With about 14,000 types of mushrooms existing, they live everywhere, from rotting wood trunks, dead trees, dank forest floors, and even dung piles. You may be familiar with those brown and dull mushrooms with white mold. But unlike those kinds, there are colorful mushrooms and other fungi that come in attractive hues.
From the yellow to the purple and bioluminescent mushroom, the world of mushrooms comes in an amazing spectrum of colors. Some mushroom and fungi species are used to create drugs and add flavor to an array of dishes, while others may be poisonous and deadly.
In this article, we've compiled a list of mushrooms and fungi that come in a splash of colors different from the brown and pale colors you're used to.
Also known as the Fly Agaric or Amanita muscaria, these colorful mushrooms are some of the most recognizable mushroom species, mostly illustrated in fairy tale movies or books. They come in a glossy red color covered in white spots that match their white stem.
You can find these red mushrooms on forest floors in different parts of the world, including North America, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom.
In some areas, this red mushroom is dipped in milk to attract flies. They also have very intense psychoactive and hallucinogenic properties1.
The Amethyst Deceiver is one of the few purple mushrooms, and much like its name, it is roughly the color of amethyst. However, the purple color tends to fade as the mushrooms mature, making it harder to identify older specimens. As such, these mushrooms have come to have the title “deceiver” as part of their name.
This small mushroom has a beneficial relationship with trees. It can be found in beech trees in coniferous and deciduous forests, especially in Central and South America.
They are also edible mushrooms. However, you want to be cautious as they are closely related to the poisonous mushroom Lilac fibrecap. They do well growing in moist soil and prefer shady forest environments.
The Bleeding Tooth fungus has a beneficial relationship with different types of trees. While the tree gives this mushroom fixed carbon, the fungus offers minerals and amino acids collected in the soil to the tree roots2.
They come in white with cherry red globules on their surface, similar to a bleeding tooth. Sometimes, they are also called the devil's tooth.
Scientists haven't found out exactly what the red liquid at the top but the color may come from the pigment found in the fungus. This mushroom grows in areas like Europe, North America, and South Korea.
Found in Europe, the wrinkled peach, Rosy Veincap, or Rhodotus palmatus is a beautifully colored mushroom with a round-shaped orange/pinkish cap and a netted outer layer that looks wrinkled. These mushrooms are quite rare and grow on decaying elm, maple, and basswood hardwood.
The Scarlet Cup, Scarlet Elf Cup, or Sarcoscypha coccinea comes shaped like a cup with a bright red core. Their cup-like shape helps this colorful mushroom send out whiffs of spores for reproduction. As these mushrooms age, their scarlet color turns to orange.
You can find the Scarlet Cup mushroom in just about any continent except Antarctica, growing on decomposing wood or among leaves on a forest floor. These mushrooms are also considered edible.
Also known as anemone stinkhorn or sea anemone fungus, this fungi is quite common in Australia and grows in grassy areas. These colorful mushroom species come in bright and pale red tendrils with a surface often covered with brown slime.
They have an unpleasant smell like that of rotten meat. So, it attracts flies to the fungus to spread its spores.
The Elegant Stinkhorn comes in a bright reddish-orange color at its lower parts and green at the upper part, with slimy spores. These mushroom species grow well in most soil types and around wood debris.
Mushroom hunters can collect these mushrooms as they are technically edible. However, they have an unpleasant smell that would make no one want to eat them. Even in their early stages of growth, they do not have any flavor and tend to only taste like seasonings used to cook them.
If you're looking for edible mushrooms with lots of nutritional benefits, these oyster mushrooms are not only delicious but come with an excellent texture and flavor. These mushrooms grow in hardwood forests in Eastern Russia, Northern China, and Japan.
While this oyster mushroom is edible, you want to be careful when foraging as they have a poisonous look-alike.
The Violet Coral fungus comes in an interesting shape that looks like a coral reef. They have a bright pinkish-violet color and dark branches that may sometimes appear brown.
