By Published: July 18, 2023

It’s complicated; shaggy parasols can be eaten by some people, not all, but only after cooking. I advise against taking a risk

I was taking photographs of mushrooms in my yard when a passer-by told me that they were shaggy parasol mushrooms and were edible and tasty. A few days later when a different pedestrian complimented me on my crop of mushrooms, I told him that they were shaggy parasols. 

He stopped abruptly and said sternly "No, they are not; they will make you miserably sick." Now I was the one who stopped short.

Misidentification of mushrooms can have dire consequences. In my genetics class, we read about mushrooms in the genus Amanita. The familiar fly agaric, Amanita muscaria, advertises its poisons and hallucinogens with a bright red cap with large white flecks. 

shaggy parasol

A dense cluster of shaggy parasol mushrooms. Photo by Jeff Mitton.

But in the same genus, Amanita phalloides is entirely cream-colored and is frequently mistaken for edible mushrooms in California.  A bloom of A. phalloides near San Francisco confused inexperienced foragers and caused misidentifications that resulted in 14 poisonings, three of which required liver transplants and most required prolonged hospital care. One case had permanent neurological impairment. 

I showed photos of mushrooms in my lawn to Alisha Quandt, a mycologist (studies fungi) in ecology and evolutionary biology at CU. She indicated that vomiter, Chlorophyllum molybdites, was much more common than shaggy parasols, Chlorophyllum rhacodes, but the two could not be distinguished from photographs or casual comparisons. 

Vomiter will not kill you, but I have read that it will make you wish you had died. Severe vomiting and cramps start a few hours after swallowing and commonly last more than 24 hours. Quandt indicated that the most reliable character to identify which species you have is a spore print. Spores of shaggy parasols are white or cream, vomiter spores are green.

To collect a spore print, you pluck a mushroom whose cap is wide open, approaching flat. Break off the stipe or stem and place the cap on a surface (cloth or paper) that can plainly distinguish white and green—I chose a solid black piece of cloth. 

Then cover the cap and surface overnight—I used a bucket. In the morning, gently remove the bucket and then the cap. Spores on the colored surface will clearly show the pattern of gills from which the spores fell. I thought the pattern that resulted was artful and was surprised to learn that the spores did not dislodge easily from the cloth. I replicated the experiment with three mushrooms, and all of them had white spores. So, I have shaggy parasols growing in my lawn.

I am not ready to eat the mushrooms in my yard, for uncertainties remain. I have two areas that produce mushrooms each year, but I have spore prints from only one. I am not comfortable with the assumption that the other area has the same species. 

I would want to get spore prints from the other area, about 50 feet away. Timing is difficult, as well. If you wait to identify them until mushrooms are mature and dropping spores, they are too old to eat. The mushrooms should be eaten when the cap is still round, considerably younger than a mature mushroom shedding spores. 

Another caution applies to the preparation of shaggy parasol mushrooms. The mushrooms contain toxins and will cause severe gastric upset if they are eaten raw by those collecting or preparing them.  Cook shaggy parasols thoroughly!

mushroom gills and spores

Shaggy parasol gills and a spore print showing white or cream spores. Photo by Jeff Mitton.

After visiting multiple web sites discussing shaggy parasols and their close resemblance with vomiter, white spores eliminate vomiter as an identification, but do not guarantee that it is a shaggy parasol. Some sites suggest that shaggy parasols are a dead ringer (to a novice) for shaggy mane, (Lepiota americana), and parasol (Macrolepiota procera), both of which are edible and have white spore prints.  

But deadly dapperlings also look similar and have white spore prints but are seriously toxic. Fortunately, deadly dapperlings have not yet been reported in North America. They are native to Europe and Asia. 

Although some sites report that shaggy parasols are edible and delicious, several sites note that about 1 out of 25 consumers have serious allergic reactions and another goes so far as to recommend that people take one modest bite and then wait 24 hours before making a personal decision concerning tolerance. Another site, noting the frequency of people with severe reactions, does not recommend that shaggy parasols be collected for consumption. I agree.

In my opinion, a potential food product that has 1 out of 25 consumers needing medical care is too dangerous to categorize as "edible."

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