A Forager’s Guide to the Ringless Honey Mushroom

A Forager’s Guide To The Ringless Honey Mushroom
The Armillaria tabescens, common name the ringless honey fungus, belongs to the most significant division of mushrooms in the Armillaria genus. This wild mushroom may not taste like honey but sports a pleasant, honey-like golden hue. Foragers sometimes get caught out by the ringless honey mushroom, as not all parts are edible.

Armillaria Tabescens Profile

The Armillaria tabescens, otherwise known by its common name, the ringless honey mushroom, belongs to the Physalacriaceae family.

The species in this family are widespread in their locations, such as:

  • The tropics
  • Marine sites
  • Freshwaters
  • Semiarid forests

This species of fungus also belongs to the Armillaria genus. The Armillaria species are destructive in infecting various woody plants, including multiple species of trees.

The Armillaria tabescens wild mushroom is a plant pathogen, with the mycelium of the fungus being bioluminescent.

In addition, the ringless honey mushroom grows rapidly at around 28–30 °C (82–86 °F) temperatures. But, it grows slower when sitting at five °C (41 °F).

Its bloom time is September, when it’s the first to fruit, compared to the Armillaria mellea and Armillaria gallica.

Between September and November, you’ll find it in the ringless honey mushroom growing in clusters on wood.

Where Does the ringless honey mushroom Grow?

It grows in eastern North America, from the Great Lakes southward, and west to Oklahoma and texas

A study by Tsopelas et al. found that Armillaria tabescens, as a destructive species, it’s more prevalent in locations where the trees were stressed due to drought conditions. For example, oak trees have slightly more damage, potentially killing young trees.

During the study, the Armillaria tabescens were also found in eucalyptus plantations.

Other studies have also found that Armillaria tabescens are frequently found on fruit and ornamental trees more frequently than other species.

The ringless honey mushroom doesn’t do well on sand, where it produces shorter rhizomorphs. These are threadlike structures in fungi constructed of hyphae, which are branching structures that let go of enzymes to absorb nutrients from the host.

This Armillaria species is most often found in dry and warm regions, meanings its most often found in southern areas. It can also grow in altitudes ranging from sea level to 4,300 feet.

How do you Identify the Ringless Honey Mushroom?

Because the ringless honey mushroom has so many poisonous false lookalikes, foragers need to know how to identify this honey-colored wild mushroom.

Watch out for these distinguishing features:

  • Gills grow directly to the stem, with some starting to run down it.
  • No ring
  • A white spore print is vital in separating the Armillaria tabescens from the deadly Galerina marginata.
  • Look for a convex cap about 1 to 4 inches across that flattens once mature. Colors are yellow to different shades of brown.
  • When picked fresh, the ringless honey mushroom has whitish flesh with a slightly pinkish-brownish hue. This color does not change when sliced.
  • You’ll notice honey mushroom caps have small iridescent hairs when you touch them.
Armillaria tabescens
Armillaria tabescens, ringless honey mushroom

Is the ringless honey mushroom Edible?

Essentially, ringless honey mushrooms are edible, but not every part. Some parts will also need such a special prep before cooking.

You should consume only firm caps and get rid of though stalks (which you typically use for stock when cooking edible mushrooms).

But, because of its various forms and ages, beginner foragers should only pick ringless honey mushrooms that they find growing on wood, like tree trunks or stumps.

If you don’t cook the good bits or cook it right/overeat, it has been reported to cause upset stomachs.

How to Cook with Ringless Honey Mushrooms

Because it’s crunchy and very similar to shitake mushrooms, you can add it to stir-fry dishes.

All Armillaria species were considered safe to eat for many years when properly cooked.

However, members of the honey fungus growing on hardwoods like stumps and the bases of trees can be regarded as potentially toxic.

A small portion of people has suffered poisoning when eating this fungus, probably due to human sensitivity.

However, it may not be worth collecting and cooking these for the pot.

What Does it Taste Like?

Although the texture of ringless honey mushrooms is crunchy and similar to shitake mushrooms, it doesn’t have much odor or taste.

Does it Have any Poisonous Lookalikes?

Check our video on the 7 most poisonous mushrooms growing in the US (mushroom details and ingestion symptoms included)!

Even mushroom experts can be fooled by the many poisonous ringless honey mushroom lookalikes. Some examples include:

  • Pholiota aurivella – these mushrooms belong to the genus Pholiota, with brownish spore prints. The gills are slightly different because they are attached to the stem but don’t run down; spores are smooth with pores, unlike the Armillaria tabescens, which have tiny iridescent hairs.
  • Galerina marginata – you’ll find this wild mushroom growing on wood-like stumps and in clusters. It has relatively small caps with a tawny, brownish hue which varies with age. Its coloring makes it hard to tell the spore print apart. Check the spore print. A red-brown spore print belongs to the G. Marginata, while the A.tabescens has a whitish spore print.
  • Armillaria mellea is more often known by its common name, honey fungus. Despite sharing honey in the title, the honey fungus is similar but larger and paler, with a stem ring.
  • Armillaria gallica is a similar edible mushroom with a fleeting cobweb-esque ring and bulbous stem. The ring boasts a barely there yellowish ring zone when mature.
  • Pholiota squarrosa is similar in color and has scales all over. It keeps its in-rolled margin and gills that all turn tawny-brownish. But, in contrast to the A.tabescens, it has a reddish-esque smell and taste.
  • Sulfur tuft – similar to ringless honey mushrooms, these wild mushrooms are brownish and tawny, with gills attached to the stem. You can only tell these two mushrooms apart by doing a spore print, where Sulfur tufts sport a purple-brown spore print.
  • Omphalotus illudens, known by its common name, the poisonous jack-o’-lantern, is very similar in that it is orange with a smooth cap.
ringless honey mushroom lookalikes
Ringless honey mushroom lookalikes


Getting into the great, wet outdoors in search of edible plants, herbs, fruits and fungi is one of Sarah’s favorite outdoor pursuits. She thinks there’s nothing better than combining her passion for hiking with the start of the foraging season. Sarah’s definitely not afraid of a little rain and dirt, it’s all part of the fun.

Recent Posts