11 Colorful Mushrooms and Other Fabulous Fungi

These strange and pretty species look like they came straight from the brain of Willy Wonka.

Rhodotus palmatus is also known as the netted rhodotus, the rosy veincap and the wrinkled peach.
Rhodotus palmatus is also known as the netted rhodotus, the rosy veincap and the wrinkled peach.

Dan Molter / Wikimedia Commons

The fungi kingdom is filled with remarkable diversity. Some species of fungi are responsible for the creation of life-saving drugs such as penicillin and other antibiotics. Others are responsible for adding flavor and texture to a variety of beloved dishes. Still other species are to blame for causing infections such as athlete's foot or ringworm.

Visually, too, there's a tremendous assortment of shapes, sizes and colors, especially when it comes to the most famous fungus—mushrooms.

The 11 mushrooms and other fungi below offer a visual feast of color and form and are a far cry from the typical white-or-brown palette of the criminis and portobellos we find at the supermarket.

1. Rhodotus palmatus

Pictured above, Rhodotus palmatus is known as the wrinkled peach, for obvious reasons. They have pinkish grooves on the cap, which require an alternating wet and dry environment to fully develop, and short, pink gills underneath, according to Messiah College.

Found in parts of England and the central United States, these photogenic beauties are fairly rare and are listed as a threatened species in Europe.

2. Sarcoscypha coccinea

Small vivid red cup-shaped mushrooms on a log
Sarcoscypha coccinea is also known as the scarlet cup or the scarlet elf cup.

Anita Sobrino / Flickr

It's pretty obvious why this mushroom is more commonly known as the scarlet cup or scarlet elf cup: Sarcoscypha coccinea is shaped like a cup with a brilliant red interior. Perfect for any elf's tea party, the cup may be up to 1.5 inches (4 centimeters) wide. The bright scarlet color fades to orange as the mushroom ages.

Found on every continent but Antarctica, the scarlet cup grows in damp areas on decaying sticks or branches or among leaves on forest floors.

3. Amanita muscaria

A classic mushroom shape with a red cap with white polka dots
Amanita muscaria is a poisonous mushroom.

FotoLot / Shutterstock

Like Entoloma hochstetteri (below), Amanita muscaria looks like it stepped out of the pages of a children's book. But don't be fooled by its innocent appearance: This fungus has psychoactive and hallucinogenic properties.

The color can vary from red to orange to yellow to white. The University of Wisconsin describes:

"There seems to be a geographical distribution in North America, with the red form being found mostly in the west and deep south, the orange form in the Midwest and east, the yellow form mostly in the east, and the white form reportedly scattered throughout the country. They can grow to be quite large, up to a foot high with caps as big as diner plates."

It's commonly known as the fly agaric or fly amanita because in some regions, pieces of the mushroom are placed in milk to attract flies, which then become inebriated, fly into walls and perish.

4. Laccaria amethystina

A beautiful vibrant purple fungus
The amethyst deceiver prefers to grow next to beech trees but has been found both in coniferous and deciduous forests.

Sigur / Shutterstock

This small mushroom commonly known as the amethyst deceiver is usually only 3/4 of an inch to 2 1/2 inches (2 to 6 centimeters) across and grows in woodlands among leaves or in bare or mossy soil. While it prefers to grow next to beech trees, it doesn't discriminate and has been found both in coniferous and deciduous forests.

It doesn't stay purple forever. As it ages, it turns brown, starting with the stem and then its cap. It is edible, according to The Wildlife Trusts, but it's often mistaken for a poisonous mushroom with a similar appearance: the lilac fibrecap.

5. Hydnellum peckii

A lumpy white fungus with small blobs of oozing red sap
Hydnellum peckii is also known as the bleeding tooth fungus, strawberries and cream, and the devil's tooth.

Nathan Wilson / Flickr

Perhaps the goriest of the bunch, Hydnellum peckii looks like it's bleeding, which is why it's more commonly known as the bleeding tooth fungus. On a more palatable note, this oozy fungus sometimes is called strawberries and cream or the devil's tooth.

