Lawn Mushrooms: Why and When Are They a Problem?
Mushrooms: They’re delicious sauteed, stirred into pasta, or folded into a fluffy omelet. One place you may not want to see them, though, is on your lawn. Unfortunately, that’s exactly where they like to grow. The good news: While mushrooms can be an eyesore, they’re unlikely to cause any real damage. Most are harmless.
But how do you know if the mushrooms on your lawn are one of the problematic few? And what should you do if you have mushrooms on your lawn? Ahead, we’ll clue you into some facts about mushrooms in your grass, what they could indicate, and how to identify some common lawn mushrooms. You’ll also learn a little bit about what can be done to help you get your lawn back to a grassy, fungi-free state. Find all the details ahead.
Are Mushrooms in Your Lawn a Good or Bad Thing?
Generally speaking, the presence of mushrooms in your grass isn’t a bad thing. In fact, it’s often a sign that your turf has been receiving plenty of water. Plus, mushrooms help decompose organic matter, which could help release more nutrients into your soil. Occasionally, however, mushrooms could indicate that your lawn is overwatered or draining poorly. (1) If you suspect excess moisture is the cause of your lawn mushrooms, start by adjusting your watering schedule: it could be that you’re watering your lawn too frequently. If the problem persists, a TruGreen aeration service may help improve drainage and keep mushrooms at bay.
In some cases, mushrooms could also be a sign of lawn disease such as fairy ring. This common lawn disease can affect any type of grass, and is often challenging to get under control. TruGreen can help with a tailored treatment plan designed to restore the health, vigor and vitality of your lawn.
How to Identify Common Lawn Mushrooms
Several different types of mushrooms can crop up on your lawn. However, some varieties — such as inky caps and stinkhorns — are more common than others. Here, we’ll share some of those common lawn mushroom species with you. Remember that this guide is to help you better understand what type of mushroom could appear on your lawn, not a definitive mushroom identification guide.
And because some mushrooms are poisonous, you’ll want to err on the side of caution when it comes to handling foreign fungi. In other words, if you’re not 100% sure what type of mushroom is growing on your lawn, wear gloves if you decide to remove them by hand or consult an expert for help with identification and management. That being said, keep reading for a quick run-down on a few lawn mushroom species our experts frequently encounter.
According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, the term “inky caps” can refer to any one of the 350-plus mushrooms in the Coprinus genus. These common lawn mushrooms can be found in lawns often by tree stumps or along the sides of roads. They have tall, bullet-shaped caps and black spores, which often make the gills on the underside of the caps appear black, too. After maturity, the mushroom caps liquefy, leaving behind a characteristic inky splotch in the grass (hence the name).(2)
Puffballs are appropriately named. These ground-dwelling fungi are white, globular, and, according to the National Park Service, can range from the size of a golf ball to bigger than a beach ball (!). At maturity, the fungi’s fruiting body erupts, releasing a cloud-like mass containing thousands of microscopic spores. Puffball mushrooms tend to mature in the late summer or early fall and can typically be seen in lawns or anywhere they can feed on leaf litter and other organic matter. (3)
Stinkhorns, well, stink. These foul-smelling mushrooms grow rapidly — up to six inches an hour — and their pungent odor can attract unwanted pests, particularly flies. The good news: While they love lawns and mulched areas, stinkhorns disappear quickly. If you see any on your lawn, you can pull them out by the stem; otherwise, they’ll dissipate (along with their unpleasant odor) in due course. (4)
The mower’s mushroom, or Panaeolus foenisecii, is a common sight on freshly laid sod. These small, tan-to-medium-brown mushrooms have slender stems and slightly rounded conical caps. They’re not harmful to the lawn and are generally pretty easy to control with less-frequent watering. (1)
A circular ring of mushrooms on your turf generally suggests that your lawn has fairy ring, a type of fungal lawn disease. However, fairy ring can present without mushrooms, too. Signs of fairy ring can include discolored grass and small-to-large dark green circular patches on your grass. Contact your TruGreen lawn care professional for help getting the problem under control if you notice any of these fairy ring signs on your turf. (1)
How To Get Rid Of Mushrooms On Your Lawn
With most plants, what you see is what you get. Yanking up lawn weeds by the root, for example, will almost always be curative (for that individual weed, anyway). Fungi are different. The mushroom — meaning that part that you can see — is only the fungus's fruiting body. It’s what spreads the mushroom’s spores to other areas, usually with the help of the wind. But removing the fruiting body won’t remove the fungus itself since the mycelium (which we’ll liken to the root of a leafy plant) is both entirely underground and invisible to the naked eye. In other words: You can get rid of the visible part fairly easily, but controlling the underlying fungus is another thing entirely.
However, there are some things you can do to minimize fungal growth in your lawn. First and foremost is making sure that the soil is draining properly. Reducing thatch can help ensure better drainage, and in some cases, aeration can help too. With this service, your TruGreen lawn care expert will carefully aerate your lawn to help promote a thicker, healthier turf. Aeration loosens soil and promotes thatch breakdown to help with drainage—consider it a win-win.
Soaking the area in sunlight (when possible) can also help to limit fungal growth. You may also want to remove any decomposing plant material (like fallen leaves) to cut off the mushrooms’ food source. Ultimately, though, remember that while mushrooms can be unsightly, they’re unlikely to harm your lawn, so don’t stress too much. Your local TruGreen expert can provide recommendations on how to minimize mushrooms on your lawn and develop a custom plan that keeps your lawn looking its very best — guaranteed.◆
1. “Mushrooms and Other Nuisance Fungi in Lawns.” University of California Statewide Integrated Pest Management Program. Jan 2012. https://ipm.ucanr.edu/PMG/PESTNOTES/pn74100.html. Accessed 27 Mar 2023.
2. “Agaricales.” Encyclopedia Britannica. 2023. https://www.britannica.com/science/Agaricales. Accessed 27 Mar 2023.
3. “Species Spotlight - Puffballs.” National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior. 29 Nov 2022. https://www.nps.gov/articles/species-spotlight-puffballs.htm. Accessed 27 Mar 2023.4. Keller-Pearson, Michelle. “Stinkhorns.” University of Wisconsin-Madison Wisconsin Horticulture Division of Extension. 15 June 2016. https://hort.extension.wisc.edu/articles/stinkhorns/. Accessed 27 Mar 2023.