Common Fungi (Mushrooms) of the Rocky Mountains

Fungi, fungus, mushroom, or however you want to say it are a really strange form of life and they are everywhere in the Rocky Mountains.  Simply saying the word mushroom gets a strong reaction from people.  It can cause them to make a disgusted face or it can cause them to smile as they think about eating them.

Whatever you think of mushrooms, fungi are incredibly important for a healthy environment and also help people in making many different kinds of food and medicine.

dog bird redo goodI want to share a fun fact with you here.  Fungi are mostly helpful to plants.  Scientists estimate that 80%-90% of all plants have some fungi living on their roots.

Some, such as a Douglas Fir, even have more than one kind living on their roots.  In fact, a Douglas Fir may have up to 2,000 different kinds!

Fungi grow on or in almost anything, and just about everywhere on Earth, including in the Arctic, deserts, mountains, and oceans.  There are about 10,000 known species of mushrooms.  Many of these are edible, some have medicinal properties, and others can make you sick or die.  Fungi range in size from too small to see to the largest organism on Earth.  For some more information about what makes a fungus a fungus click here.

In the Rocky Mountains there are many different kinds of fungi and here are some of the more common ones:

Bracket Fungus

bracket fungus, fungiType: Parasite, decomposer, or both.

Size:  Average up to 10 inches wide.

Shape: Like a shelf on a tree, often in a semi-circular shape.

Color: Various.

Where to find it: On trunks of dead or dying trees.

Notes: Bracket Fungi is the name of a group of fungi.  There are many different kinds and colors.

Fly Amanita

fly amanita, fungiType: Mutualism (it lives on the roots of pine, fir, aspen, or birch trees).

Size: 5 inches high and 5 inches wide.

Shape: Cap is umbrella shaped on a stem.

Color: Cap is faded orange or red with white dots and stalk is white.

Where to find it: Under Aspen trees or conifers.

Notes: This is POISONOUS.

King Boletus

king boletus, fungiType: Mutualism.

Size: 6 inches high by 6 inches wide.

Shape: Cap is round and looks like a muffin top.

Color: Cap is tan to reddish or dark brown.  Stalk is pale brown to whitish.

Where to find it: Under Aspen trees or conifers.

Morel (Black or Yellow)

black morel vertical, fungiType: Mutualism or decomposer.

Size: 4-5 inches tall and 1 1/2 inches wide.

Shape: Honeycomb like cap on top of a stem.

Color: Blackish or yellowish cap with a white stem.

Where to find it: Black Morel – under conifer trees or Aspen;  Yellow Morel – usually under deciduous trees, especially Cottonwoods.

Scaly Pholiota

scaly pholiota, fungiType: Decomposer or parasite.

Size: 5 inches high by 4 inches wide.

Shape: Form in clusters of umbrella shaped caps.

Color: White and covered with brown scales.

Where to find it: On logs, stumps, and the bases of trees.

Notes: This is POISONOUS!


puffball good, fungiType: Decomposer.

Size: 4 inches high by 4 inches wide.

Shape: Looks like a ball.

Color: White or brownish.

Where to find it: Under or near conifers at high elevations.