Honey Fungus Identification – Armillaria mellea

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This post is part of our “100 Plants and Mushrooms” series. Here, you’ll see the mushroom’s main parts – its cap, gills or pores, stipe, and more – all with key identification features.

The Honey Fungus doesn’t just get its name from its color; it’s also sweet-tasting. However, it’s not all sweetness. It can cause Armillaria root rot. That’s a type of disease that affects plants. Trees that get infected by this fungus will show signs like their leaves changing color or branches dying. A fun fact about Honey Fungus is that the thread-like parts of the fungus underground, known as mycelium, can glow in the dark when they are growing.

Honey Fungus: Key Parts in Photos

How to identify Honey Fungus

When you’re out mushroom hunting, here’s what to look out for:

  1. Cap: The top part of the mushroom, or the cap, is sticky when it’s wet. It can be between 1-6 inches wide. When young, it’s convex in shape, and as it grows, it becomes flat, sometimes even looking a bit like a shallow bowl. The color is just like honey. Sometimes, in the center, there might be some dark scales that look like little hairs.
  2. Gills: Underneath the cap, you’ll find the gills. They start off white and may turn a pinkish-yellow as they age. These gills are how the mushroom releases its spores.
  3. Stipe (or Stem): The stipe is quite long, sometimes up to 8 inches, and has a sort of fibrous feel. At the top, it’s white, but it turns brownish-yellow at the bottom. The very bottom might be very dark. Something special about the Honey Fungus is its ring. This ring was once a veil that protected the gills when the mushroom was young.
  4. Taste and Smell: The inside of the Honey Fungus is white. It smells and tastes sweet but might have a slight bitter touch.
  5. Spore Print: The spore print of Honey Fungus is print. Under a microscope, these spores look like tiny ovals with a small pointy bit at the bottom.
  6. Mycelium: Beneath the soil, the Honey Fungus spreads out in threads, forming a net called mycelium. They sometimes group together to form black structures called rhizomorphs. The Honey Fungus Mycelium can glow in the dark when growing.

Want to learn more?

Our new book, “A New Forager’s Guide to Wild Foods,” is available on Amazon. It helps beginners learn about how to identify and cook with these 100 common plants and mushrooms. Click the buy button on the right and order your copy now!

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