Best Mushroom Identification Book: A Top 5 Review

By Eve Simmons •  Updated: 05/13/21 •  12 min read

Almost every mushroom head I know isn’t as excited about the numerous health benefits of mushrooms as they are about the sheer fun that mushroom hunting brings. It’s a great hobby to relieve yourself from the chaos of modern society. 

That said, mushroom hunting is no joke! It requires tons of knowledge and years of practice to spot, smell, and locate fungi to put in your basket and not put you in the casket. 

In this article, we take a closer look at mushrooms and the best mushroom identification books you’ll need to have in your possession to ace this game like a pro! 

How to Identify Posiness Mushrooms 

Theres’ are more than 2,400 mushroom species. The good news, you don’t need to learn about all 2,400 fungal species, just the most common ones. The bad news, there are nearly a hundred common mushroom species.

So here’s a guide for beginners to get you started on your mushroom hunting journey:

White gills

You can spot the gills under the umbrella – a flat surface if you were to turn the mushroom upside down. Always stay away from mushrooms with white gills since they’re poisonous and fatal more often than not.

Red in Color

Any mushroom with a red cap or a red stem should not be touched or (especially) consumed. Red mushrooms are a clear indication of a poisonous species. No matter how visually appealing red mushrooms look, stay away! Instead, choose mushrooms with white, brown, or tan caps and stems as these are often edible mushrooms.

Scales, Spots, or Patches 

Mushroom caps with scales, spots, or patches of any kind are often poisonous. On the other hand, edible mushrooms have smooth-colored caps.

Stem Ring

If the mushroom’s stem has a tissue ring around it (usually at the upper part of the stem), there are high chances of it being poisonous. It’s essential to only pick mushrooms with clear stems. 

Caution: Never eat a mushroom if you’re not 100% sure of its edibility, I repeat, never! It could be fatal if you pick the wrong mushroom.

Why You Need a Mushroom Identification Book

There are tons of mushrooms in the wild just waiting for you to come and pick them. Some of them can add great additions to your meal, while others are waiting for you a make a fatal mistake that can cost you your life. Leave intuition for bowel movements. What you need is a clear working knowledge of what mushrooms are safe to eat and which are not. 

Two best ways to improve your knowledge before your next mushroom hunt:

Out of the two options above, buying and reading mushroom identification books is a more viable first choice. It’s less expensive, and you can keep learning when class isn’t in session. Plus, you can learn at your own pace instead of someone stuffing information down your throat. 

Once you’re familiar with the book, you can now take advantage of the class and get some valuable field training. 

Let’s take a look at some mushroom books that could potentially save your life.  

5 of the Best Mushroom Identification Book

Now it’s time we give you the best mushroom identification books you can use in the field. 

1 – Mushroom Hunting Log Book

The Mushroom Hunting Log Book is the most hands-on book on this list. With this book, you’ll be able to craft, write, and sketch various mushroom species yourself. If writing is your forte, you should definitely give this book a peak. 

You’ll also get a pair of magnifying glasses. This, combine with a journal, you’re one step closer to being a mushroom field expert. 

The cover is mushroom-themed and has an intriguing fancy font and a premium design. The book’s size is small enough to carry and has plenty of room to write. You’ll be able to easily take detailed notes of the forest type, climate, mushroom’s description and location.

Do not shy away from showing your drawing skills either – drawing is a quick way to get familiar with a particular mushroom.

The only possible complaint you could have with this otherwise great product is that it could’ve had more pages. For mushroom enthusiasts, 151 pages don’t last long, especially during the holidays when you’re out all day.

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2 – Mushrooms of Hawaii: An Identification Guide

If having access to over 230 species of mushrooms in Hawaii didn’t feel lucky enough, here’s an excellent book that will make you value the mushroom-rich place that is Hawaii.

Mushrooms of Hawaii takes an in-depth look into the identification of mushrooms squandered around the Aloha State. You also get to read about the culinary and medicinal uses of Hawaiian mushrooms.

You’ll be impressed with the book’s abundance of high-quality, colorful photos that exquisitely identifies several mushroom species. Plus, there is accurate information about the location and habitat of the mushrooms. 

You’ll learn which mushrooms you can pop into your mouth, but more importantly, which ones you cannot!

The book’s contents include an introduction to fungi, the history of mycology in Hawaii, the seasons of Hawaiian mushrooms, and the best mushroom collecting sites. The mushroom species are segregated depending on their habitat (referred to as “vegetation zones”). 

Some of the habitats are:

According to an Amazon user, “… Highly recommended, and the only good guide to Hawaiian fungi.” Another review read, “For anyone familiar with mushroom gathering in temperate zones, Hawaii would seem to offer scant picking…until you pick MUSHROOMS OF HAWAII. Unbelievable!…”

Although there is an entire chapter on identifying mushrooms, I felt that some information on identification techniques could’ve helped more. But nothing takes away the genius of the book.

