My Love for Michigan:

When I first set foot in Michigan back in 2016 for college, I was immediately struck by the unwavering love Michiganders had for their state. Coming from Chicago, where loyalty to the city was a given but not exactly adorned with visible passion, I was taken aback. No one back in Chicago plastered their cars with Illinois stickers or proudly sported shirts featuring the state emblem. In fact, the only folks displaying state merch were wide-eyed tourists. But in Michigan, it's an entirely different story.

Here, people don't just wear their hearts on their sleeves; they emblazon it on their cars, sip from mugs adorned with the iconic mitten state, and cozy up in sweatshirts with little hearts encircling the state outline. Initially, I couldn't fathom the depth of affection the locals had for their homeland. However, after calling Michigan home for a while now, I've begun to unravel the profound connection that natives share with this place.

For starters, Michigan is nothing short of breathtaking. The landscapes, teeming with vibrant nature and wildlife, are a spectacle unlike anything I've ever witnessed. Over the past year, as my life underwent significant changes, I've found myself falling head over heels for this state. Observing the transformation of trees, the seasonal preparations of animals, and the emergence of various plants, I am constantly in awe. Walks have evolved into my favorite pastime, with me spending more time wandering through the enchanting forests (getting lost) than I ever imagined.

Realizing that not everyone may have the chance to explore Michigan firsthand or simply lack the time to wander aimlessly through its forests, I decided to share my discoveries with the world. This initiative, which I've dubbed "Michigan Mushrooms," delves into the fascinating fungi that grace the landscapes of West Michigan. In this post, I'll be sharing photos of these mushrooms, accompanied by interesting facts about each variety. Keep in mind that I'm a novice identifier, and there might be inaccuracies in some of my identifications. A word of caution: never consume or handle mushrooms unless you are absolutely certain of their identity. During my forest expedition with my husband, we exercised caution and refrained from handling any mushrooms for safety reasons— a practice I strongly advise others to follow. Now, let's dive into the intriguing world of Michigan Mushrooms!

Lyophyllaceae Family:

This delightful mushroom family is a familiar sight in the Midwest, effortlessly standing out in the forest with their strikingly bright white caps against the dark, earthy backdrop. What sets them apart, making them particularly endearing in my eyes, is their tendency to cluster in charming pairings. It's almost as if they've formed a little familial bond, snugly nestling together as though preparing for a winter retreat.

This family boasts eight distinct genera encompassing a rich diversity of 157 species. Flourishing in fields, grass verges, and roadsides, these mushrooms showcase caps ranging from 2 to 6 inches in diameter. For optimal harvesting, seek them out during dry weather.[1].

Russluceae Family:

Within this mushroom family, a captivating duality emerges with both edible and inedible varieties. Characterized by their typically gilled and brittle flesh, easily susceptible to breakage, these mushrooms reveal a mosaic of broken patches, likely the result of curious animals or nibbling critters, as evident in the photos above. Exercise caution and refrain from consumption if uncertainty lingers about their edibility—an intuitive choice, I'm sure.

Diving into their ecological dance, these mushrooms engage in a symbiotic relationship, forming mutualistic ectomycorrhizal root connections with trees and shrubs [1]. As a consequence, the prime locales for encountering these fungi unfold in areas rich with arboreal and shrubbery companions.

With a staggering tally of approximately 1,900 known species in this family [1], stumbling upon a member becomes a delightful possibility, perhaps even without immediate recognition! Their vibrant spectrum of colors—ranging from reds and blues to oranges and the classic white—paints a picturesque diversity. These versatile mushrooms grace the northern hemisphere during fall, resiliently thriving even in arctic climates [2]. The sheer abundance of species ensures a global presence, extending their reach even into tropical realms. No matter your location these mushrooms persist waiting to be discovered in the nooks and crannies of your surroundings.

The Tree Mushroom Family:

The last two mushrooms in the captivating images above ignited an unexpected craving within me—crystallized honey and the promise of a delicious meal. Despite the temptation to pluck these mushrooms and bring them home, I resisted, leaving them behind as a shared discovery for others to encounter. Perhaps they, too, would resonate with the hunger that sparked in me at the sight.

Let's delve into the botanical realm—these mushrooms belong to the Pleurotaceae family, a petite yet distinctive group characterized by their white spores. Astonishingly, this family houses a mere four genera [1], with the illustrious oyster mushroom standing as its most renowned member. Renowned for its delectable taste, the oyster mushroom beckons, though a word of caution: for those less versed in the art of foraging, it's advisable to get them from a reputable source.

Hymenochaetaceae Family:

Hymenochaetaceae is a family of wood-inhabiting fungi, known for their distinctive fruiting bodies and ecological importance. These fungi play crucial roles in wood decay and nutrient cycling within forest ecosystems. The family includes both saprotrophic species, which decompose dead wood, and pathogenic species that can cause wood decay in living trees.

One of the notable genera within Hymenochaetaceae is Hymenochaete, from which the family derives its name. Species within this genus are characterized by their tough, shelf-like fruiting bodies, often adorned with intricate patterns and vibrant colors. Some members of Hymenochaetaceae are renowned for their medicinal properties, with certain compounds exhibiting potential anti-inflammatory and anti-tumor effects.

Entolomataceae Family:

The Entolomataceae family is a diverse and captivating group of mushrooms found in various ecosystems worldwide, from woodlands to grasslands. These fungi, primarily saprotrophic, play a crucial role in breaking down and decomposing organic matter. Many species within this family exhibit distinctive pink to red colors in their fruiting bodies, adding vibrancy to the forest floor, though diversity extends beyond color alone.