The red fluid isn't actually blood, of course. The American Association for the Advancement of Sciences (AAAS) explains:

"This gooey red liquid is actually a sap of sorts caused by a process called guttation. When the soil surrounding the fungus' root system becomes very wet, it may force water into the roots through the process of osmosis. This creates pressure throughout the organism, which eventually builds up enough to force liquid to the surface of the fungus."

Scientists don't know what the liquid is exactly, but they know it gets its color from a pigment found within the fungus. Hydnellum peckii, which grows in North America, Europe, Iran, and South Korea, only oozes when it's young. When it becomes an adult, it turns beige. And while it's safe to eat, its appearance (plus a very bitter taste) might detract from its appeal.

6. Clavaria zollingeri

A purple cluster of fungus fingers that looks like it's from the ocean
Clavaria zollingeri tastes mildly radish-like.

Dan Molter / Wikimedia Commons

Clavaria zollingeri, which is a coral (or clavarioid) fungi, looks like a group of small purple antlers. It can be found in eastern North America, on beds of moss below oak and hickory trees.

Commonly known as the violet coral or magenta coral, the "antlers" are actually tubes that grow up to 4 inches tall. Isn't it beautiful?!

7. Entoloma hochstetteri

A small and vibrant blue mushroom
No, you won't find any Smurfs living under Entoloma hochstetteri.

Bernard Spragg / Wikimedia Commons

It may look like something out of the Smurfs' garden, but there's nothing imaginary about Entoloma hochstetteri, an iconic mushroom species native to New Zealand. The Māori name for the mushroom is werewere-kokako because the color is similar to the blue of the kōkako bird.

The hue on this small mushroom—it's only about an inch across at the cap—ranges from dark blue to light blue to gray. And though it might be the perfect size to pick and pop in your mouth, this would-be home to Smurfette is not edible.

8. Aseroe rubra

A red star-shaped fungus with a muddy brown center
Aseroe rubra is commonly known as the anemone stinkhorn, sea anemone fungus and starfish fungus.

Doug Beckers / Flickr

This star-shaped oddity has a lot of aliases, like the anemone stinkhorn, sea anemone fungus, and starfish fungus. Fairly common throughout Australia, this stinky fungus likes to grow on mulch and in grassy areas where it attracts flies to help spread its spores.

Its surface often is covered in a brownish slime. These mushrooms can grow to just under 4 inches tall.

9. Clathrus ruber

An orange spongey-looking fungus with large holes
Latticed Stinkhorn (Clathrus ruber) near Bradenton, Florida.

Jim Mullhaupt / Flickr

More commonly known as a latticed stinkhorn, Clathrus ruber doesn't really look like a mushroom at all. It looks more like coral or a miniature jungle gym. And it doesn't really smell like a mushroom at all either. Instead of earthy savoriness, the latticed stinkhorn earns its name with a scent of rotted meat, according to the Bay Area Mycological Society.

Unlike us, flies are attracted to the smell. They land and feed, then take off to carry the spores and spread them along their path. These mushrooms can be found in the Mediterranean, Europe and some North American coastlines.

When it is young, it looks more like an egg or a large white button mushroom, but you can see a pattern shaded on its surface. It loses the white covering and takes on its captivating color and shape as it matures.

10. Clavulinopsis sulcata

Orange upright fingers clustered together amongst plant litter
Clavulinopsis sulcata is a type of coral fungus.

JJ Harrison / Wikimedia Commons

Another type of coral fungi, Clavulinopsis sulcata, is recognizable by its vibrant orange-pink fingers which can be found growing in plant litter. It was first described in South Africa, but can also be found in North America, Asia, eastern Australia, and New Zealand

11. Panellus stipticus

Bright green fungus glowing in the dark
Panellus stipticus is a bioluminescent mushroom.

Ylem / Wikimedia Commons

If you saw Panellus stipticus during the day, you probably wouldn't think it was anything special. It grows on trees and logs in beige shell-shaped formations with caps about 1/2 to 1 1/2 (1 to 3 centimeters) wide. It's nighttime when this bioluminescent mushroom shines.

Though this fungus can be found in Europe and in the Pacific Northwest, the glow-in-the-dark variety lives only in eastern North America. It isn't edible; Cornell describes the taste as "astringent and puckery."