Cover image for Field Guide to Wild Mushrooms of Pennsylvania and the Mid-Atlantic By Bill Russell

Field Guide to Wild Mushrooms of Pennsylvania and the Mid-Atlantic

Bill Russell

Available as an e-book

248 pages
4.5" × 9"
101 color/4 b&w illustrations/1 map

Keystone Books

Field Guide to Wild Mushrooms of Pennsylvania and the Mid-Atlantic

Bill Russell

“This small and convivial volume is packed with stories, lore, reminiscences, humor, and, best of all, practical advice. If you want to collect mushrooms—for the table, or simply to learn about these fascinating life forms—this book is indispensable.”


  • Media
  • Description
  • Reviews
  • Bio
  • Table of Contents
  • Sample Chapters
  • Subjects

Join Bill Russell on a hunt for the elusive morel mushroom on this WPSU, Public Radio Podcast. link

To most Americans, mushrooms are the brown lumps in the soup one uses to make a tuna casserole, but to a select few, mushrooms are the abundant yet often well-hidden delicacies of the forests. In spite of their rather dismal reputation, most wild mushrooms are both edible and delicious, when prepared properly. From the morel to the chanterelle and the prolific and aptly named chicken of the woods, mushrooms can easily be harvested and enjoyed, if you know where to look and what to look for. Bill Russell’s Field Guide to the Wild Mushrooms of Pennsylvania and the Mid-Atlantic helps the reader learn just that—specifically for the often-neglected East Coast mushrooms of the United States and Canada.

Suited to both the novice and the experienced mushroom hunter, this book helps the reader identify mushrooms with the use of illustrations, descriptions, and environmental observations. Russell’s fifty years of experience in hunting, studying, and teaching about wild mushrooms have been carefully distilled into this easy-to-use and well-designed guide. The book is divided into the four seasons, each with its unique mushroom offerings. Each mushroom section includes a detailed description, information about the mushroom’s biology, tips on where the mushroom is most likely to be found, and a short “nutshell” description for quick reference. The book also includes color photographs of each of the mushrooms described.

Russell’s Field Guide to the Wild Mushrooms of Pennsylvania and the Mid-Atlantic shows the reader not only how to identify the most common mushrooms found in the region but also how to avoid common copycats—and what to do with the mushrooms once they’re identified and harvested. With both color illustrations and insightful descriptions of one hundred of the area’s most common mushrooms, Field Guide is an indispensable reference for the curious hiker, the amateur biologist, or the adventurous chef.

“This small and convivial volume is packed with stories, lore, reminiscences, humor, and, best of all, practical advice. If you want to collect mushrooms—for the table, or simply to learn about these fascinating life forms—this book is indispensable.”
“This excellent guide to mushrooms will be useful far beyond the region in the title. Overall, a delightful treatment.”

Bill Russell has been giving mushroom workshops, walks, and talks since 1960. In 1992 he developed unique mushroom cultivation methods that resulted in his business, Mushroom Kingdom Laboratories, which specializes in the commercial propagation of wild mushrooms. Founder and past president of the Central Pennsylvania Mushroom Society, Russell is a longtime resident of State College, Pennsylvania.




1. Mushroom Basics

2. One Hundred Pennsylvania Mushrooms

Spring Mushrooms

Summer Mushrooms

Fall Mushrooms

Winter Mushrooms

3. Edible and Non-Edible Mushrooms

4. Mushrooms in the Kitchen




How far back can your memory reach? If I really stretch, my earliest memory is of hunting mushrooms as a toddler with my parents, early on a misty summer morning, in an old graveyard near our home. Mushrooms grew everywhere. To me, they looked like big white buttons hiding in the grass. My parents carried tomato baskets and kitchen knives. Because I was so small—and thus close to the ground—I spotted a few tiny ones that my parents had overlooked. Afterward, I sat in my high chair near the kitchen table, impatiently waiting while my mother cooked the mushrooms we had brought home. She served me a little dish with three small sautéed button mushrooms—the mushrooms that I had found. To this day, I remember the earthy, sweet taste. From that moment I became hooked on mushroom hunting.

