This page is used to feature mushrooms that are prevalent for the particular time of the year or, during the winter months, to feature some of the less desirable or hard to find mushrooms. To see some of our previous stars follow this link to an index of previously featured mushrooms.
Pluteus cervinus: Deer Mushroom, Fawn Mushroom
The deer mushroom is one of the common mushrooms in the U.S. This is a good mushroom for beginners as there are only a few characteristics needed to identify the mushroom. The free (not attached to the stem) pinkish gills and the habitat, on wood, is enough to distinguish the genus Pluteus from the Entolomas which have pinkish attached gills and which are terrestrial. Though the gills start out white, even with young specimens rotating the mushroom in the light while examining the gills will yield a least a flash of pink.
The grayish-brown to brown, slightly moist cap is often streaked with radially distributed fibrils. The cap ranges from 1 ½ to 5 inches across and is broadly convex to broadly umbonate (with an outie). The white stem is 2 to 4 inches long and ¼ to 3/8 inches thick. The free, close gills are white but become salmon pink as the spores develop. The spore print is salmon pink. Look-alikes include the edible P. magnus which is more robust and has a darker often wrinkled cap and other species in Pluteus none of which are poisonous. P. salicinus is reported to contain psilocybin; fortunately the base of the stalk of this mushroom will be stained greenish to blueish.
Deer mushrooms are edible but often are rather bland. They also are susceptible to insect infiltration so in warmer weather only young specimens should be eaten. According to Fischer and Bessettes in Edible Mushrooms of North America: “This is a fine, common edible mushroom, suitable for use in general recipes that call for mushrooms—especially sauces, soups, gravies, casseroles and the like”. The Fischer and Bessette book has a recipe for Fawn Mushroom au Gratin. I’d guess that the lemon juice, scallions, milk, heavy cream, nutmeg and cheese (Swiss or Parmesan) provide most of the flavor.