8 Types of Mushrooms That Look Like a Brain!

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mushroom that looks like a brain

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If you have been attentive to your anatomy class, you must have seen the structure of the brain. But, have you ever seen one lying in the open woods in the wild forest?

If not, then don’t panic when you see one. This is the fruiting body of a rare type of mushroom that looks like a brain. You can find the unique natural patterns of the brain on mushrooms, for example, Gyromitra Esculenta, Verpa Bohemica, Sparassis, and a few more specimens.

Early stages of desiccation(removal or less water in dry season) and wrinkles with aging make the mushrooms look similar to the cerebral cortex of a human brain.

A mycophile (people who are interested in hunting wild edible mushrooms) may ask, are these mushrooms edible or not? Some of these brain mushrooms can be lethal if eaten raw. However, some can be processed and are known as popular delicacies in many parts of the world.

Keep reading to learn about these weird-looking mushrooms; we also added information about their toxicity and related properties that may come in handy at the time of hunting. Here are eight types of mushrooms that look like brains.

Wrinkled Thimble-Cap

1.  Brain Mushroom (Gyromitra esculenta)

Turban fungus, fake morel, and elephant ears are all names for this mushroom. The mushroom gets its common name, “brain mushroom,” from its resemblance to the brain.

The Latin term ‘esculenta’ for the mushroom’s scientific classification means “edible,” therefore, many cultures eat it despite concerns about poisoning and toxicity.

The brain mushroom’s illegal status in Spain just adds to its esoteric allure.  Markets in the north and east of Europe and woodlands on either side of the Atlantic sell them if you’re still determined to track one down.

However, the mushroom may produce headache, exhaustion, vomiting, diarrhea, and other neurological and gastrointestinal problems if consumed raw or in an improper manner.

2.  Eastern cauliflower mushroom (Sparassis)

Wood cauliflower, silver ear, cauliflower fungus, and noodle mushroom are all names for this mushroom. Fungi found on cauliflower are parasitic and saprobic, meaning they prey on dead or decaying organic matter.

Cauliflower fungi are characterized by their rounded, overlapping, and interweaving lobes. The primary challenge people have while looking for this prized culinary species is actually locating one. They aren’t endangered or even particularly rare, but they are unusual. They are a common but rare species that can be found in every region of North America.

Depending on the species, cauliflower fungi can be anywhere from pale gray to pale yellow to pale brown. This mushroom is most desirable for picking when its color is predominantly white. It darkens in color and loses flavor as it ages.

3.  Hen of the Woods (Grifola frondosa)

The name “hen-of-the-woods” refers to the fungus’s apparent resemblance to a hen sitting atop a nest. It is a species of soft-fleshed polypore that may be identified by the smoky brown, wavy caps that cover its mature fruiting bodies.

These caps are arranged in enormous clusters of rosettes. The stem that holds these caps is single-branched. You may commonly find this mushroom close to the base of oak trees, where it is liable for a rot known as butt rot.

Hen of the Woods is a type of mushroom that, like many others, is highly regarded for its therapeutic properties. These include boosting the immune system, controlling blood sugar, and, according to recent studies, including chemicals that are helpful to those who are battling cancer.

4.  Wrinkled Thimble-Cap (Verpa bohemica)

The wrinkled thimble cap, or Verpa bohemica, is a type of mushroom that can be found in Europe, Asia, and North America.

This fungus produces a brain-shaped cap that is either light yellow or brown in color. The largest specimens rarely exceed 4 centimeters in diameter.

A tall, thick stipe of white-yellow or cream color holds up the cap; it has a broad base and tapers upwards. The presence of gyromitrin makes this mushroom potentially harmful to humans. However, it is eaten in some locations when properly prepared and in tiny amounts.

5.  Snow False Morel (Gyromitra gigas)

Snow morels, snow false morels, calf brains, and bull noses are all names for the same mushroom, Gyromitra gigas. In comparison to the actual morels (Morchella spp.), the Snow Morel is sometimes misidentified as a “false morel” because of its appearance and seasonality. 

Although the cap is typically between 114 inches and 4 inches in width and 114 inches to 238 inches in height, these dimensions are not set in stone. It has the appearance of a brain, being hollow, profoundly and severely wrinkled, and extremely complex.

False morels are not anything we would recommend eating. However, if you insist on doing so, be aware that the fumes from cooking them will also include their poison (comparable to rocket fuel chemicals). 

Mushrooms can be appreciated for their odd and sometimes stunning appearance. Hence, sometimes it is better to do so instead of trying to eat them.

