Difference Between Toadstools And Mushrooms

“[T]here is no fool-proof test that can be used for all mushrooms. Those species of mushrooms that are edible are known to be edible because someone at one time had tried it and discovered it to be safe to eat.” —University of Hawaii

In A Nutshell

The terms “mushroom” and “toadstool” are purely unscientific labels applied to different varieties of fungus. While there’s no real scientific difference or definition, the two terms have come to mean different things in the common parlance. The name “toadstool” is often given to those fungi that are inedible or poisonous, while “mushroom” is generally reserved for those that are safe to eat.

The Whole Bushel

There’s no real, scientifically accepted difference between a mushroom and a toadstool, and the terms can sometimes be used interchangeably to refer to the same types of fungus. However, in common, non-scientific usage, the term “toadstool” is more often given to those fungi that are poisonous or otherwise inedible.

This is by no means a worldwide, written-in-stone distinction, however, and shouldn’t be used to judge whether or not a mushroom is acceptable to eat. One of the most deadly members of the fungus family, the death cap, isn’t referred to as a toadstool, but a mushroom. There are an amazing amount of different varieties of mushrooms and toadstools, but one thing you should not do is use wives’ tales (e.g., “if you can peel it, it’s safe”) as a guide to what’s harmful and what’s not.

Both toadstools and mushrooms can be defined as the fruiting bodies of a fungus—that is, these are the part of the fungi that produce spores. Most of the fungus itself is underground, and the cap appears in the autumn months for most types. The only purpose of the cap is to release the fungi’s spores; the other parts of the fungi, including those that process and draw nutrients from dead and decaying matter, are underground, and we just never see them.

When most people envision a toadstool or a mushroom, they tend to think of a fungi that has a defined stalk and a cap. There are other types of fungi with less traditional forms, such as the puffball, an aptly-named round, white ball fungi with no apparent stalk. These types of rather non-traditionally formed fungi are typically referred to as mushrooms.

So why have toadstools become associated with the less desirable, more deadly type of fungus?

The answer is in the word itself. Toadstools were once believed to be exactly that—places that toads liked to sit. And since toads were also thought to be poisonous or carriers of disease, that quality transferred to the fungi they were said to favor. The term “toadstool” dates back to the 14th century and has also been recorded as “tadstoles.” Toadstools were also rumored to be a food source for the less-than-savory animals, sometimes called “toad’s meat,” “toad’s cap,” or “toad’s cheese.”

The poisonous variety of fungi have had a variety of names over the centuries, including “wart caps” and “Devil’s droppings.” Toads were also closely associated with the Christian devil, who took the form or attributes of a toad in many old European stories from Milton’s Paradise Lost to medieval folk tales, fairy stories, and wives’ tales.

It’s important to note that names like “Devil’s droppings” are completely warranted for some of the nastier types of poisonous fungi. Many cause mild to moderate gastrointestinal distress, but some types of mushrooms can cause internal hemorrhage, kidney or liver failure, and even psychosomatic symptoms like confusion and anxiety after eating. In some cases, symptoms might not set in for hours or even a few days after ingesting the poisonous toadstool—or mushroom—and in some cases a complete recovery may seem inevitable before organ failure or ruptures.

Show Me The Proof

Mushroom and Toadstool Toxicology
Royal Horticultural Society: Toadstools
Death cap: Amanita phalloides
The Word ‘Toadstool’ In Britain

  • Hillyard

    Interesting, but what about ‘shrooms?

    • Lisa 39

      Very trippy from what i hear!

    • Valkyrie

      They grow on the mountain near to where I live .. quite amusing really as the dopers are out picking them the same time as the old guys are out picking wimberries 😀

  • Lisa 39

    About 15 years ago there was a family in my city that picked some mushrooms while walking in the park. Mom took them home & cooked them with dinner. Then they all got sick from liver failure. I think 2 died & 1 was a small child. The rest survived but they were sick & in the hospital for a while. My rule of thumb is store bought only mushrooms.

