Mushroom Foragers Warned Against AI-Generated Guides

Several foraging handbooks available on Amazon seem to be written by AI chatbots. Experts are imploring novice mushroom pickers to be extremely cautious when selecting guides on the online marketplace.

An increasing number of books written by AI are cropping up online. Travel guides are the most common, but two books on mushroom foraging recently grabbed people’s attention.

The Guardian investigated “The Supreme Mushroom Book Field Guide of the South-West” and “Wild Mushroom Cookbook: From Forest to Gourmet Plate, A Complete Guide to Wild Mushroom Cookery.” They sent four excerpts from the books to, a company that detects AI-written content. All four samples came back with a 100% AI detection score. The Guardian then sent over sections from other forging titles, again flagged them as AI-generated.

Dangerous inaccuracies

The books provide information on identifying wild mushrooms and cooking them. The sections on identifying mushrooms are the most worrying. Many wild mushrooms look similar and it is incredibly easy to mistake some toxic species for edible ones. The books do a poor job of differentiating between them and give dangerous advice. For example, one book tells readers to use smell and taste to help identify the fungi. This is something any experienced forager would never do.

Foraging guide, Leon Fry told The Guardian that “this seems to encourage tasting as a method of identification, this should absolutely not be the case.” Mushroom poisoning can be fatal, to suggest tasting without being 100% sure of the species is wildly irresponsible.


Photo: Shutterstock


The same book also states that the Lions Mane Fungus is an edible species in the UK. Whilst technically true, Lions Mane is also a protected species, something that is completely ignored in the book. Fungi specialist Myron Smith called the books “totally irresponsible.” Smith stressed that “the differences between edibles and non-edibles are very subtle and it takes an experienced eye and knowledge to discriminate between them.”

The books are littered with factual and grammatical errors, and their “authors” are mysterious. None are available to comment, most don’t seem to exist at all.

Amazon is reviewing the books and has removed some from the platform. “All publishers…must adhere to our content guidelines, regardless of how content was created,” Amazon spokesperson Ashley Vanicek told The Hustle. These guidelines state that authors cannot mislead customers.

Rebecca McPhee

Rebecca McPhee is a freelance writer for ExplorersWeb.

Rebecca has been writing about open water sports, adventure travel, and marine science for three years. Prior to that, Rebecca worked as an Editorial Assistant at Taylor and Francis, and a Wildlife Officer for ORCA.

Based in the UK Rebecca is a science teacher and volunteers for a number of marine charities. She enjoys open water swimming, hiking, diving, and traveling.