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Natural Perspective

The Fungus Kingdom: Agaricus

(Last modified: 4 May 2015)

[photo:  Prince & Buddha] [photo:  Agaricus augustus]
Prince Agaricus (Agaricus augusts)

The Prince is a beautiful and flavorful Agaricus. It's scaly yellow cap, scaly stalk, and almondy smell make it relatively easy to identify for an Agaricus. More importantly, just when you've given up on mushrooms for the summer, the Prince fills the fungal void with its delightful looks and almondy taste!

The Agaricus family includes the best known mushroom in the US, and probably all European-derived countries: The white buttons sold generically as "mushrooms" in every supermarket are a cultivated variety of Agaricus (Agaricus bisporus now called Agaricus brunnescens). The "wild" Crimini and Portabella mushrooms are also cultivars of this species.

[photo:  Ag. campestris] The Meadow Mushroom (Agaricus campestris) is a close relative that really does grow wild, although it too is somewhat domesticated -- often to be found on cultivated lawns (such as these). The Meadow Mushroom is prized by the French, who call it Champignon.

The Agaricus family includes many fleshy and tasty looking mushrooms, but the good ones and bad ones often grow in the same areas and are very difficult to distinguish from each other.

For example, shortly after the Meadow mushrooms finished fruiting on my front lawn this year, a new group of mushrooms, which looked nearly identical, started growing. This new fruiting, however, turned out to be the poisonous Yellow-staining Agaricus (Agaricus xanthodermus).

[photo:  Ag. praesquarl] Similarly, these beautiful Agarici growing among the Redwood Sorrel under Redwood trees -- the same habitat as the Prince Agaricus shown above -- are the mildly poisonous Flat-Top Agaricus (Agaricus praeclaresquamosus). And just to confuse things even further, the red stains, probably due to the excess rain, make it masquerade as a red-staining mushroom.

Phylum: Basidiomycota (spores produced on basidia)
Class: Homobasidiomycetae (substantial mushrooms)
Subclass: Hymenomycetes (release spores gradually)
Order: Agaricales (umbrella-like mushrooms)
Family: Agaricaceae
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This site produced and maintained by Ari Kornfeld
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Collaboration and inspiration thanks to Susan Kornfeld
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Special thanks to Claire Doyle Ragin for scanning some early photos
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