    • Scott

      That happens all the time where I live. I live in the SF Bay Area, so there are a lot of Asian people around here, and they are known to eat just about anything. I swear, and I’m not making this up either, pretty much every year some Asian family gets wiped out from eating mushrooms they picked in their backyard or somewhere equally stupid.

      • Lisa 39

        You would think people would learn but of course not. It’s the same thing with berries, if you’re not sure what it is then don’t eat it, duh. Lol

    • 1DireWolf

      My rule is I do not eat fungus.

      • Lisa 39

        Hi direwolf, that’s a good rule. I didn’t know that mushrooms were fungus until long after i liked them. That’s one of those things your parents don’t tell you until after you’ve tried it lol. I do the same thing to my kids tho, it works!

      • Mabel

        I don’t either, because ew.

      • Jenny

        God made everything for us for a reason…magic mushrooms are good for the mind and some mushrooms are good to eat while others are good for medical herbs and teas. Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it! peace, Jenny

        • Nick Temby

          god is imagination one of the things that distinguish us from other species of animals, also known as stupididy

      • dylan ridout

        ya me too i have Mycophobia so even looking at them scares me

    • Darien Mirzoev

      Oh my gosh, I feel so bad for that family.

      • Lisa 39

        I’ve only heard about that once in my city, scott said it happen’s all the time where he lives.

  • Darien Mirzoev

    I’d rather not eat fungus. Sorry but I just don’t, it’s too risky, especially the red mushrooms with white dots on them…

    • Lisa 39

      Those could make you bigger!

    • Rivethead

      You do know, don’t you, that there are just as many a percentage of plants that are as inedible to humans as there are mushrooms? I also hope you realize that the mushrooms that are sold in super markets have been proven to be edible, so I have no idea where the fuck you get this weird and irrational aversion.

      • Lisa 39

        Hi rivethead. I think maybe darien’s aversion to fungus is like my aversion to eating organ’s, liver, nope, kidney’s, ugh no way, monkey brain’s, are you high? NO. I also can’t eat squid, octopus, sushi or anything involving intestine’s. Just the thought of these thing’s gives me the willie’s. I have to go throw up now.

        • Passin’ Through

          Food aversions are curious to me. I understand how some people have a bad experience with some food and create a conditioned response to when they see or smell it in the future but I’ve seen some very interesting ones, especially regarding texture as opposed to taste.

          My little brother won’t eat mashed potatoes or anything with the same consistency. He’ll eat french fries, sliced potatoes, and hash browns, but nothing mashed.

          A friend of mine won’t eat lasagna despite eating other pasta, tomato sauce, cheese, etc. He also used to not eat quiche because it “sounds disgusting”, but his wife made “bacon, egg, and cheese casserole” (same ingredients) and he loved it. Go figure.

          • Lisa 39

            Hi passin through, 2 of my kids won’t eat lasagna because of the ricotta cheese but i don’t know if that’s taste or texture. About half of them won’t eat cottage cheese because of the texture. I did try sushi once, haha i was at a chinese buffet (my favorite restaurant) with my mom and decided to try it, i put it on my tongue and closed my mouth, i don’t know why but i couldn’t do it, into a napkin it went. I think it’s just the thought of uncooked food even tho it’s smoked. Here’s another one, i love strawberries but i can’t stand strawberry flavored anything, ice cream, milk, nothing. It’s weird but i can live with it lol

          • The Ou7law

            How do you like to eat your strawberries sweetheart 😉

          • Lisa 39

            Freshly picked of course! Or strawberry shortcake of course! Lol. But i haven’t had a strawberry patch for 10 years so i buy them. Maybe i’ll plant some this spring 🙂

          • The Ou7law

            Lol i was just being dirty minded for a second there and it totally back fired

          • Lisa 39

            O, well let me try a different answer then.
            Outlaw, you know i like to eat big strawberries with a friend in a private ‘friend only’ party involving strip poker!
            Better?

