Minnesota Fungi

Kingdom Fungi

Fungi is the kingdom of living organisms that is characterized by lacking chlorophyll, feeding on dead and decaying organic matter, producing spores, and having cells with cell walls that contain chitin. The order includes mushrooms, puffballs, rusts, smuts, sac fungi, molds, yeasts, Penicillium, bread molds, and organisms that cause plant and animal diseases such as athlete’s foot and leaf spot.

While there are about 100,000 described species, there are estimated to be over 1,500,000 species worldwide. According to the Bell Museum of Natural History, there are 9,000 species expected to be native to Minnesota “based on the number of vascular plant species native to the state and the ratio of fungi to vascular plants for well documented parts of Europe.”

To date, only two states have declared a state mushroom: Minnesota and Oregon. In 2010, the Minnesota legislature declared that the Yellow Morel (Morchella esculenta) is the state mushroom of Minnesota.

Recent research based on DNA comparisons have resulted in changes in taxonomic order at all levels, even the highest (fungi are now considered to be closer to animals than plants). As a result, authoritative sources of information about fungi on the Web provide differing binomial names and lineages for the same species. The Integrated Taxonomic Information System (ITIS) on-line database, http://www.itis.gov, avoids this problem by providing only sparse coverage on fungi. The classifications on MinnesotaSeasons.com will be based on the taxonomy database maintained by NCBI/GenBank34.


European Starling



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Purple-spored Puffball

Purple-spored Puffball (Calvatia cyathiformis) is a large mushroom found from July to November in prairies, pastures, lawns, and other open grassy areas. It grows on the ground and obtains its nutrients from decaying organic matter. It is widespread and occasional to locally common in eastern North America and the Great Plains. In the summer it appears as a white, rounded or pear-shaped puffball and is difficult to distinguish from several similar species. In the fall it turns dull purple, eventually rupturing to reveal a distinctive purple spore mass. It is edible in the summer when the flesh (spore mass) is white and solid.

The thin skin and mushy (while darkening) spore mass distinguish puffballs, which are edible, from earthballs, some of which are poisonous. The purple spores distinguish this species from all other puffballs in found in Minnesota.

  Purple-spored Puffball
  Photo by James Folden

Yellow Morel

This may be the most widely recognized mushroom in eastern North America. It is found in a wide variety of habitats and may appear alone, scattered, or clustered. In Minnesota they appear mostly in May but may also pop up later in the growing season.

Morel hunters are traditionally known to misinform those who ask where to find the mushrooms. Look for them emerging through leaf litter in hardwood forests at the base of hardwood trees, especially dead or dying elm trees.

  Yellow Morel
  Photo by Bill Reynolds

Scarlet Cup (Sarcoscypha austriaca)

This is a common and widespread mushroom in eastern hardwood forests. It is one of the first splashes of color to be seen in the woods in early spring. It grows on buried or fallen twigs and branches of willow, maple, locust, and speckled alder. It is part of a species complex that includes Sarcoscypha austriaca, Sarcoscypha coccinea, and Sarcoscypha dudleyi. The three species are indistinguishable except by microscopic examination of the spores and the hairs on the underside of the cup. However, only two of the species, S. austriaca and S. dudleyi, are found in Minnesota.

  Scarlet Cup

Turkey Tail

This is the most common polypore, and one of the most common mushrooms, in North American woodlands. It is found on logs and stumps of dead hardwood trees, especially oaks. It is sometimes also found on wounds of live trees. It is rarely found on conifers. It appears in the spring and persists through the summer or fall. The fan shape and concentric rings of contrasting colors look like a turkey tail, giving this mushroom its common name.

  Turkey Tail
    Photo by Kirk Nelson

Northern Tooth

This is a widespread and fairly common tooth fungus. The fruiting body is annual and often massive, up to 20 tall and 10 wide. It consists of tight, overlapping layers of shelf-like caps joined at the base by a whitish plate. It lives high on the trunks if living hardwood trees, especially sugar maple. It enters the tree through a wound and causes heartwood rot. It is sometimes found on recently dead trees and stumps but is rarely found on fallen logs.

Northern Tooth is not poisonous but is not edible due to a bitter taste and a tough texture. It has a sour smell when it is fresh, an unpleasant, rancid odor as it dries.