With good warm weather, these colorful mushrooms can grow all year round in forest soil under full sun or low light. You can find them under oak and hickory trees as well as coniferous woodlands in Eastern North America.
Unfortunately, these mushrooms are fairly rare species. Coral mushrooms are very poisonous, and even the non-poisonous species do not have a pleasant taste.
The Ghost fungi is a beautiful mushroom found in Australia and Tasmania and comes in a unique coloring. They come in a unique shape and green color that actually glows in the dark!
Because of their glowing color, scientists formerly thought they attracted spore-dispersing insects3, but recent studies say otherwise. They are also very poisonous to humans and should not be consumed.
You may mistake some Orange Peel fungi for an actual orange peel. They typically come in colors ranging from pale to deep orange and mostly bloom between the late summer and autumn. These orange mushrooms grow well in disturbed clay or soil and can do well in various light conditions.
These mushrooms come in a striking color that makes them look inviting. However, you want to be careful with your hands because they have a cap and stem covered in sharp scales.
You would find these beautiful mushrooms growing on stumps or logs of dead conifers. They typically bloom around the summer through to autumn and do well in relatively shady forests.
Native to New Zealand, this colorful mushroom gets the name Werewere-kokako because it has a similar blue color to the kōkako bird. This mushroom has a cap that ranges from dark blue to light blue and gray. While these mushrooms are small and adorable, they are not to be eaten.
If you're looking for mushrooms to forage, this bright-colored fungus is a great one. Amazingly, the fungi taste similar to chicken when you cook them properly. You can find this fungus growing on beech, chestnut, and oak trees.
The Spotted Cort is another fungus with a symbiotic relationship with trees. The fungi connect with the roots of deciduous trees, allowing both the trees and the fungi to share nutrients.
These small mushroom species go through various color changes. When it first grows, it comes in pale purple and then becomes dotted with yellow spots, giving it a beautiful contrasting look.
Mushrooms appear like plants and may seem harmless at first glance. However, just like with plants, there are poisonous and edible mushrooms.
While there are no clear-cut ways to know the exact species that are poisonous, there are a few characteristics that may spell doom. Eating a poisonous mushroom is dangerous and may even lead to death. So, if you find one with these characteristics, it's best to leave them alone.
Firstly, mushrooms with a white gill, volva, or ring around their stem are often poisonous. Also, red mushrooms are often poisonous or hallucinogenic, so you want to avoid them. For example, Fly Agaric is famous for its hallucinogenic properties.
To ensure the wild mushrooms you are foraging are edible, check out our list of best books on foraging.
There are many more mushrooms located in different parts of the world. We've looked at some of the most brightly-colored and attractive mushrooms the world has to offer. Some mushrooms are deadly, so before eating them, you want to ensure you know exactly what they are.
Lee, M. R., Dukan, E., & Milne, I. (2018). Amanita Muscaria (Fly Agaric): From a Shamanistic Hallucinogen to the Search for Acetylcholine. Journal of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh, 48(1), 85–91.
Näsholm, T., Ekblad, A., Nordin, A., Giesler, R., Högberg, M. N., & Högberg, P. (1998). Boreal forest plants take up organic nitrogen. Nature, 392(6679), 914–916.
Weinstein, P., Delean, S., Wood, T., & Austin, A. D. (2016). Bioluminescence in the ghost fungus Omphalotus nidiformis does not attract potential spore dispersing insects. IMA Fungus, 7(2), 229–234.
Jen’s a passionate environmentalist and sustainability expert. With a science degree from Babcock University Jen loves applying her research skills to craft editorial that connects with our global changemaker and readership audiences centered around topics including zero waste, sustainability, climate change, and biodiversity.
Elsewhere Jen’s interests include the role that future technology and data have in helping us solve some of the planet’s biggest challenges.
Fact Checked By:
Isabela Sedano, BEng.