Both toadstools and mushrooms can be defined as the fruiting bodies of a fungus—that is, these are the part of the fungi that produce spores. Most of the fungus itself is underground, and the cap appears in the autumn months for most types. The only purpose of the cap is to release the fungi’s spores; the other parts of the fungi, including those that process and draw nutrients from dead and decaying matter, are underground, and we just never see them.
When most people envision a toadstool or a mushroom, they tend to think of a fungi that has a defined stalk and a cap. There are other types of fungi with less traditional forms, such as the puffball, an aptly-named round, white ball fungi with no apparent stalk. These types of rather non-traditionally formed fungi are typically referred to as mushrooms.
So why have toadstools become associated with the less desirable, more deadly type of fungus?
The answer is in the word itself. Toadstools were once believed to be exactly that—places that toads liked to sit. And since toads were also thought to be poisonous or carriers of disease, that quality transferred to the fungi they were said to favor. The term “toadstool” dates back to the 14th century and has also been recorded as “tadstoles.” Toadstools were also rumored to be a food source for the less-than-savory animals, sometimes called “toad’s meat,” “toad’s cap,” or “toad’s cheese.”
The poisonous variety of fungi have had a variety of names over the centuries, including “wart caps” and “Devil’s droppings.” Toads were also closely associated with the Christian devil, who took the form or attributes of a toad in many old European stories from Milton’s Paradise Lost to medieval folk tales, fairy stories, and wives’ tales.
It becomes kind of a you can’t judge a book by it’s cover thing. Either way, one is as odd and interesting as the other! …†…monos en theos jim