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Mushrooms and Toadstools in Lawns

Date: April 1989 (April 1995)

Source: NDSU Extension Service Horticulturist

Long periods of rainy weather may lead to the growth of mushrooms or toadstools in lawns. When mushrooms appear in people's lawns, they ask one of two questions, depending on individual attitudes. Some people hate mushrooms or toadstools, and want to know how to get rid of them. Others like mushrooms and want to know if the ones in their lawn are safe to eat. Let us first consider the question of eating mushrooms, then the question of getting rid of them. Although many wild mushrooms are delicious and safe to eat, others are deadly poisonous. There is no "trick of the trade" for telling which ones are poisonous, except to know what you are collecting. A common mushroom in North Dakota lawns is the parasol mushroom. Although not poisonous to many people, it produces a violent allergic reaction in others. Moreover, it closely resembles the destroying angel, the most poisonous mushroom in North America. A word to the wise: unless you know mushrooms well, get them at the supermarket.

For those who wish to learn about mushrooms, begin collecting mushrooms with someone who has done it successfully for years. Get some books on mushrooms and study the material you collect. Don't eat mushrooms you collect until you are absolutely sure of what you are collecting. Remember, one misidentified mushroom in a bag of edible mushrooms can have painful, or even fatal, consequences.

Now, for those who don't like mushrooms and want to get rid of them. There is little you can do to prevent their growth because they grow in the ground for years, decomposing old roots, tree stumps, pieces of lumber left by the contractor, and so forth. Every time the weather is wet for a long period, they will produce their fruiting structures. These are the mushrooms you see. If you don't like the looks of them, or if you are worried about children or animals eating them, rake up and destroy the mushrooms.

Usually mushrooms grow in a helter-skelter fashion in the lawn. There is a certain type, however, that comes up each year forming giant rings or circles of mushrooms. Each year these rings grow in diameter as the mushroom strands grow through the soil. These are called fairy ring mushrooms. Just inside this ring of mushrooms the grass will be yellow or nearly dead as the fairy ring mushrooms extract most of the plant food from the soil. There is no practical control for these mushrooms, but it is possible to reduce the damage they do to the lawn. The lawn must be well-fertilized using a nitrogen fertilizer. This should be done several times a year. The lawn should then be heavily watered to a depth of ten to twenty-four inches.

This will provide enough water and plant food for both the fairy ring mushrooms and the grass, allowing the grass to grow fairly well in spite of the fairy ring.

If you have further questions, contact your county office of the NDSU Extension Service for additional information on mushrooms.

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