After I learned to read, my father bought me a wild mushroom identification book. Over the winter I memorized many of the mushroom descriptions. The following summer I studied the mushrooms that were growing in the woods, fields, and backyards around my home. My parents knew only one edible mushroom species (the one that grew in the graveyard), which they called a field mushroom. No one else in the area knew any others. I realized that if I wanted to discover other edible mushrooms, I would have to do it on my own.

Discover them I did. The first edible mushroom I identified by myself, with enough certainty to sample, was the glistening inky cap. Because it appeared in large crops in my backyard several times a season, I had plenty of opportunities to examine it closely and consider its edibility. The first time I ate it, I followed the advice in my book and sautéed a small sample. It was delicious, with a flavor very different from those of the supermarket white button mushrooms and the field mushrooms. I was eager to learn more about edible mushrooms, but I knew that it was important to move ahead slowly and carefully. Within a couple of years, I learned on my own to identify several edible species confidently.

My parents constantly felt torn between encouraging their budding mushroom hunter and saving their lives. Thanksgiving Day marked the beginning of velvet stem mushroom season where we lived. Lots of them grew on a log pile in the woods not far from the house, and every year I gathered a big basketful for the turkey stuffing. Every Thanksgiving morning, I would bring the basket into the bustling kitchen and proudly announce that I had the mushrooms for the turkey stuffing. Every year I would be greeted with silence. Yet every year I went ahead and stirred the velvet stems into the turkey stuffing mix. When dinner was served later in the day, a mountain of stuffing covered my plate. For days after, I had stuffing for breakfast, stuffing sandwiches for lunch, and warmed-over stuffing for dinner. Every year I had all the Thanksgiving turkey stuffing I could eat—because no one else would eat it.

By the time I graduated from high school, I had learned to pick about fifty edible mushrooms. Then, as an undergraduate physics student, I made a wonderful discovery: the library had a huge collection of mushroom books. Over the next four years I learned about dozens of other edible mushrooms. A year after graduation, I began an extended period of postgraduate studies in the biological and botanical sciences that further expanded my knowledge and understanding of mushrooms.

There’s no end to learning about mushrooms. You could study them over several lifetimes without knowing everything there is to know about them. My mushrooming friends and I get together several times a year to share each other’s knowledge and experiences. You can do the same. Form a circle of friends who are interested in mushrooms, and you will all learn faster. To meet other mushroom enthusiasts, you may want to check out the North American Mycological Association. Find them on the Internet at

The difficulty of reading a mushroom guide often puts off a beginner. To make it easier, I have avoided using many technical terms in the mushroom descriptions. You don’t have to be a botanist in order to use this book. You only need to have an interest in nature and the willingness to look closely at the mushrooms growing around you. You will discover that certain mushrooms are easy to identify, while others need your time and attention. With a bit of dedication, you should soon be able to name many of the wild mushrooms that you meet in your backyard, on your walks, and on your outings. You will also find directions for transplanting wild mushrooms into your backyard, suggestions for gathering and using certain species, and fun things to do with mushrooms. Even experienced mushroomers will benefit from the tips and personal observations I offer based on many years of mushrooming.

This book is not intended to be your only guide to identifying, gathering, and using mushrooms. To learn a new mushroom, you need to become a detective, gathering clue after clue from your observations and from mushroom books that will lead you to a positive identification of the species. It’s well worth the effort to seek out a knowledgeable teacher. But when your teacher is not available, you will have to rely on as many mushroom guidebooks as you can get your hands on. Each author has his or her own photographs, illustrations, descriptive details, and comments that will help you, and experienced mushroomers know that all sources of clues are important. The more information you have, the better.

Happy mushrooming!

Bill Russell