  Northern Tooth
  Photo by Bill Reynolds



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American Hawthorn Rust (Gymnosporangium globosum)


American Hawthorn Rust





Artist’s Conk





Black Knot










Chicken of the Woods





Dead Man’s Fingers





Dryad’s Saddle





False Coral Fungus





Fried Chicken Mushroom





Lobster Mushroom





Northern Tooth







Old Man of the Woods







Purple-spored Puffball





Russula paludosa





Russula pulchra





Scarlet Waxy Cap





Shaggy Mane





Stalked Scarlet Cup





Turkey Tail







White Cheese Polypore





White Jelly Fungus


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Artist’s Conk (Ganoderma applanatum)

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Black Knot (Apiosporina morbosa)


Boletus subcaerulescens


Cavern Beard Lichen (Usnea cavernosa)


Chaga (Inonotus obliquus)

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Chanterelle (Cantharellus cibarius)

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Chicken of the Woods (Laetiporus sulphureus)


Confusing Bolete (Strobilomyces confusus)

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Crown Rust (Puccinia coronata)


Crown-tipped Coral (Artomyces pyxidatus)


Cytospora Canker (Valsa sordida)

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Dead Man’s Fingers (Xylaria polymorpha)


Dead Man's Foot (Pisolithus tinctorius)


Death Cap (Amanita phalloides)


Deer Mushroom (Pluteus cervinus)


Destroying Angel (Amanita bisporiger)


Destroying Angel (Amanita virosa)

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Dryad’s Saddle (Polyporus squamosus)

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Entomosporium Leaf Spot (Diplocarpon mespili)


Fairy Fingers (Clavaria fragilis)

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False Coral Fungus (Tremellodendron pallidum)


False Tinder Fungus (Phellinus igniarius)


False Turkey Tail (Stereum ostrea)


Fan-shaped Jelly Fungus (Dacryopinax spathularia)


fire blight (Erwinia amylovora)

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Fried Chicken Mushroom (Lyophyllum decastes)

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Giant Puffball (Calvatia gigantea)

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Gray False Death Cap (Amanita citrina var. grisea)


Indigo Milk Cap (Lactarius indigo)

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Jack-o’-Lantern Mushroom (Omphalotus olearius)


Lacquered Bracket (Ganoderma lucidum)


Lavender False Death Cap (Amanita citrina var. lavendula)


Leaf Curl (Taphrina communis)

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Lobster Mushroom (Hypomyces lactifluorum)

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Northern Tooth (Climacodon septentrionalis)

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Oak Anthracnose (Apiognomonia errabunda)


Oak Leaf Blister (Taphrina caerulescens)


Oak Wilt (Ceratocystis fagacearum)

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Old Man of the Woods (Strobilomyces strobilaceus)


Oyster Mushroom (Pleurotus ostreatus)


Peppery Milkcap (Lactarius piperatus)


Phomopsis sp.

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Purple-spored Puffball (Calvatia cyathiformis)


Raspberry Slime Mold (Tubifera ferruginosa)


Russula sp.


Russula flavisiccans

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Russula paludosa

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Russula pulchra


Rust of Prickly Ash (Puccinia andropogonis var. xanthoxyli)

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Saffron Milk Cap (Lactarius deliciosus)


Sarcosoma globosum

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Scarlet Cup (Sarcoscypha austriaca)


Scarlet Waxy Cap (Hygrocybe punicea)


Scorched Bracket (Bjerkandera adusta)

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Shaggy Mane (Coprinus comatus)


Short-stemmed Russula (Russula brevipes)

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Stalked Scarlet Cup (Sarcoscypha occidentalis)


Strict-branched Coral Fungus (Ramaria stricta)


Tar Spot (Rhytisma acerinum)


Tar Spot (Rhytisma americanum)


Tar Spot (Rhytisma punctatum)


Thick Walled Maze Polypore (Daedalea quercina)


Thin Walled Maze Polypore (Daedaleopsis confragosa)


True Tinder Polypore (Fomes fomentarius)

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Turkey Tail (Trametes versicolor)

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White Cheese Polypore (Tyromyces chioneus)

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White False Death Cap (Amanita citrina var. alba)

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White Jelly Fungus (Ductifera pululahuana)


White Puffball (Lycoperdon candidum)

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Yellow Morel (Morchella esculenta)






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Capitalization of Common Names

Fungi common names are governed by International Code of Nomenclature for algae, fungi, and plants (ICN). According to the ICN, fungi common names can be either capitalized or not. In Britain fungi common names are governed by The British Mycological Society (BMS). The BMS formed a working party in 2005 to standardize common names of fungi. The project is ongoing, but a current checklist is available on the BMS Website. According to BMS, “the use of capitals for the English name in published texts will be to an extent determined by the publisher.” The BMS checklist uses capitalized common English language names. Most authors today also use capitalized common names for fungi. MinnesotaSeasons.com will adhere to the convention adopted by BMS.






























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