This section is from the book "Wayside And Woodland Blossoms", by Edward Step. Also available from Amazon: Wayside And Woodland Blossoms: A Guide To British Wild-Flowers.
We cannot pretend to do other than call the rambler's attention to the interesting plants that are variously called mushrooms or toadstools, according to whether they are of the two or three species commonly eaten, or of the multitude concerning which the British public knows nothing, and therefore dismisses them as worthless toadstools.
A. - Fly Agaric.
B. - Edible Boletus.
C. - Puff-Ball. D. - Chanterelle.
A. The Fly-Agaric (Agaricus muscarius), though in general structure it closely resembles the common mushroom (Ag. campestris), is to be avoided as a poisonous species. Its large orange or crimson cap, more or less thickly dotted with whitish flakes, is a very striking feature in woods in late summer and autumn. An examination of the underside of the cap (pilcus) will reveal a great number of thin yellowish plates set on edge and radiating from the stem to the circumference. Over these plates or gills is stretched a membrane, called the hymenium, on which the spores are borne. From this characteristic of the bulk of our mushrooms and toadstools the tribe containing them is dubbed the Hymenomycetes.
B. Edible Boletus (Boletus edulis). In this group (Polyporei) the hymenium, instead of investing gills, lines minute pores or tubes, with which the under surface of the pileus is packed, and in which the spores are produced. Many of the Baleti are Edible, but their good qualities are known only to the few in this country. Edulis may be distinguished from other species by a delicate network of raised white lines covering the stem.
C. Jewelled Puff-ball (Lycoperdon gemmatum). This species represents a tribe in which the spore-bearing surface is contained within the fungus. In a young state Puff-balls of many kinds are filled with a white creamy substance, and so long as this remains white and does not change colour on being cut the fungus is good to eat, after being cut in slices and fried. When the spores are ripe the Puff-ball splits open at the top, and discloses a hollow filled with brown dust - the spores. Certain species of Lycoperdon attain very large proportions: L. giganteum is abundant in some localities in grassy places, usually measuring nine or ten inches in diameter, but occasionally it exceeds twenty inches, and weighs as many pounds. Slices may be cut from one side of it for several days in succession, but so long as the rooting portion is not interfered with it will continue to grow. L. gemmatum is common on downs or pastures. Readers should be cautioned against eating these small species in a raw state, as such a course has been known to have serious effects.
D. Chanterelle (Cantharellus cibcrius). This belongs to the same section as the Fly-Agaric, in which the spore-bearing membrane is spread over gills; but in Cantharellns the gills are reduced to thick ribs that run from the edge of the pileus partly down the stem. The whole fungus is coloured with orange-yellow, internally as well as the outside. It is often abundant in woods in summer and early autumn. It is much esteemed for its esculent qualities; but it requires much cooking, and should first be thrown into hot water for a few minutes, then dried on a cloth, and fried or stewed gently.