, Book of Coral Propagation, Volume 1 Edition 2: Reef Gardening for Aquarists, Reading Trees; 2nd edition, 2007
  • Harry Erhardt and Horst Moosleitner, Marine Atlas Volume 2, Invertebrates (Baensch Marine Atlas), Mergus Verlag GmbH, Revised edition, 2005
  • Vincent B. Hargreaves, The Complete Book of the Marine Aquarium, Thunder Bay Press, 2002
  • Eric Borneman, Aquarium Corals: Selection, Husbandry, and Natural History , TFH Publications, 2001
  • Biscembranes from the Soft Coral Sarcophyton glaucum, ACS Publications, American Chemical Society and American Society of Pharmacognosy, Copyright 2006
  • Bob Goemans, Toadstool/Umbrella/Mushroom Coral, Animal Library, Saltwatercorner.com

Author: Carrie McBirney, Clarice Brough CFS

Lastest Animal Stories on Common Toadstool Coral

Gerardo – 2017-05-29
I will like soft corals fo r my nano reef at a reasonable price

  • Jake Jacobson – 2017-09-20
    I have toadstool leathers, devils hand leathers, pink neptheas, green star polyps, metallic green star polyps, neon green sinularia, and lots of zoanthids. check out instagram.com/livecoral email [email protected] if interested. all farm grown, pest free, experienced shipper.

corrie – 2011-07-14
I am thinking of getting a leather coral but I am unsure as I have anamones as well and sometimes they go walk about will they kill or make each over sick if the touch???

  • Anonymous – 2011-08-16
    The anemones should stay in one place, usually where you put them, if there is enough light. If they keep wandering about, they are unhappy about something and you can take it as a sign that the conditions, mainly light, should be changed. In most cases keeping leathers and anemones together is not a problem.

melissa – 2010-07-22
I have a toadstool actually two in a small tank and my bicolor blenny keeps getting into the head of the larger toadstool, is this going to kill the toadstool and how can I deter the blenny from rooting and biting the coral?

  • Paul – 2011-02-26
    From this site, animal-world.com they say;
    This species can generally be housed with fishes, shrimp, and hermit crabs. Be careful if a clownfish decides to use a S. glaucum as a surrogate anemone. The irritation of the clown can prevent the coral from expanding. In this case removal of the clown, or screening off the coral from the fish may be needed.
    I have a brown powder tang nipping at my corals, incl my green toadstool. I hope when in the larger tank I’m building, he’ll leave the corals alone. We’ll see.

Suzanne – 2010-09-13
I’m fairly new at having a saltwater tank. I absolutely love it. I have a toadstool coral that has doubled in size in 6 months. Yesterday it collapsed and I got it to stand up again. It stayed up all day under the lights and about an hour 1/2 after the lights went off it collapsed again. Is something wrong?
I also have a star polyp that has been in distress since I moved my tank a month ago. It still has color but it’s not opening up like it used to.
Does anyone have any advice?

  • Oger91 – 2010-10-29
    Leathers commonly go through dormant states where they will not bud or bloom. Usually there is a slime coat that will covers the coral, especially when stressed. It will revive in about a week or so. It will be fine, I would check for a nitrate spike though, it could also be caused by that. Do a 25% change and wait. Patience is the key.


Gerardo – 2017-05-29
I will like soft corals fo r my nano reef at a reasonable price

  • Jake Jacobson – 2017-09-20
    I have toadstool leathers, devils hand leathers, pink neptheas, green star polyps, metallic green star polyps, neon green sinularia, and lots of zoanthids. check out instagram.com/livecoral email [email protected] if interested. all farm grown, pest free, experienced shipper.


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