The fungi kingdom has an amazing diversity. Some species of fungi are responsible for the creation of life-saving drugs such as penicillin and other antibiotics. Others are responsible for making dishes such as risotto or chicken Marsala more tasty — and healthy, too. (Mushrooms have a host of surprising health benefits). 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.
These 11 mushrooms and other fungi below are a far cry from the typical white-or-brown palette of criminis and portobellos.
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
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. The cup may be up to 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
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 Crayola hue: This fungus has psychoactive and hallucinogenic properties.
The color can vary from red to orange to yellow to white. "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," according to the University of Wisconsin.
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
This small mushroom commonly known as the amethyst deceiver is usually only 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
Definitely not the most appetizing mushroom of the bunch, Hydnellum peckii looks like it's bleeding, which is why it's more commonly known as the bleeding tooth fungus. (Believe it or not, this is one of the least disgusting-looking photos we could find of this species.) 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. "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" where it comes out through tiny pores, according to the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).
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) makes you not want to eat it.
6. Clavaria zollingeri
Clavaria zollingeri, which is a coral (or clavarioid) fungi, looks like "a tiny set of purple antlers, cast aside on a bed of moss under oaks and hickories in eastern North America," reports MushroomExpert.com.
Commonly known as the violet coral or magenta coral, the "antlers" are actually tubes that grow up to 4 inches tall.
7. Entoloma hochstetteri
It may look like something out of "The Smurfs," 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
This star-shaped beauty has a lot of aliases, like the anemone stinkhorn, sea anemone fungus and starfish fungus. Fairly common throughout Australia, this stinky fungi 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
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 interesting color and shape as it matures.
(Side note: If you have trypophobia, don't do a Google image search for this one. Trust me.)
10. Clavulinopsis sulcata
Another type of coral fungi, Clavulinopsis sulcata is found in Australia. Almost looks like the orange of Gene Wilder's hair in the original "Willy Wonka" movie, doesn't it?
11. Panellus stipticus
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 to 3 centimeters wide. It's nighttime when this bioluminescent mushroom shines, according to Cornell University.
Though this fungus can be found in Europe and in the Pacific Northwest, the glow-in-the-dark variety live only in eastern North America. It isn't edible, according to Messiah College. Cornell describes the taste as "astringent and puckery."