Coral mushrooms are a common type of fungi that are found in various places across the globe. These unique mushrooms are best known for their very unique and distinctive shape that looks like a coral found underwater.
These mushrooms are like the forest coral, they look like a coral branch, or sometimes like a small cluster of fingers.
Some of these mushrooms are edible, you can enjoy some of them for your tea without worry, however, there are others that are far from safe to eat, being poisonous.
It is super important that you can identify safe corals from poisonous corals. We will look into these specific types momentarily, for now, it is time to learn about mushrooms!
Is There A Mushroom That Looks Like Coral?
One mushroom, the Ramaria Botrytis is often known as the clustered coral, pink-tipped coral mushroom, or cauliflower coral. This is an edible species of coral fungus, coming from the family Gomphaceae.
The robust fruit body can grow up to 15cm in diameter and 20 cm tall. It looks a lot like a marine coral, which can be totally fascinating.
This is one of the common mushrooms we refer to when we are talking about coral mushrooms. While it is edible, it is not recommended.
There is also the crown-tipped coral mushroom, otherwise known as the Artomyces pyxidatus, which is another edible variety that looks like a coral. These mushrooms grow 2-8 cm in diameter, and 5-12 cm in length with short stems and many thin branches, looking more like a cluster coral. This is the most edible coral mushroom.
How Can You Tell If A Coral Mushroom Is Crown-Tipped?
Crown-tipped corals grow directly from wood, and they have a looser structure than you would find with ramaria. They are also always white, or a shaded white, and the base of the mushroom will attach to the wood, here it will be brown.
To ensure that you’re picking the correct coral mushroom, never pick any that smell bad or smell like embalming fluid, never pick any that have a slimy base, and never pick ANY mushrooms with a deep red color.
Which Coral Fungi Are Edible?
Avoid any coral-type mushrooms which are brightly colored. The only coral fungi which are edible will be white, beige, or yellow ‘crown-tipped’ mushrooms.
This is also known as Clauvlina Cristata, which is just known as a white coral fungus, or crested coral fungus by some. It is white, or light in color, and is found in temperate areas of Europe and the Americas.
Do not eat any coral-lookalike fungi which are red, deep yellow, or any color that is not light! These can be poisonous, or at the very least will leave you feeling unwell, or with digestive distress after eating them.
Are There Any Poisonous Coral Fungi?
The Podostroma Conru-damae is well known as a Japanese coral fungus that is poisonous. It is also known as the Poison fire coral and is a fungus in the family Hypocreaceae.
The fruit bodies of this fungus are insanely toxic, it has even been responsible for a series of fatalities in Japan!
However, you should also look out for the following false coral mushrooms, which look like coral mushrooms but in fact are poisonous.
- The False Coral Mushroom: Otherwise known as the Clavaria Zollingeri. This mushroom looks a lot like coral mushrooms but it is actually poisonous. This mushroom is found in both Europe and North America.
- The Deadly Coral Mushroom: Otherwise known as the Pseudohydnum Gelatinosum. This mushroom is found in Europe and is highly poisonous. It is known to cause severe gastrointestinal symptoms. It is also easily mistaken for a non-poisonous coral mushroom as it is similar in color and in shape.
- The Orange Jelly Coral Mushroom: Otherwise known as the Dacryopinax Spathularia. This mushroom is native to North America and looks a lot like coral mushrooms. It is not actually poisonous, however, it is not considered to be edible either, so it is best avoided.
Sadly, there are a lot of other coral mushrooms that look alike edible coral mushrooms, which are poisonous or potentially dangerous to ingest. Therefore, if you are unsure if a mushroom is safe to ingest, it is best to leave it be.
If you are determined to go mushroom foraging for coral mushrooms and feel unsure, always consult with a mushroom expert, or even a field guide to help you identify mushroom species.
It is always well worth going out with an expert a few times before you head out on your own to gain knowledge on what to look for.
Can You Touch Fire Coral Mushroom?
While you definitely should not ingest a Fire Coral Mushroom (The Japanese look-alike we spoke about earlier), you should definitely not touch them either.
While these mushrooms will not kill you with a single touch, they can cause painful skin irritation if you do touch them.
These fungi are considered to be the world’s second deadliest fungus! The first deadliest fungus is the Amanita Phalloides, which is also known as the Death Cap Mushroom, responsible for 90% of mushroom fatalities worldwide.
Touching the Fire Coral mushroom will likely incur inflammation and even dermatitis. In spite of there being plenty of incredibly deadly mushrooms out there, this is the only one known which has toxins that can be absorbed through the skin!
This mushroom is native to Japan, however, it has also now been detected in Australia. When traveling be aware of it, and give it some space. It may look pretty, but touching and eating it won’t be!