After a period of rainy weather, it seems as if everyone is climbing over one another to get outdoors into the fresh air. Don't be surprised if you see a flourishing crop of mushrooms growing in your yard. Although there are many different types of mushrooms, some are more likely to show up in your yard that others. For safety's sake, treat all of them as though they are poisonous. You don't want to spoil your kids' fun, but you want to make certain that they're safe. You should never allow toddlers to play on the lawn unsupervised. They're at that stage where they're likely to put anything in their mouths, so grab a lawn chair and enjoy the fresh air and sunshine yourself while your children and pets are outdoors. If you have older children, use this as a learning experience and teach them to steer clear of fungal growths.
1. Common Yard Mushrooms
The most common yard mushrooms include Stinkhorn fungi (Phallus impudicus), which is easy to identify because it produces a foul odor that smells like rotten garbage. The name may delight some children, but kids and pets generally won't put them in their mouths because of the smell. They're not poisonous, but they're too disgusting to eat. The most common type is small and shaped like a finger, but several varieties exist, and you'll know them by their odor. Inky caps (Coprinopsis atramentaria) are common and usually grow in clumps in the lawn. If you live in the city, you've probably seen them many times. Although they generally aren't poisonous, they can be toxic if consumed with alcohol. As their name implies, stump mushrooms (Armillaria mellea) can be found growing on stumps and around the base of trees. They're the color of honey and generally appear during the fall. Although not poisonous, certain people and pets may have an intolerance to them. Those little brown mushrooms you see sprinkled about your yard singly or in clumps are called haymakers (Panaeolus foenisecii). They aren't poisonous, and they're sometimes tough to spot in lush lawn grass.
2. Causes of Mushrooms
Although lawn mushrooms can pop up anywhere, they're more likely to thrive in damp locations. Overwatering is a common cause of lawn fungus, and the lack of adequate drainage contributes to the growth of mushrooms. Scraps of lumber left over from construction projects and dead tree roots also provide prime environments for fungal growth. Some types of mushrooms, such as the infamous stinkhorns, are drawn to the wood chips often used in landscaping.
3. Treatment of Mushrooms
Proper lawn aeration can keep fungal growth in check by creating good drainage conditions. If you have stumps or other types of dead wood in your yard, have them removed. They aren't safe for children anyway, even if they aren't sporting mushrooms. If it's not possible to remove them, dig the mushrooms out by hand while wearing gloves. Application of a nitrogen fertilizer deters fungal growth -- and remember to never overwater.
4. Practice Caution
Because there are so many different types of mushrooms, it's difficult to tell the difference between poisonous ones and those that are edible. It's best to err on the side of caution where wild mushrooms are concerned. Even though most common lawn mushrooms don't contain toxins, some do, and experimenting with eating them is not worth the risk to you or your family.
- Mushroom Expert.com: Stinkhorns: The Phallaceae and Clathraceae
- University of California Oak Woodland Management: Armillaria Mellea: Native Soil Fungus Causing Root Rot
- iNaturalist.org: Common Ink Cap
- University of California Statewide Integrated Pest Management Program: Mushrooms and Other Nuisance Fungi in Lawns
- NA/Photos.com/Getty Images