 Notably, some members of the Entolomataceae family form mycorrhizal relationships with plants, contributing to nutrient exchange and enhancing the health of both fungi and their plant partners. As we explore the fungal realm, the Entolomataceae family stands out as a fascinating reminder of the intricate and interconnected web of life within the world of mushrooms.

Pluteaceae Family:

One well-known genus within the Pluteaceae family is Pluteus, encompassing species with features like free gills, a prominent cap, and a central stipe. The cap colors can range from subtle earthy tones to vibrant hues, making them a delight for mushroom enthusiasts and researchers alike. As with many fungal families, Pluteaceae members contribute to the ecological balance by participating in nutrient cycling and supporting the health of their respective ecosystems.

Hydnangiaceae Family:

These fungi form symbiotic relationships with plant roots, contributing to nutrient exchange and enhancing the overall health of the forest ecosystem. Some species in the Hydnangiaceae family are not your typical mushroom shape. Instead of the classic cap-and-stem structure, certain members produce fruiting bodies resembling coral or antlers. This unique morphology sets them apart from the more traditional mushroom forms, adding a touch of whimsy to the fungal landscape.

Meruliaceae Family:

This family and its species are recognized for their diverse forms, from delicate, lace-like patterns to more robust and woody textures. Some species within the Meruliaceae family are even bioluminescent! This bioluminescence is thought to be associated with the breakdown of lignin, a key component of wood, in the decaying process.

The Meruliaceae family captivates with its diverse forms, wood-decaying prowess, and the enchanting phenomenon of bioluminescence, reminding us of the wonders waiting to be discovered in the intricate world of fungi.

Polyporaceae Family:

Polyporaceae is a diverse family of fungi and one that can produce mushrooms that have lives that span years!

Certain species within the Polyporaceae family have been used traditionally for medicinal purposes. Compounds extracted from these fungi have shown potential anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties, making them a subject of interest in the field of ethnobotany and pharmacology. Some species are even adept at breaking down and absorbing pollutants, contributing to environmental cleanup efforts. It's like having nature's own cleanup crew, utilizing fungi to mitigate the impact of human activities on the environment.

Trichaptum Family:

Some Trichaptum species are known for their thermophilic tendencies. Thermophilic organisms thrive in higher-temperature environments, and certain Trichaptum fungi have been found colonizing substrates like decaying wood in hot springs. It's a reminder of the adaptability and resilience of fungi in diverse ecological niches!

Bonnet Mushroom Family:

These mushrooms are often found in woodlands, meadows, and other natural habitats. Not only are these fungi visually appealing, but they also contribute to the ecosystem by participating in the decay of organic matter. As we wander through the fungal wonderland, the Bonnet Mushroom family captures our imagination with its charming bonnet-like caps, bioluminescent properties, and ecological significance, reminding us of the variety within the fungi world!

Plicaturopsis Family:

The Plicaturopsis family encompasses fungi with distinctive features, including their cap shapes and patterns. Some Plicaturopsis species are mycorrhizal, forming symbiotic relationships with trees. These partnerships contribute to nutrient exchange, benefiting both the fungi and their plant partners!

Crusts Family:

Crust fungi, also known as corticioid fungi, belong to various families within the Basidiomycota phylum. What sets them apart is their unique growth form—instead of forming traditional mushroom structures, they create thin, crust-like layers on various substrates such as wood, bark, or soil. These Fungi are very easy to overlook, as they are often relatively small, so make sure to look at fallen sticks very closely if you want to find these!

Agaricaceae Family:

The Agaricaceae family is perhaps best known for its members that form classic, umbrella-shaped mushrooms, commonly referred to as agarics. This family encompasses various genera, including the well-known Amanita, Agaricus, and Lepiota. The Agaricaceae family has a variety of edible and culinary mushrooms within it. The common button mushroom (Agaricus bisporus) is a staple in kitchens worldwide, adding flavor and texture to a myriad of dishes. Meanwhile, some members, like the fly agaric (Amanita muscaria), are famous for their distinctive appearance but are toxic and hallucinogenic, making them more of a visual feast than a culinary delight.

Leucogloea Family:

When I first spotted these unassuming clusters on a dead log, I was not sure if they were mushrooms or some form of bug eggs. I snapped this picture and did some research, and was so delighted to find that these were a part of the Leucogloea family of fungi! Some species within this family can thrive in both terrestrial and aquatic habitats, showcasing their versatility in colonizing various substrates!

Cordycipitaceae Family:

The Cordycipitaceae family is renowned for its entomopathogenic members—fungi that specialize in infecting and parasitizing insects. One standout genus within this family is Cordyceps, and its species have gained fame for their bizarre and almost otherworldly behavior in the series The Last of Us. When a Cordyceps fungus infects an insect, it manipulates the host's behavior, compelling it to climb to an elevated position. As the fungus takes control, it eventually bursts forth, producing a stalk that releases spores to infect other unsuspecting insects below. It's a real-life example of nature's macabre yet fascinating dramas.

Final Thoughts:

In the course of this stroll, each species and fungal family I encountered revealed its own captivating allure. The sheer diversity of fungi that unfolded during this brief exploration in a seemingly ordinary Michigan forest left me pleasantly surprised. Michigan's natural wonders never cease to amaze me, and I eagerly anticipate discovering even more fungal marvels in the coming year. Regrettably, the path I usually use is now closed for the winter, so I likely will not capture any more forest wonders until the snow melts in the Spring. Until then, I'll relish the memories captured in the photos I've already amassed, eagerly anticipating the next season's fungal revelations.


  1. (PictureThis Software. (2023). Glority Global Group Ltd [Mobile application software]. Retrieved
  2.  Courtecuisse R, Duhem B (2013). Champignons de France et d'Europe [Mushrooms of France and Europe]. Guide Delachaux (in French). Paris: Delachaux & Niestlé. ISBN 978-2-603-02038-8.