exactly is the fungus growing? On a tree, a log, the ground?
What kind of tree? And what other trees are nearby? You
won't find oak-loving fungi under pines, or vice-versa,
and may be able to eliminate a large number of possible
species at once.
Scent and Taste
often have a very distinctive smell, such as garlic, anise,
rotting flesh, or even shellfish. The odour may only become
apparent if you crush a piece of flesh. To taste, select
only a very fresh specimen (fungi quickly lose their flavour),
place a very small piece on the tip of your tongue, and
spit it out immediately. Even poisonous fungi will not harm
you as long as you don't swallow any portion.
guides usually provide a range of cap size and stalk height
in their species descriptions, and any other useful dimensions
that are typical of a species. Remember that these are average
ranges, and you may well find fungi that are larger or smaller.
is often the most obvious feature of a fungus. It can be
helpful in identification, but don't be misled. Other characteristics
are more important and less variable. Colour changes with
the age of the individual and is affected by environmental
conditionssun and rain, for example, can both bleach
a fungus's colours. Different forms within one species can
have quite different colours. Morels even take on different
colours when associated with different trees. Colour perception
also depends to some extent on the eye of the beholder.
So don't be surprised if your fungus is a different colour
to the one in the book or on this website!
Spore colour is a much more reliable clue than cap
colour. Gilled fungi can be separated into a number of groups
depending on whether their spores are light, dark, brown,
or pink. To be sure of spore colour you need to make a spore
print. Cut or break the cap off and lay it gill or pore
side down on a piece of white paper. You may soon be rewarded
with a colourful smattering of spores. If not, take a specimen
home and try again, leaving it overnight.
Staining of the tissues is useful in some groups like the
boletes, which change colour when bruised. Also note the
speed of the colour change.
Stalk, and Gills
are extremely variable. Caps may be conical, cylindrical,
umbrella-shaped, bell-shaped, convex, concave, flat-topped,
funnel-shaped, knobbed, and so on. They may be smooth or
warty. Some are sticky (viscid)
when wet, others become slimy (glutinous).
may be straight-sided or taper up- or downward. Some have
a club-shaped or even bulbous base. Many species have no
stalk at all.
If gills are present, note how they are spaced, if they
are attached to the stalk or not, the shape and position
of the stalk, and the presence or absence of a partial
can be important. Boletes are spongy, and bracket fungi are woody. Other
species are leathery, corky, brittle, and so on.
you have access to a microscope, you'll be able to examine
features such as the size, shape, and surface ornamentation
of spores, which all provide clues to fungus identity. Other
microscopic features, like the orientation of hyphae in
the gills are useful indicators too.
You can place spore dust from a spore print in a drop of
water on a slide, and cover it with a coverslip. It's best
to examine gill cells in cross section, by cutting a very
thin slice with a razor blade.