Meadow Mushroom

Family: 
Agaricaceae
Description: 

Smooth white to light grayish cap, pinkish brown gills, found in lawns and meadows. July–September. Cap curved to nearly flat; white to grayish to gray-brown; texture dry, smooth or fibrous. Gills broad; spacing crowded; light pink, becoming chocolate to blackish brown; attachment free. Stalk sometimes tapering downward; white, darkening with age; smooth to fibrous; with a delicate ring that often disappears. Partial veil white, membranous, leaving a delicate ring on the stalk. Spore print blackish brown. Spores magnified are elliptical, smooth, purple-brown.

Lookalikes: The destroying angel (Amanita bisporigera) has white gills, a white spore print, and a saclike cup around the base of the stalk. The meadow mushroom has light pink to blackish brown gills, and a blackish brown spore print. Be absolutely certain of the identification of each and every meadow mushroom before eating: Make spore prints or show your specimens to an expert.

Size: 
Cap width: 1-4 inches; stalk length: 1-2 inches; stalk width: ¼–¾ inch.
Habitat and conservation: 
Scattered to abundant in grassy areas, urban lawns, and meadows. Sometimes grows in arcs or "fairy rings."
Distribution in Missouri: 
Statewide.
Status: 
Choice edible—but with extreme caution! The similar-looking, and deadly, destroying angel can grow in the same habitat as the meadow mushroom. If collecting meadow mushrooms in urban areas, be certain no lawn treatment chemicals have been used.
Life cycle: 
This species exists most of the time as a network of fungal cells (mycelium) in the soil, digesting and decomposing organic particles. It grows outward from a central point, sometimes forming an arc or circle. When it's ready to reproduce, the mycelium develops mushrooms, which are aboveground reproductive structures. Because the most active part of the mycelium is along its outer edge, the mushrooms can form in a circular "fairy ring." The mycelium of a mushroom can live for decades.
Human connections: 
The meadow mushroom, considered a choice edible, is closely related to the cultivated, store-bought white button mushroom. Always be absolutely certain of the identification before eating any wild mushroom, and always be sure to cook it before eating.
Ecosystem connections: 
Fungi and their fruiting bodies, mushrooms, are part of our natural environment. Their importance in forest ecosystems is monumental. Besides nourishing forest trees through symbiosis, they are also the wood rotters of the natural world.