Sidewalk Snack – The Pavement Mushroom

Just about all of us live in a typical urban environment with pavements, roads and adjacent grassy verges. Because of this, from late spring to autumn, we may have the occasional chance of coming across one of these fellas…

Agaricus bitorquisAs the name suggests, the Pavement Mushroom (Agaricus bitorquis) chooses to flourish mainly in roadside situations and even gardens. But the interesting feature of this edible Agaricus is that it has the amazing capacity to push through the road (asphalt) itself. It’s proof that nature knows no barriers and doesn’t mind upsetting the local Council by wrecking the pavement.

I found this small group only a few centimetres away from the kerb on a street near my home. You’ll notice in the pictures that you can see how they tend to be ‘forcing’ their way out of the ground, pushing the earth aside as they go. You don’t see this with other, similar mushrooms and it’s a good first indication (along with the location) of positive identification.

The small dome shaped cap is the first thing to see, with remnants of earth clinging to the subtle flaky surface. As it grows the cap soon flattens out to around 10 – 12cm in size. Another good identification feature, especially seen when younger, are the two separate rings found on the white stocky stem (see picture: bottom right).

The gills are initially a dark pink to clay in colour and finish chocolate brown at maturity.

This mushroom really does smell ‘mushroomy’, is edible and quite nice to eat. But I have three qualms about eating this mushroom in particular. For one, this mushroom tends to be very mud loving and dirty so a thorough cleaning is required (I’m just too lazy!). The second is that they are often ‘bug munched’ to provide an unappetising visual appearance, and finally (by nature) they live near to the roadside. And depending on how busy that road is, I generally don’t want any pollution in my food.

But this all just a good moan – they are very good indeed.

Agaricus bitorquis

A group of Pavement Mushroom (Agaricus bitorquis) pushing through the tough soil next to an urban city road.

Pavement Mushroom

The Pavement Mushroom pushing through the soil next to a roadside kerb. Notice the double (separated) rings on the stem (bottom right) and the larger, flatter cap of an older specimen (bottom left).

QUICK ID TABLE: PAVEMENT MUSHROOM Agaricus bitorquis

CAP / FLESH

4-12cm across. White. Convex/dome shapes, flattening out. Very faintly flaky. Thick white flesh.

STEM

3-6cm x 1.5-2cm. White with 2 separate sheathing rings.

GILLS / SPORE PRINT

Free. Pink, then clay then chocolate brown.
Spore Print: Brown (see how to take a spore print here).

HABITAT / SEASON

In gardens and roadside verges, sometimes out of the road/asphalt. Late spring – autumn.

EDIBILITY

Edible and Good.

The Genus AGARICUS (Wood Mushrooms/Mushrooms): Characteristics to look out for:

• Many discolour yellowish, reddish or pinkish when cut or bruised.
• Those that discolour bright/chrome yellow should be avoided for consumption.
• Gills in young specimens are often pink (white in a few) – maturing darker brown.
• Make note of any smells, such as aniseed or a typical strong ‘supermarket’ mushroom smell.

17 replies
  1. Varsha
    Varsha says:

    I’m begining to think I live in an area completely devoid of mushrooms if even these ones arn’t popping up! I see lots of pavements and joining grassy areas yet no Agaricus bitorquis!

    Reply
  2. J C Harris
    J C Harris says:

    Don’t fear too much Varsha, they aren’t incredibly common. But around this time of year, looking around local grass verges and hedgerows often comes up with the goods, even if they’re inedible. Good luck.

    Reply
  3. Varsha
    Varsha says:

    I find it odd that I’ve not come across the usual Oysters which are usually in abundance in my local woods at this time. I was hoping to pick some to comsume for once and I see hide nor hair of them! I may have to adopt a new woodland methinks..

    Reply
  4. J C Harris
    J C Harris says:

    I know the feeling. I was actually looking for Oyster Mushrooms this weekend in one of my favourite woods. They’re usually quite reliable in showing up. But no luck recently. Just got to keep looking…

    Reply
  5. Sue Mallinson
    Sue Mallinson says:

    The damp weather’s brought blackening waxcaps and brown rollrims (eek, I don’t have anything to do with them!) out on the grass verges in Grantham. No sign of anything good like giant puffballs though, anyone seen them yet?

    Reply
  6. J C Harris
    J C Harris says:

    I’m having the same problem finding those Giant Puffballs Sue, some others aren’t though, as I’ve had people send pictures already.

    Another enquiry was asking (what I thought from the pictures) to be a Blackening Wax Cap. They’re out kind of early(ish). And I agree – stay clear of those annoyingly common Brown Rollrims!

    Reply
  7. George
    George says:

    Bitorquis grows in my driveway , shows up several times per year, and is a very good and welcomed mushroom, except when it pushes up the blacktop. It is always filthy and gritty, but the garden hose set to a fine spray, cleans it nicely. Bitorquis is one of the densest fleshed mushrooms. I can hardly wait for it’s reappearance.

    Reply

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