What to do about unwanted mushrooms on your property

Hands hold a knife and cut off the button of a mushroom growing out of the ground Andrei Dubadzel/Shutterstock

As we know, nature just does its thing. Take, for example, mushrooms that show up on your property. Most species are not poisonous, but don’t eat them if you don’t know what they are; consult a mycologist. Still, maybe you don’t want the ones that crop up where they are or you’re concerned about small children or your dog eating them. We asked Greg Thorn, an associate professor of fungal ecology and systematics in the department of biology at Western University, about the options.

According to Thorn, there aren’t that many. As one colleague once said to him, “Don’t like mushrooms on your lawn? Move.” But moving is most likely not in your plans. If the mushrooms are mycorrhizal (they have a symbiotic relationship with trees at the root level and grow around the bases of trees), you can put a snow fence around the tree, to keep kids or pets away, or even cut the tree down. If you determine that the mushrooms are toxic, you may want to do those things. The snow fence may be unsightly, however, and cutting one tree down may not solve the problem; the mushrooms could pop up beside another tree. In the end, you’ll be hacking away at nature in the place where you go to enjoy it. Unfortunately, “there is no simple way to get rid of mushrooms,” says Thorn. “Mycelium is perennial.”

Mycelium, the underground vegetative part of the fungus, is not easy to remove. What you can do, Thorn says, is pick off the fruiting bodies, the spore-producing buttons that poke out above ground. Removing the visible parts will not harm the fungus in the soil, and there are trillions of spores coming from other mushrooms elsewhere. This strategy, though, is not a one-step process. The mushrooms will come back, and you will have to lop them off again every few days.

Other than the lop-lop-lop routine, if you want to share the space with mushrooms, which are beneficial to the environment, your only other options are to educate and separate. Teach small children not to eat them, and keep the very young away from them. And dogs? If you’ve determined that you have poisonous mushrooms on your property, you may have no other choice but to keep your dog on a leash.

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