Honey Mushroom - Armillariella mellea

Dave R.'s picture

When I first found this mushroom I wasn't sure what it was.  So I put out a call for help from our experts and Karen came through with the answer.  I have been doing some reading and decided to revise the blog with additional information that may be helpful to others.  First, the history. 

I found several large (basketball sized) clusters of the mushroom growing in grass.  There were some mature pines growing in the area but it was not clear if there was an association.  I was in a hurry at the time and collected part of a cluster for later examination.  As seen below, the mushroom was growing in very tight clusters but had separate stems.  The stems averaged about six inches and the caps a couple of inches in diameter.  The mushrooms in the photo represent about one fifth of a cluster.  As can be seen on the left, the gills are white and there is a persistent ring high on the stem.  The squirrels apparently found them quite tasty, but the odor when raw was not very appealing in my opinion so I was doubtful that they constituted a choice edible for humans.  The large size of the clusters and mustard yellow color of the mushroom were certainly interesting nonetheless. 

So I posted the photo with a call for help.  Karen came back with the answer, which I am increasingly confident is correct.  This is the yellow (honey) form of the Honey Mushroom or Armillariella mellea.  I had previously only been familiar with the reddish brown form and saw an opportunity to break out the guides and do some research to become more familiar with this mushroom "complex."  Here is small sample of what I found. 

First, A. mellea comes in two common variants and some recognize as many as 14 "species" in the A. mellea complex.  As David Aroroa notes in Mushrooms Demystified, "it's innumerable guises will confound you time and time again."  More familiar with the reddish brown form, I was certainly confounded by this yellow form.  But that turned out to be a good thing, as I have learned from the experience.  I particularly like Mr. Aroroa's discussion regarding A. mellea and the common characteristics of it's various forms, but you can find additional information on this common mushroom in most guides.  The mushroom is collected and eaten by many people but due to it's varied forms and several common and poisonous look-alikes must be approached with considerable caution.  Mr. Arora recommends that beginners eat only those forms that grow in clusters on wood.  And that seems like very sound advice indeed. 

Regarding the yellow form, there is a photo of a yellow A. mellea growing on wood on page 30 of William Roody's excellent book Mushrooms of West Virginia and the Central Appalachians.  The book also contains photos of a yellow look-alike mushroom (Pholiota mutabilis/malicola) that anyone collecting for consumption should get to know thoroughly. 

Regarding the reddish brown/pink form, there is a photo in Bill Russell's fine book Field Guide to Wild Mushrooms of Pennsylvania and the Mid-Atlantic.  Immediately above the photo of A. mellea in Bill's book is a photo of the poisonous and common look-alike Galerina autumnalis.  Information regarding G. autumnalis can also be found in either of the books mentioned above.  Anyone collecting the brown variant should become thoroughly familiar with this species as well, so as to avoid any possible mistaken identity.  Let me say one final time - please be very careful if you collect this mushroom for consumption. 

As a parting note I will mention that I had a prior confounding run-in with A. mellea last summer.  That experience involved an odd, aborted, parasitized form with Entoloma abortivum.  For more on that freak of nature, click on the link below.   There is certainly much more that can be said about this interesting fungus.  If you have anything to add, please leave a comment. 




Honey Mushrooms

 A. mellea , Pipinki

 Yellow form

Dave R.'s picture

Thank You

Thank you, thank you, thank you Karen.  It appears you are correct as usual.  I was in a hurry and did not check to see if the mushroom was growing from buried wood.  It appeared on first glance to be growing from the soil, and that really threw me off.  I have made this same mistake in the past and need to remind myself that mushrooms, particularly large clusters of mushrooms, on the ground may be growing from some hidden substrate.  

This is the first time I have found the yellow form of A. mellea and it differs significantly from the tan to brown form I have previously seen growing on logs and stumps.  I still find this species "complex" a bit confusing and look forward to getting to know it better.  This is a good opportunity to spend some time with the mushroom and the guide books doing just that.   

The guides list it as edible when well cooked.  I assume you have eaten it?  If so, any suggestions on preparation?


You're welcome

 Many people tell be they boil it first to make it less slimy. I usuall pickle the caps or just fry it after coating with flour.

Had a dish yesterday with eggs and peppers that someone prepared which was good.

This dries nice but I have to admit it's not my favorite.