What is the Difference Between Mushrooms and Toadstools

The main difference between mushrooms and toadstools is that the mushrooms mainly refer to the edible fungi, whereas the toadstools mainly refer to the inedible fungi. Furthermore, mushrooms are nonpoisonous, while toadstools are poisonous.  

In brief, mushrooms and toadstools are fruiting bodies that produce spores of the fungi. Generally, many fungi grow underground, and mainly in the autumn months, cup-like structures appear on the ground. 

Key Areas Covered 

1. What are Mushrooms
     – Definition, Features, Importance
2. What are Toadstools
     – Definition, Features, Importance
3. What are the Similarities Between Mushrooms and Toadstools
     – Outline of Common Features
4. What is the Difference Between Mushrooms and Toadstools
     – Comparison of Key Differences

Key Terms 

Edible, Fungi, Inedible, Mushrooms, Toadstools

Difference Between Mushrooms and Toadstools - Comparison Summary

What are Mushrooms 

Mushrooms are fleshy, spore-bearing fruiting bodies of a fungus. Generally, they occur on the ground. The two fungi divisions Basidiomycota and Agaricomycetes produce mushrooms with a stem and a cup. The cup contains gills in its underside. Furthermore, mushrooms also refer to the number of gilled fungi without a stem. The second type of mushrooms occurs in the division Ascomycota. Moreover, the gills of mushrooms produce spores, which are microscopic. Spores are reproductive structures capable of spreading the fungus around the ground.

Difference Between Mushrooms and Toadstools

Figure 1: Mushroom Morphology

Moreover, different morphologies of mushrooms include  bolete“, “puffball“, “stinkhorn“, and “morel“, and “agarics“. The standard term ‘mushrooms’ refers to the cultivated white button mushroom, Agaricus bisporus. Thus, typical mushrooms belong to the order Agaricales. Other groups of fungi that produce edible mushrooms are boletes, milk caps, and russulas. In addition to these, some examples of edible mushrooms include the Giant PuffballBeefsteak FungusPorcelain FungusCauliflower FungusDryads Saddlethe Hedgehog Fungus, etc. 

What are Toadstools 

Toadstools are a type of mushroom-like fruiting bodies of fungi, producing poisons. Therefore, they are inedible. Generally, these poisons are secondary metabolites that are capable of being toxic, antibiotic, antiviral, mind-altering, or bioluminescent. Although only fewer species are deadly, most poisonous mushrooms can produce severe and unpleasant symptoms. However, toxicity plays a key role in the protection of the fruiting bodies, defending against consumption and premature destruction by animals. Some mushrooms can be poisonous due to their propensity to absorb heavy metals.

Key Difference - Mushrooms vs Toadstools

Figure 2: Amanita muscaria

Furthermore, the main poisonous mushrooms are in the Amanita family. All of them contain white gills and spores, growing on the underside of the sack-like or bulbous structures called sups or volva. Some examples of deadly mushrooms include destroying angel and death cap.   

Similarities Between Mushrooms and Toadstools  

  • Mushrooms and toadstools are two types of fruiting bodies of fungi.  
  • They are fleshy structures that occur above the ground or on their food source.  
  • Typically,  a mushroom develops from a pinhead or nodule called primordium, which is around 2 mm in diameter. Primordium is a mass of threadlike hyphae, formed within the mycelium.    
  • Then,  the primordium enlarges into a roundish structure called the  ‘button’.    
  • In addition to these, the button has a cottony roll called the ‘universal veil’,  surrounding the fruit body.  
  • As the button expands, the universal veil ruptures, remaining as a cup at the base of the stalk.    
  • Often, the second layer of tissue called the partial veil covers blade-like gills, which bear spores.  
  • The remnants of the partial veil that result from the cap expansion remain as a ring called annulus.  
  • The stalk is the middle support of the cap. 

Difference Between Mushrooms and Toadstools 


Mushrooms refer to a fungal growth which takes the form of a domed cap on a stalk with gills on the underside of the cap, while toadstools refer to the spore-bearing fruiting bodies of fungi in the form of a rounded cap on a stalk, especially believed to be inedible or poisonous. 


The cap of a mushroom can be peeled and normally, and they grow on wood, while toadstools usually have white gills, a skirt or ring on the stem and a bulbous or sack-like base and their cap or stem can be red in color. 


Mushrooms are mainly edible and are not poisonous, while toadstools are inedible or poisonous. 


Moreover, mushrooms mainly refer to the cultivated white button mushrooms, while one main example of toadstools includes Amanita muscaria.  


Mushrooms are a type of fungal growth with a form of a domed cap on a stalk. They also contain gills on the underside of the cup, producing spores. Generally, mushrooms are not poisonous. Therefore, they are edible. In comparison, toadstools are a type of mushroom-like growth, which contains poisons. Hence, they are not edible. Thus, the main difference between mushrooms and toadstools is the containment of poisons. 


1. Biggane, Eric. “How to Tell the Difference Between Poisonous and Edible Mushrooms.” Wild Food UK, 5 Oct. 2018, Available Here.

Image Courtesy:

1. “Mushroom cap morphology2” By debivort (CC BY-SA 3.0) via Commons Wikimedia    
2. “Amanita muscaria (fly agaric)” By MichaelMaggs – Own work (CC BY-SA 2.5) via Commons Wikimedia   

About the Author: Lakna

Lakna, a graduate in Molecular Biology and Biochemistry, is a Molecular Biologist and has a broad and keen interest in the discovery of nature related things. She has a keen interest in writing articles regarding science.

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