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Lion's Mane Look-Alikes: Is There Anything That Looks Like Lion's Mane?
Aug 01, 22
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Author: Sony Sherpa

Lion's Mane Look-Alikes: Is There Anything That Looks Like Lion's Mane?

If you are new to the surprisingly exciting world of mushroom picking, you may have heard from people around you (and us) that Lion’s mane mushroom is an excellent place to start. Hericium erinaceus, or Lion’s mane mushroom, is a potent medicinal fungus(1) and a culinary delight. 

Foragers, farmers, and chefs keep their eyes stuck on the dead hardwood trees looking for these prized wild mushrooms. When used in Lion’s mane mushroom recipes, these wild mushrooms create a delicacy that carries many health benefits. 

But the catch is you’ve never seen them before! So what do these mushrooms look like? Or smell like? And are there any Lion’s mane look-alikes that might confuse your foraging? These are just some obvious questions that could run through your mind when planning your Lion’s mane foraging for the first time.

Lion’s mane mushroom is a distinct shaggy-looking mushroom that resembles the mane of a Lion! In this guide, we will get down to the nitty-gritty because you’ve never seen these mushrooms before.

This article will guide you on the correct Lion’s mane identification and distinguishing wild poisonous Lion’s mane mushroom look-alikes. Read this space to get a solid idea about this mushroom. You will then be mushroom chasing in no time!

Let’s get those baskets out!

Lion’s Mane Mushroom Identification

One of the most important things to understand before foraging wild mushrooms is to know how to identify Lion’s mane mushrooms. Whether your goal is to use Lion’s mane for depression, anxiety, or a different condition, learning how to separate the Hericium species that grows on hardwoods from look-alikes is the key to avoiding health issues from eating the wrong mushrooms. 

We will explore the key features of Lion’s mane mushrooms below and give tips on distinguishing the mushroom from other look-alikes. If you are looking for a vegan option that gives you the taste of seafood—that is, lobster and crab—this guide should help you get the right mushroom for your recipes. 

What Does A Lion’s Mane Mushroom Look Like?

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Lion’s mane mushrooms sport an unmistakable long white shaggy spine, hence the name of Lion’s mane. The spines can also be compared to icicle-like teeth. 

One of the best edible mushrooms, you’ll often find them growing on dead logs in the woods in late summer or fall in North America or Canada. Lion’s mane mushrooms grow on birch, beech, walnut, and maple trees. 

The delicious edible mushroom is a globe-shaped fungus. When trying to find Lion’s mane mushrooms, you should know that the younger versions look different from the matured bearded tooth mushroom. The spine or tooth is relatively short when the mushroom is young, which can grow up to two inches long by the time the mushroom hits maturity. 

When you are out mushroom hunting for the shaggy mane, you should know the mushroom mainly consists of this mane, and when you open it, a small, bulbous little body is revealed. When Lion’s mane is fully grown and intact, each can be nearly as large as a dinner plate. This suggests that a Lion’s mane that has gone through its growth process can easily prepare a full meal for you. 

The mane of the mushroom is generally white—for this reason, when mushroom foraging, stick to closely observing white mushrooms. It may, sometimes, be tinged with pink or yellow. 

Some of Lion’s mane medicinal mushrooms may even start with a tinge of pink before changing to white in time. When a Lion’s mane mushroom is past its prime and has “lost its roar,” it will turn fully yellow. 

Eventually, the mushroom will discolor to a faded orange color. It would help if you tried to avoid wild mushrooms that have grown beyond their usual recommended age of consumption. 

Aroma is not much of help when identifying Lion’s mane mushroom as it has a relatively bland smell. Moreover, not everyone agrees on what it smells like. 

When cooked, this mushroom tends to have a sea-like flavor. This mushroom offers numerous health benefits. For example, when you consume the right Lion’s mane dosage daily, the mushroom should help with mild cognitive impairment—scientists note that the mushroom crosses the blood brain barrier, assisting people in thinking more clearly. 

It is important to note that you do not have to rely on the raw mushroom to enjoy the benefits of Lion’s mane. For people who do not have the time to go out and collect the functional mushroom in the forest, Lion’s mane mushroom organic powder can be a solution. 

What Are Lion’s Mane Look-Alikes?

One good thing about Hericium erinaceus is that there are no Lion’s mane poisonous look-alikes. That is why this mushroom is perfect for first-time foragers. Lion’s mane mushroom is one of the safest wild mushrooms to forage and consume.

Even if you bring the mushroom’s look-alike after finding it on the decay sitting on an oak tree, you won’t have to worry about negative effects. While some of Lion’s mane look-alikes may cause some discomfort, this discomfort should not last long. 

That being said, you need to keep an eye on two other related mushrooms:

  • Hericium coralloides (also known as coral tooth fungi). 
  • Hericium americanum (or bear’s head tooth fungus).

These are the only other mushrooms that may appear similar to Lion’s mane mushrooms.

So, here’s how you can distinguish these three Hericium mushrooms.

Hericium Coralloides

It can be recognized by its short (about 1 cm in length) spines which hang in rows in delicate branches. They sometimes form huge patches that can be seen from afar. 

The mushrooms can be found in late summer and fall or over winter and in spring in warmer climates. H. coralloides are widely distributed across North America.

