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Question 2: How many edible/poisonous mushrooms are there?

Terms discussed: edible, How Many Mushrooms, poisonous

Once again, this is more than one question; I will take them one at a time.


Topics:
1) How many mushrooms are there?
2) How many of them are edible/poisonous?

       

1) How many mushrooms are there?


This is a tough one. No one knows how many types of fleshy fungi exist in nature. There are about 10,000 described species known from North America, but everyone agrees that there are undiscovered species. Depending on who you believe, the known species are a third to a fifth of what's really out there.
In general, the Rocky Mountains divide our mushrooms into East Coast and West Coast species, so on each side of the Rockies, you only have about 60% of the total for the continent (some species overlap). We have a much smaller number of those in Illinois, as we don't have many good forests, and many mushrooms grow only in association with trees (see the article on mycorhizae for more information). I would estimate that we only have 3000 species of mushrooms in Illinois and Indiana, but if you went up to a state with good forests, like Wisconsin, Minnesota, or Michigan, that number probably goes up to 5000.

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2) How many of them are edible/poisonous?


I will give this in percentages. Roughly speaking, the mushrooms you find will be:

50% inedible
By this I mean, either too tough to chew, like some woody shelf mushrooms, or just plain indigestible, like oak or maple leaves, for example.

25% " edible, but not incredible"
There are a lot of mushrooms out there that are edible, but tasteless.

20% will make you sick
In this category I put things that will irritate your digestive tract. In mild cases, this means that you will throw up after eating the mushrooms. In more severe cases, it means that your entire digestive tract becomes extremely upset and expels whatever is inside it, in whatever direction is quickest. In very severe cases, your digestive tract continues trying to expel whatever is in it for a few days.

4% will be tasty to excellent
In other words, these are the mushrooms that there's actually a reason to eat.

1% can kill you
Need I say more?

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