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3 – Mushroom Identification – With Chapters on Common, Edible and Poisonous Fungi

This book is a classic example of “Do not judge a book by its cover.” When I first read the name on the cover, I thought it’d be a book on just edible and poisonous mushrooms. Do not get carried away by the name of this book as I did.

The book discusses everything from the emergence of the mushroom industry to today’s economic importance of fungi. It also lists a thorough how-to guide that’ll help any aspiring mushroom gardener or farmer cultivated mushrooms themselves.

The how-to guide contains the following:

While the text appears so relevant to the present-day circumstances and readers, it was surprising for me to learn that much of this book’s contents have been inspired by the early and late 1900s. Perhaps this is why the drawings and illustrations in this book are all black and white – not that visually appealing, I might add.

The book is compact and measures just 5.5×0.46×8.5 inches. It’s pocket-friendly, meaning it can easily slide into your pocket. But it isn’t as pocket-friendly if we’re talking about money. Nonetheless, it’s a good read and highly recommended for mushroom fanatics who want to know more than just some mushroom identification tips and tricks.

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4 – California Mushrooms: The Comprehensive Identification Guide

After giving a detailed guide about the Hawaiian mushrooms, Dennis Desjardin (this time in tandem with Michael Wood and Fred Stevens) takes on the vast California State to hand the readers (primarily mycologists) a one-stop solution to mushroom identification in North America. 

Although the book reads “California,” only 10% of the book’s contents are specific to the place. The rest applies to most locations throughout North America, especially the western North American mushrooms (including California).

The book is a long read. It has 560 pages, thanks to the 1100 species enumerated in the book. For the same reason, the book is heavy and isn’t something that you’ll be able to carry with you when you go hunting. Instead, the identification process will occur after you come home with a basket full of mushrooms, which can be dangerous if you handle the wrong mushroom.

What details will you get about each species?

The American Survival Guide Magazine lauded the book in its review that said, “This book is useful beyond discussing California mushrooms… a comprehensive overview of the world of mycology, with all the types of fungi broken into their categories…keys to identify the mushroom in hand.”

A slight issue is that the book doesn’t have a separate sub-heading for the toxic mushrooms area on its contents page. The language isn’t too day-to-day friendly, as an Amazon user points this out by saying: “…Reads very much like a textbook for a class…rather than for you everyday layperson looking to get into mushroom hunting…”

The beautiful photographs in this book are a huge plus. They’re real-life quality photos of how the mushroom looks, making mushroom identification 10x easier and more fun. The authors have left out certain mushroom species for simplicity, so don’t be disappointed if you can’t find a specific mushroom.

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5 – Psilocybin Mushrooms of The World: An Identification Guide

While the above mushroom identification and field guides were either general or area-specific, the mushroom in question is the Psilocybin mushroom. These are also known as Magic mushrooms, mainly because they contain Psilocybin (that converts into Psilocin once ingested) which is a psychedelic.

A standout feature of the book has to be how it connects the medieval and the modern world. It talks in length about how these mushrooms were used by the ancient people and draws a comparison between how they remain significant in the mushroom industry today. 

With over 100 listed species, this is yet another brilliant contribution to Mycology by the author Paul Stamets who came into the limelight with his book Growing Gourmet And Medicinal Mushrooms. 

Most mushroom guides tend to ignore the Psilocybin-containing mushrooms, and this book fills that pothole effectively. The author has sprinkled personal history and stories, which makes reading this book more intimate and fun. 

This Amazon user’s comment sums up this book’s review: “This is THE psilocybe book…”

The only downside which I could find was that it doesn’t contain the requisite information for advanced mushroom hunters and gatherers. There is a shortage of regions, seasons, pictures, and descriptions where one could find these mushrooms, but it’s understandable if the author intentionally excludes them.

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Final Verdict

Having discussed a great deal about mushroom identification and laying down 5 go-to books, aka mushroom field guides, I hope you find your best mushroom identification book. 

Just remember, no two books are the same, and it all depends on your area of interest. 

Want to know about the mushrooms in California? Choose the California Mushrooms! Do the Hawaiian mushrooms interest you? I know which one you’re picking! 

You don’t have to choose, get all of them! Since they all cover different sections of the mushroom industry, you’d have holistic knowledge if you read each one. 

Here’s a pro tip: if you’re an aspiring mushroom hunter, start with an all-inclusive book for beginners to mushroom hunting like the “Mushroom Identification – With Chapters on Common, Edible, and Poisonous Fungi.” Next, take one book after the other and build towards your end goal, i.e., a pro mushroom gatherer! 

We wish you luck and for more such educational and product reviews, visit our website MyMushroomTips.com.

Eve Simmons