Hericium Americanum

This is the only Hericium species that has combined long spines with a branched fruiting body. They can be found in late summer and fall, and most tend to grow on evergreens, especially Douglas firs. They are also sometimes on the wood of conifers.

Hericium Erinaceus

Mature mushrooms do not branch and the spines form a compact mass. The manes are round and bulbous. 

What Mushrooms Should You Avoid When Foraging Lion’s Mane?

What Mushrooms Should You Avoid When Foraging Lion’s Mane?Studies have shown that Lion’s mane helps with diabetes, prevents & helps with the treatment of Parkinson’s disease, and does much more. In addition, the fact that Lion’s mane can treat cancer may have you thinking that all other types of mushrooms you may come across when searching for Lion’s mane in the wild are beneficial. 

Keep in mind that not all mushrooms are edible. Below, we will look at several mushrooms that you should avoid consuming: 

1. Toadstool Mushroom

Toadstool mushrooms are generally red and feature a cap and a standing stalk. These mushrooms will usually grow in soil with decaying matter or on a decaying log. While these mushrooms may be confused with other varieties, they are generally considered unhealthy for consumption—these mushrooms are poisonous. 

2. Destroying Angel

You will also come across the destroying angel when you are out looking for Lion’s mane for your pre-workout sessions. Closely related to the death cap mushroom, the destroying angel is one of the most toxic mushrooms you will encounter. 

The destroying angel mushroom features a ring on its stalk and a big saclike cup that sits around the base of the mushroom. The mushroom generally boasts a curved to flat cap and may feature central swelling, a smooth margin, and a smooth texture that tends to turn sticky when wet. The mushroom is generally white. 

This mushroom has earned its name of “destroying angel” because of its high toxicity levels. In addition, the mushroom may feature symptoms of poisoning that appear 6 to 24 hours after consumption. 

The Missouri Department of Conservation(2) indicates that these symptoms include diarrhea, vomiting, and cramps. Later, the symptoms may lead to liver and kidney damage and even death. In addition, research shows that animals, including livestock and pets, are not immune to the toxins in the mushroom. 

3. Death Cap

Another mushroom you may come across when you are out looking for Lion’s mane for brain fog, Death Cap, is another deadly mushroom that you should avoid. These mushrooms are highly poisonous and can easily lead to kidney damage and liver failure, and if not treated quickly, the mushrooms can cause death. 

This mushroom is often yellowish and pale, with a huge cap and some skirting underneath. Often considered the honey mushroom, death cap has a faint, honey-sweet smell. 

4. False Morel

While people may eat the false morel (often called gyromitra ), it has to be dried and boiled before eating. The mushroom is poisonous and can be fatal if eaten without the proper preparation. 

The mushroom carries a poison known as gyromitrin that can be dangerous when it is not cooked. When cooked, the mushroom can be hazardous, but only when consumed in large quantities. 

These mushrooms appear in the summer and spring, growing directly on the ground in areas with enough water or moisture. The mushroom caps are reddish-brown, brown, and sometimes yellow. 

The mushrooms can be wrinkled, rigged, wavy, or even smooth. The cap tends to have an irregular shape and looks like it has been stepped on. 

5. Panther Cap

The panther cap has an ochre-brown cap that features remnants of a veil that forms on the mushroom due to patches of white on the cap. The mushroom’s white and brown spotted appearance gives the mushroom the name panther cap—the mushroom resembles the panther’s coat. 

The panther cap is not considered an edible mushroom as it has been associated with a wide range of poisoning. Therefore, avoid a panther cap when looking for Lion’s mane to take before bed


Is Hericium Erinaceus The Same As Lion’s Mane Mushrooms?

Hericium erinaceus is the Latin genus name for Lion’s mane mushroom, which translates to “hedgehog” in Latin. This means that the medicinal properties of Hericium Erinaceus are precisely the same as those of Lion’s mane mushrooms. The mushroom is also known by several other names, such as mountain-priest mushroom, bearded tooth fungus, yamabushitake, and Igel-Stachelbart.

Are There Poisonous Wild Mushrooms That Look Like Lion’s Mane?

If you are worried about toxic look-alikes of Lion’s mane mushrooms, the good news is that there aren’t any. While other Hericium species and Hericium genus may not have the same benefits as Hericium erinaceus—like promoting the production of the nerve growth factor, they tend to have a seafood like flavor and may not cause any side effects. 

Why Does My Lions Mane Look Like Cauliflower?

If your Lion’s mane mushroom looks like a cauliflower, this is a classic symptom of a mushroom growing in an oxygen-deprived environment. However, if you increase the oxygen, the structure of your Lion’s mane mushroom will improve.

Final Thoughts

Lion’s mane is easy to spot in the wild. They are white pom-pom-like shaggy mushrooms found on dead hardwood trees. 

And there are no Lion’s mane look-alikes that are poisonous. This means that you can hunt for the mushroom without worrying about the side effects of taking the wrong mushroom.

 Now, let’s hunt down some Lion’s mane, shall we?

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  1. Chemistry, Nutrition, and Health-Promoting Properties of Hericium erinaceus (Lion’s Mane) Mushroom Fruiting Bodies and Mycelia and Their Bioactive Compounds,  (1) 
  2. Destroying Angel, (2)

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