First are the “Common, Delicious, Super-Safe Edibles,” which include golden chanterelles, chicken of the woods, pheasant’s back, and bluing boletes, a beautiful mushroom that turns blue when it’s cut or bruised.
Next to these are the “More Challenging Edibles,” ones that require a deeper knowledge of mushroom anatomy: crown-tipped coral, the indigo milky, and corn smut.
Then come the “Inedible Mushrooms,” which might upset your stomach, or taste terrible, but they won’t kill you: the hygrometer earthstar, the violet tooth, the birds-nest.
And then there’s the last group, the really scary ones: “Poisonous Mushrooms: Including Some Deadly.” Among these are witch’s hat, jack-o-lanterns (which glow in the dark), and the fly agaric featured in Alice in Wonderland. But the loveliest—and deadliest—is an Amanita known as the “destroying angel.” It is pure white, with a long delicate stem. A small bite is enough to kill you, though you might not know it for a few days. A few hours after consumption, you come down with nausea and fever. But these symptoms pass, and for a few days you feel better while your liver and kidney are slowly being destroyed, along with your intestines, heart, and brain. Three to six days later your organs stop functioning. There is no known antidote.