Mushroom identification & photography

Afternoon all, looks like I'm in a journaling mood this month.

There were two points I want to hit on that I keep noticing as I've been trying to actively ID more fungi (since, well, IDers for fungi are lacking in general.) Mostly talking about Higher Basidiomycete fungi here, since that's mostly what I'm familiar with. (Lichens are an entirely different interest group)

The first point is that a lot of times, very specific things are needed to get fungi properly down to species or even genus, and I see too many observations that simply do not have sufficient evidence or details to even get to a ballpark.

There are a few things that are almost always necessary; those things are pictures of the top of the cap, the fertile surface (pores, gills, teeth, whatever it has,) along with the stem and the gill attachment point (if it has those.) If you can take these pictures, take the pictures. Pick a mushroom, turn it over, use the zoom function on your phone (it works better than you think, and is often better than trying to get it to focus by putting the lens close to the mushroom.) They're fruiting bodies, picking one isn't going to hurt the mycelia. Here's one of my observations as an example (ignore the fact that its not research grade, its a mushroom in July, all the people who ID stuff are out looking for them!)

Now, I may be able to confidently ID this mushroom in the field, but if I only uploaded the first picture, of the caps, I doubt it'd ever get a confirming ID - the visual spores would help, but in general, its just the top of a brown mushroom, right?

But with the addition of the underside pics, you can see that it has dark brown gills, it has an annulus (veil remnant) on the stipe, the stipe has a fuzzy texture, etc. These are all diagnostic and can help you get to a better ID.

Further than all that though, there is more useful information you can provide.
What is it growing on? (Species of tree is useful but even knowing if its a deciduous or coniferous tree can help a lot. Or is it growing right out of the ground? On leaf litter?)

What trees were growing in the area?

Does it have an odor?

When you scratch it, does it bruise? What color does it bruise?

Are there multiple specimens from the same fruiting? take pictures of younger & adult specimens, from multiple angles, if possible.

What does it taste like, is it bitter, spicy, nutty? This is often a good diagnostic characteristic for Russulaceae and Boletaceae (you can safely nibble and spit any mushroom, though I wouldn't recommend doing this with a potentially poisonous species unless you know what you're doing - generally outside of the two mentioned families, its not that important)

Does it react with any chemicals - what happens if you drop ammonia on the cap? Potassium hydroxide? iron salts?

What color are the spores? bring one home with you, put the cap on some tin foil, and upload a picture of the spore print

Do you own a microscope? Upload a picture of the spores under a microscope

Obviously, not all of these are possible for the average person, but the more information you can provide, the better. There are some species that are impossible to get past genus with DNA or microscopy, and you have to be content with the fact that all mushrooms aren't going to be identifiable

Alright, now we're past that, and here's the second point -

If you've IDed something to species, and someone adds an agreeing genus (but not species?) that's okay - they may not be confident and getting it down to species themselves but think you may be right. A few times I've done this, agreed with the genus because its simply not a group I'm as familiar with (looking at you, Agrocybe & Pluteus) but without actively bumping it back to genus level, and have been questioned as to why I don't think its that species.

It's not that I don't think it's that species, it's that my experience and diagnostic knowledge isn't enough to say it is or isn't, one way or the other. I doubt even true experts can ID every species accurately with only a few pictures, everyone is going to have groups that they're better with, and that's okay. Understand that Fungi is a entire kingdom, as diverse as plants & animals, and beyond that the science is often outdated & fragmented.

I'm just trying to be honest and not agree to a species level ID if I'm not sure of it.

Posted on July 12, 2023 05:45 PM by lothlin lothlin


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