6.  Brain Puffball (Calvatia craniiformis)

Calvatia craniiformis, frequently referred to as a brain puffball, gets its name from the same Latin word as cranium because it is a white mushroom that looks like a brain.

The fruit body is skull-shaped, and as it matures, it turns into a wrinkly, creased, and scaly specimen. It inhabits Asia, North America, and Australia.

Brain puffball is a tasty species and is a delicacy in both Western and Asian cuisines. Young puffballs have a solid, white gleba with a pleasant, subtle aroma and flavor. The mushroom is considered safe to eat when the gleba is white and firm.

Therefore, food tastes better when it is added to any recipe. Traditional Chinese and Japanese medicine utilize it as a hemostatic agent since their toxicity level is almost zero.

It is important that you teach the kids in your house how to identify poisonous mushrooms since they are usually the most curious ones to touch or taste anything they see. 

7.  Golden Jelly Fungus (Tremella mesenterica)

Golden jelly Fungus is a mushroom that looks like a brain and feeds on fungi that feed on decaying wood. It is a typical indicator of a witch’s curse. In European folklore, a witch has cast a spell on a household if a yellow brain fungus grows on the front entrance or gate.

The taste of golden jelly mushroom is mildly pleasant, so that you can consume it after processing. Jellies, jams, and other sweet preserves can be made using it. The fungus provides a good source of iron and vitamin C. 

Furthermore, it also contains a variety of other minerals. The fungus’s by-products have demonstrated efficacy as anti-inflammatory and anti-allergic agents. 

The winter months are peak fruiting times. However, fruiting occurs all year long. The UK and Ireland are both home to yellow brain fungus. You may also observe it in milder climates in the United States, Asia, and Australia.

8.  Jelly Drops (Ascocoryne sarcoides)

The fruiting body of this fungus is distinguished by a pinkish-purple hue and a consistency that is more or less gelatinous.

Multiple spheres combine into a flattened cup shape with flowing edges, making it a round mushroom that looks like a brain. These jelly-like formations, when grouped together, may resemble a crushed brain.

You may commonly find it on the trunks and logs of dying trees because it is a saprobic fungus, meaning it obtains its nourishment from decomposing organic materials. However, you can also find it on many living trees.

Although jelly drops have some antimicrobial characteristics, it is not safe for human consumption. Therefore, you must refrain from consuming it.

9.  Leafy Brain (Phaeotremella foliacea)

Parasitic on false turkey tail (Stereum hirsutum), the fungus known as a leafy brain (Phaeotremella foliacea, formerly Tremella foliacea) is an edible type of mushroom. The jelly leaf is also known as brown witch’s butter.

This fungus colonizes the wood of downed conifers, both those still attached and those that have just fallen. The clumps of folded lobes resemble leaves and are either pale pinkish brown, reddish brown or shades of amber; they are gelatinous when wet.

Leafy Brain fungus can be found all over Europe, from Norway to Portugal, including Britain and Ireland. North Africa, Asia, Australia, and both North and South America have all reported sightings of this species. The fungus can be found in every continent.

Though it has been deemed edible by certain authorities, this fungus is so feeble that it offers no nutritional benefit.

Mushrooms – A Detailed Overview  

Toadstools, or mushrooms, resemble plants in many ways. However, since they don’t have chlorophyll or leaves, they must obtain their nutrition from outside sources.

For example, mushrooms that look like a brain are usually white, brown, pink, or yellow in color, not green like leaves on a tree because they lack chlorophyll.

The mushroom is a member of the fungi kingdom, including yeasts, molds, rusts, and more than 144,000 species. Some mushrooms are harmless to eat, whereas others can cause serious illness if touched.

Depending on their type, the majority of the life cycle of a mushroom occurs in soil or under the bark of trees that can be both living and dead. Mycelium, a mat-like network of filaments permeating a piece of wood or soil, is the fungus’s first stage of life before it develops into the mushroom structure.

When the time is right, the mycelium, which looks like a web, produces a fruiting structure like a mushroom that grows out of the ground or a tree.

Mushrooms don’t generate seeds but rather spores that are nearly as tiny as dust. Mycelium forms when spores germinate and grow into tiny filaments after landing in a favorable environment.

You can find three types of mushrooms in the wild. They are:

Saprotrophic Mushrooms:

Fungi break down their own dead tissue to make more. These fungi aid decomposition by feeding on decomposing organic materials.

For example, White button mushrooms and Morels mushrooms.

