Ringless Honey Mushroom

Armillaria tabescens (Armillariella tabescens)

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Photo of young, golden cluster of ringless honey mushrooms on forest floor
Norman D. Davis, Bugwood.org
Edible
Family

Physalacriaceae

Description

Honey-colored, with a dry, scaly cap, lacking a ring on the stalk. Grows in clusters on wood. September–November. Cap convex, then flattened, the margin uplifted with age; yellow-brown to honey brown, with reddish brown cottony scales; texture dry, scaly. Gills narrow to broad; spacing distant; whitish, staining pinkish to brownish; attachment slightly descending. Stalk thick, tapering toward base; off-white to brownish; texture fibrous; growing in clusters with stalks fused at bases. Spore print white. Spores magnified are elliptical, smooth, colorless.

Lookalikes: The honey mushroom (Armillaria mellea) has a sticky cap and a ring. The poisonous jack-o'-lantern (Omphalotus illudens) is orange with a smooth cap. The big laughing gym (Gymnopilus junonius) is orange, bitter, with orange-brown spores and a ring. The deadly galerina (Galerina marginata) is smaller, has a smooth cap, a stalk ring, and brown spores.

Size

Cap width: 1–4 inches; stalk length: 2–8 inches; stalk width: ¼–½ inch.

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Photo of cluster of ringless honey mushrooms cut in half, and wood it grows on
Ringless Honey Mushroom (Cluster Cut In Half)

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Photo of three ringless honey mushroom clusters on exposed tree root.
Ringless Honey Mushroom

Ringless Honey Mushroom

A cluster of yellow mushrooms grow on a tree trunk.
Cluster of Ringless Honey Mushrooms in Fabick Nature Preserve
Habitat and conservation

Grows in clusters, often in large numbers, at the bases of trees or stumps, especially oaks. Common in urban yards. Sometimes it looks like it's growing right out of the ground, but it is actually growing from low stumps, roots, or other buried wood.

image of Ringless Honey Mushroom distribution map
Distribution in Missouri

Statewide.

Status

Edibility good when young and fresh. Although a good edible, ringless honeys must be thoroughly cooked, or they can cause serious stomach upset. Try a small amount at first, and make sure it is fully cooked. If gathering from urban areas, make sure no lawn treatments have been used! Some people use only the caps, discarding the tough stems. As always, be certain of your identification before eating any wild mushroom.

Life cycle

Armillarias exist most of the time as a network of cells (mycelium) penetrating the tissues of living trees, frequently killing their hosts by damaging the tree’s ability to transport water and nutrients. This particular species may be an exception, however, living on dead, not living, wood. When ready to reproduce, the mycelium forms mushrooms, which produce spores that are released to begin new mycelia elsewhere. The mycelia of armillarias find new hosts by spreading through the soil.

Human connections

Most of the mushrooms in the Armillaria geunus are parasitic on trees and can kill them, especially young or weakened ones. It can be a problem in orchards. Because the mycelium spreads beneath the soil surface, it can be difficult to control.

Ecosystem connections

Most honey mushrooms are parasites on living trees. The ringless honey is in the same genus as the “humongous fungus,” an Armillaria mycelium that is over 2.5 square miles in size! One specimen is estimated to be more than 450 years old.