Gray Ghosts / Grey Knights (Tricholoma terreum)

Phylum: Basidiomycota. Class: Agaricomycetes. Order: Agaricales. Family: Tricholomataceae

Grey Ghosts or Grey Knights as Tricholoma terreum is variously known are a common mushroom on edges of our local Pine forests where big flushes, or at least reasonable sized groups of them, can be found. I’ve been stepping over and around them for ages, having identified them as the nearly identical and toxic Tricholoma virgatum. However, this year, some folks in online mushroom groups have been posting about finding and eating them. I live and learn!

They start with grey caps but as the age, the caps split to expose the white flesh. Grey Ghosts have a pleasant smell, distinguishing them from Ashen Knight Mushrooms (T. virgatum) which smell unpleasant, peppery or some folks would say radishy. I can’t confirm this myself, having never knowingly encountered one.

There has been much talk of dangerous toxins being found in T. terreum and relatives, but the amount needed to be eaten to be poisoned seems to be kilos over several days. I’ll give you the link here to an article in Chemistry World that goes into more detail so you may make up your own mind. For now, We only recommend eating a couple at a time, if at all.

Downy, grey caps with tiny scales and fibres.
Downy, grey caps with tiny scales and fibres.
Smooth, white stem with no ring.
Smooth, white stem with no ring.
The outer layer of the cap splits and exposes white flesh.
The outer layer of the cap splits and exposes white flesh.
A slight bump or 'umbo' can be seen in the centre of the cap.
A slight bump or ‘umbo’ can often be seen in the centre of the cap.

Identifying Grey Ghosts/Grey Knights

  • The cap is grey and slightly downy, with very fine scales and fibres that radiate from the centre. It starts off broadly conical, then flattens but retains a slight umbo (bump in the middle)
  • Gills are uneven, pale grey with wavy edges. They yellow slightly with age. There are separated from the stem by a distinct notch.
  • The flesh is white, easily broken and doesn’t discolour. It has a pleasant odour, to me somewhat garlicky.
  • Stems are white, smooth and even. There is no ring.
  • Spores are white.
Pale grey, wavy edged gills separated from the stem by a distinct notch.
Pale grey, wavy edged gills separated from the stem by a distinct notch.
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