Parasitic Mushrooms:

Some types of fungi are only able to survive by consuming other plants. Parasitic fungi do not help their host plant and instead steal the nutrition.

For example, Chaga and Lion’s mane tonics.

Mycorrhizal Mushroom:

This mushroom shares its benefits with other plants and is also benefited by them. Mycelia frequently rely on the root systems of different plants for support. Both the plant and the mushroom benefit from this mutually beneficial relationship.

For example, truffles and porcini mushrooms.

What Does Mushrooms Look Like?  

So, mushrooms have a basic eight-part structure. Here goes a short description of all of them:


The mushroom’s cap is the mushroom’s highest point and gives it an umbrella-like form. It comes in an array of colors and shapes, from flat to spherical.


Spores are reproductive cells of a mushroom. They are tiny and unicellular that are made in the gills of a mushroom.

White, pink, brown, and black spores are the most common. However, you may also find orange, green, and yellow spores.


The gills are a series of thin, papery structures that hang from the bottom of the cap. Different species can be identified based on the color and shape of their gills.


You can find a ring of tissue on the stem of some mushrooms. It is the surviving section of a torn veil.

During a mushroom’s young age, it has an extra layer of defense called a partial veil, which is a tiny sheet of tissue.


The stem, also called a stipe, is what keeps the top of the mushroom above the ground. A stem’s job is to help the plant’s spores spread.


The volva, also known as the universal veil, is a thin coating of tissue that covers the underside of young mushrooms when they emerge from the earth.

Microscopically, the structures known as hyphae are the fibers or tubes that link and grow to create the mycelium, or body, of a fungus.


To put it simply, mycelium is the vegetative, non-reproductive portion of mushrooms that you will find in the organic matter or soil. Fungi are immobile organisms, thus, the mycelium helps them reach more food sources.

Where Do Mushrooms Grow?  

You may have seen tiny white mushrooms in a broken wooden window or door structure. Generally, such wet wooden platforms and humidity help mushrooms to grow. However, if you are looking for the ones that are bigger in size and edible, you have to find them in the forest.

Mushrooms germinate from fungal spores, which flourish in humid, dark places. They need a substrate rich in dead plants to thrive. They frequently emerge from decaying tree trunks. The forest floor is a common spot to find mushrooms because that’s where they thrive in the shadow of the darkness.

Once again, mushroom farming is a lucrative industry in many nations. China, Japan, Poland, Brunei, Thailand, and Albania are among the world’s major producers of mushrooms.

The ideal environment for mushroom cultivation is an enclosed indoor space. But you’ll need the proper channel to do it. Oyster mushrooms require a substrate of straw or coffee grounds, shiitake mushrooms require a substrate of hardwood sawdust or wood chips, and button mushrooms require a substrate of compost manure.


Here are the answers to a few common questions that may come to your mind.

Where Do Brain Mushrooms Grow?  

You can find brain mushrooms in the wild on decaying trees in deep forests. Furthermore, they have a vast distribution in Europe, Asia and North America.

Is Brain Fungus Edible?

Although the word “esculenta” is derived from the Latin for “edible,” the fungus in its untreated state can be highly toxic. Fungus’ lethal potential has recently come to widespread attention.

What Kind of Mushroom Looks Like a Brain?  

We have mentioned 9 types of mushrooms that look like two different parts of a brain or the wrinkly structure of the cerebral cortex. For example, Gyromitra esculenta, Sparassis, Grifola frondosa, Calvatia craniiformis,and many more.

Is It Safe to Eat Brain Mushrooms?

Eating certain toxic brain mushrooms can cause vomiting, confusion, seizures, and acute kidney or liver injuries. Therefore, it is best not to eat brain mushrooms.

Closing Notes

The life cycle, beautiful physical features, and colors make it interesting to study this wonderful creation. Although you may find it tempting to take it from its natural habitat and show other people that you have found a mushroom that looks like a brain, it is better to leave them as it is as some of them might be too toxic for you to even touch.

Therefore, it is safe to be aware of mushroom poisoning and not try to eat them whenever you find one. And now that you have read about different types of brain mushrooms, you can spread awareness about preserving them with your friends and family. 

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Jack Daniel

I am Jack Daniel, and I have been gardening for more than 20 years now. I believe that with my years of experience, I can help you with backyard ideas and backyard product reviews. So, with the motto to help anyone facing gardening issues or wanting tips on enhancing the beauty of their backyards, I have created Backyard Muse. So, before anything else, I want to welcome you warmly to my site.


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