Why do I have mushrooms growing on my lawn?

By | 13/11/2014
A mushroom on a lawn

I am often asked about mushrooms growing on lawns. So in this post I’ll try to explain a little about these mysterious organisms. Why they seem to appear out of nowhere and why they are often just a natural part of the health of your lawn.

Mushrooms are the fruiting bodies of fungus that live on and in the soil. Toadstool is the old common name for poisonous mushrooms, but are still essentially mushrooms. These mysterious organisms play an essential role in the decomposition and recycling of organic matter into nutrients usable by plants.

Fungus are classified as neither plant nor animal. They have their own separate classification called the Eukaryotes, which also include yeasts and moulds.

For the majority of their lives, most fungus go about their business slowly decomposing all of the dead and rotting organic matter that falls within their reach. Largely unnoticed, they slowly grow filament-like structures that are similar to roots, called Hyphae. Collectively, Hyphae is Mycelium. Some species of fungi exhibit these as curious white strands in the soil and on dead wood. This is how the fungus grows and searches out nutrients.

Many species of fungi live in symbiosis with a host plant, with each one mutually benefiting from the other. Identifying the plant on which a fungus is growing is one of the many methods that is used to correctly identify them, as many only exist alongside their host plants.

Fungal Mycelium

Fungal Mycelium in the soil

A mushroom is the fruiting body of a fungus. These structures hold millions of fungal spores which, when released are carried by the wind to new locations for the next generation. They come in a fantastic array of shapes, colours and sizes. For a gallery of mushrooms that I have found on lawns in my area, check out my fantastic fungus gallery on facebook, where I post pictures of the most interesting ones I find.

A fungus will only produce a mushroom when the environmental conditions are ideal, and sometimes it can be many years between fruiting. I remember in the autumn of 2010, conditions were ideal for the large Bolete species of mushrooms and there was an invasion of a great many of these distinctive, large mushrooms on lawns all over the North West. This is why you may not see mushrooms on your lawn for many years, and then all of a sudden, they’re everywhere!

Do mushrooms indicate a problem with my lawn?

The vast majority of mushrooms on a lawn do not indicate a problem, and are actually beneficial. They are just part of the natural ecology of the lawn.
However, if the mushrooms that emerge are arranged in a distinct circle or arc then this is a rare situation when the presence of a particular fungus will adversely affect the lawn and will need treatment. This will indicate the presence of a fairy ring, caused by the Mycelium fungus in the soil. These can be fascinating to look at, but can be devastating to the look of the lawn. I will try to cover fairy rings in more detail in a later blog post.

Many other fungus in lawns enjoy damp, carbon-rich soil and therefore are only an indication of a problem with the lawn, such as a low pH, poor drainage or an excess of organic matter such as leaves or wood chip on the lawn. I can test your pH levels and advise if treatment is necessary.

Of these common species found on British lawns, very few are poisonous. Even fewer are toxic enough to cause death. Even so, if you are considering handling or eating any mushrooms that you find growing on your lawn, then be sure to verify that it is an edible species from at least two reliable field guides or from someone who is an expert in the subject. If you are at all unsure of what you have found, just leave it alone and it will disappear in time.

Why do I have mushrooms growing on my lawn?

Fungus on a lawn

Fungus decomposing a tree stump in a lawn

Mushrooms on your lawn can appear overnight and will usually only last a few days, so the majority should be left alone and will do no harm to the lawn. However, some of the larger species can be very unsightly and leave a mess after they have finished spreading their spores, so if you wish to remove them, just picking them and putting them on the compost heap will suffice (be sure to wear gloves or wash your hands after handling).

Also, some folk say picking them when you see them will help to reduce the number of mushrooms appearing on your lawn, but there are so many mushroom spores that it is probably inevitable that some will land on your lawn from another unpicked mushroom nearby!

The only way to be sure of removing mushrooms from your lawn is to replace the soil every year, which, of course, is ridiculous.

Finally, have a look at my gallery of lawn mushrooms where I will be putting my photos of interesting mushrooms I have found on lawns in my area.
If you have any questions or are concerned about unusual fungus your lawn, or any other lawn issues, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Kris Lord

11 thoughts on “Why do I have mushrooms growing on my lawn?

  1. Michelle

    Hi Kris,
    One afternoon the kids were having a fight with waterbombs, I returned hours later (late afternoon) and was shocked to see a patch of mushrooms splayed across the lawn.
    Because this was so sudden it almost seemed like it would have looked like some strange animation! How does this happen so quick?

    Reply
  2. patrick hurd

    Hi, over the last two or three years we have had our lawn treated on a periodic basis to get rid of moss and enhance it etc and, at this time of year, we now get some parasol mushrooms, which are lovely to eat.

    However, I’m concerned that the chemicals used in the lawn treatment might be encouraging them and could be harmful to us.

    I don’t want to waste the mushrooms unless it will be harmful.

    Many thanks

    Reply
    1. Kris Lord Post author

      Hi Patrick,
      When you feed your grass you do improve the fertility of the soil in general. This will benefit a great many soil organisms, not just the grass. There is a chance that the increase in fungus on your lawn is helped by the treatment.
      I am unable to comment specifically on the edibility of the fungus though, as I don’t know what has been applied to your lawn.
      I recommend that you get in touch with your lawn care provider and ask what they have put down and the affect it may have. If they don’t know, then they should be able to get in touch with the manufacturer of the products they are applying and they will be able to provide the answer for you.
      Thanks for reading.
      Kris

      Reply
  3. Joan Weir

    Last year was the first time I notices these toadstools /mushrooms growing on my lawn wish I could send you a picture of them this year they seem to have trebled in the area that they have appeared my worry is my cats

    Reply
    1. Kris Lord Post author

      Hi Joan, if you are worried, just put on a pair of gloves, pick the fruits and put them in your green bin for recycling. Cats don’t tend to eat unpalatable things though, so I doubt there is much to worry about.

      Reply
    1. Kris Lord Post author

      Some you can, some are poisonous. Buy a good field guide or seek professional advice before trying them.

      Reply
  4. Dorothy

    Why did very large brown mushroos with cyy outside rimscome up around my rose bush acter ahea y rain. Will it harm my bush

    Reply
    1. Kris Lord Post author

      Mushrooms are a natural part of soil. They will not harm the bush, and may even be beneficial to it.

      Reply
  5. Ron Newby

    Hi Kris

    I am trying to identify some mushrooms which have popped up in my lawn following a period of intense rainfall about 10 days ago. They resemble Agaricus bitorquis (Pavement Mushroom). Starting off as white hemispherical caps 4 cm dia on 2 cm stem with free crowded thin pink gills . They mature into convex/flat caps 10 cm dia on 1.5 cm dia stem x 9 cm long with dark brown gills and spore print. They have grown in a cluster of 12 along the line of a mature ‘Staghorn Sumac’ root after the shrub died back mysteriously, about 5 years ago, possibly due to the fungal infection.

    I would like to know whether any of your readers have experienmce similar problems and have identified these mushrooms as edible or poisonous?

    Sincerely

    Ron Newby

    Reply
    1. Kris Lord Post author

      Hi Ron,

      I’m no mushroom expert, especially from text descriptions!
      I’d recommend buying a good field guide, or contacting an expert on the subject.

      Try http://www.wild-food.net for starters.

      Thanks for reading.

      Kris

      Reply

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