          • Valkyrie

            I think he was hinting something along the lines of ‘out of your belly button’ 😀

          • Lisa 39

            Oh, i see. I’m laughing my butt off now and at a loss for word’s lol

          • Valkyrie

            I think I must be the only female on here to take him literally tongue-in-cheek lol

          • Lisa 39

            I’m so far out of the loop lol

          • Valkyrie

            So basically you would fail on I’m a celeb then 😛

          • Lisa 39

            You cracked the case of the grammar lady, you’re a celeb!

        • Rivethead

          I humbly disagree. Refusing to eat something you feel might be unappetizing is a bit different from labeling all such foods as “risky.” Unless Darien walks around the woods sampling every fungus she/he sees, Darien is far, far more likely to become ill from poorly-washed spinach or improperly prepared chicken, than any fungus.

          • Lisa 39

            I agree, unappetizing and risky are different. I don’t think darien will be sampling anything in the woods tho lol. I think it’s amazing that our brain’s decide what we will or won’t eat based on what we know. I love shrimp, crab and lobster but squid? No way, gross. I have the willie’s again lol. Is there any food you get the willie’s from?

          • Valkyrie

            I think it’s because I have a real aversion to maggots and to me that looked like a huge boiled one. I couldn’t eat anything like a lobster, crab or squid or even shrimp as they still look like the original creature once cooked ( especially couldn’t let a lobster be boiled alive in order for me to eat it).

            I couldn’t eat anything that I would associate with being a pet i.e rabbits, ducks, horse meat,etc, which is why the fact that Chinese people cook dogs and cats alive in order to eat them makes me want to personally go ape shit on them …

          • Lisa 39

            I agree about not eating anything that could be a pet, that’s just weird, i’ll go ape shit with you over the cat’s and dog’s because that’s just wrong, i think food aversion’s just depend on what you think is actually edible.

          • Valkyrie

            That reminds me of the kids refusing to eat cabbage or any green veg as it looked horrible to them lol, I believe that some supermarkets actually started selling food directly marketed towards attracting kids to eat them by selling veg that had colouring in them .. such as blue beans etc

          • Lisa 39

            I got my kids to eat brussel sprout’s by telling them it would make them fart, ( ordinarily i wouldn’t use that word but i was talking to kids lol). Well valkyrie, i just received some awesome new’s and i’m sharing with you 1st, i’m gonna be a grandma again!

          • Valkyrie

            awwwww Congratulations <3

          • Lisa 39

            Thanks! I’m so excited! This is #3 for me. Now my 4 year old grandson will be a big brother lol

          • Lisa 39

            Hi valkyrie, um not going to be a grandma this time, my daughter miscarried this morning, gotta go now, she’s on her way and gonna need a mom hug.

          • Valkyrie

            I’m so sorry..make sure someone gives you a hug too xx

          • Lisa 39

            Thank you, she’s here and ok, cried on me a bit, now we’re raiding the kitchen for comfort food lol, i already contacted everyone so she wouldn’t have to, she and her hubby will be ok

          • Valkyrie

            Bless 🙁

          • Lisa 39

            Thank you, don’t be to sad for my family tho, we’re tough, we survived my ex so we can handle anything! She said they may take a break from trying for another baby but that that will only last a month or so. It could still happen this year. Life go’s on 🙂

          • Valkyrie

            Have you ever ate a sea slug? Because I was in a restaurant in Turkey once where the guy on the next table was eating one .. I wanted to vomit…

          • Rivethead

            No, I have not yet had the opportunity. Why do you ask?

          • Valkyrie

            Because it has to be the vilest ‘edible’ creature to look at, and i’m curious as to whether or not you could eat one after seeing one 🙂

  • JacqulynGertner

    There is Lots of difference between Mushroom and toadstools.

    http://aminomusclesite.com/