Help Us to Help You Identify Your Finds

Please try to include photos to show all parts of the fungus, eg top, stem, and gills.
Note any smells, and associated trees or plants (eg oak, birch). A spore print can be very useful.
Forum rules
Please do not ask for the identification of fungi for edibility or narcotic purposes. Any help provided by forum members is on the understanding that fungi are not to be consumed. Any deaths or serious poisonings are the responsibility of the person eating or preparing the fungus for others. If it is apparent from a post that the fungus is for eating or smoking etc, the post will be deleted and a warning given. Although many members do eat fungi, no-one would be willing to take someone else's life into their hands.
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Lancashire Lad
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Help Us to Help You Identify Your Finds

Post by Lancashire Lad » Thu May 21, 2015 4:29 pm


This is, by necessity, a long post, as the more information you can provide, the better your chance of having your find positively identified.
It should be mentioned however, that even the most comprehensive of descriptions will not always enable identification!

Provide good quality photographs: -
Good quality, sharply focussed, close-up photographs, (of at least 800 x 600 pixels in size), showing the physical characteristics of your find, will go a long way towards helping with its identification.

Your photos should clearly show the cap, stem, gills – (or pores, or teeth etc.), and any other obvious features – for which, you may need more than one photo. - The more detail the better!
If there are young and old fruit bodies nearby, photograph all the stages!

Do not be afraid to pick one: -
If there are several in the vicinity, then it is perfectly acceptable to pick one or two in order to take the necessary photographs. You will then also be able to retain the picked specimen(s) for spore print, or to respond to questions asked in the identification process.
(NB: Ensure when picking, to collect all of the stem, (rather than breaking it off). Sometimes, essential information can be had by seeing the very bottom of the stem).

Note that with fungi, the majority of the organism is out of site, underground, or in the wood, or plant, or whatever it is growing on. The mushroom is simply the “fruit”.
Taking a mushroom/toadstool is like picking an apple from an apple tree – you won’t kill the apple tree by picking an apple – likewise, you won’t kill the fungus by picking a mushroom.

Note also that touching or handling of fungi will not poison you. Even the most deadly of species can be sensibly handled without fear.
Obviously, after handling fungi, and before eating or handling foodstuffs, etc., good hygiene principles should always be observed – i.e. properly wash your hands!

Let us know how big it was: -
What size was the fungus? (length of stem, thickness of stem, diameter of cap, etc.) - Size is often not obvious in photographs.

What was it growing on? (i.e. the substrate, or host): -
For example was it growing on a: - trunk, log, branch, soil, leaves, acorns, burnt ground, another fungus, etc.

If it was growing on a plant or tree – was the part that it was on alive, dead, rotten, still attached to the tree, fallen on the ground, etc. (If you can positively identify the name of the host, all the better).

What was growing nearby?
Ash?, Beech?, Oak?, Conifer?, Pine?, mixed woodland?, herbaceous plants?, grasses?
Were there any other fungi in the immediate vicinity?

If you are unsure of a tree’s/plant’s identity, include a few leaves, pine needles, or cones in your shots, or as a separate photo.

Does the fungus have a distinctive smell?
Some do, some don’t. Some will only exhibit this on rubbing, cutting or bruising.
Describing a smell can be quite subjective, but if you can, so much the better.

Colour: -
Fungi come in many different colours, and many individual species will exhibit different colours during their life cycle. Try to describe the colour as accurately as possible.

Is there a colour change on touching/rubbing/bruising/breaking parts of the fungus?
If so, how quickly did the colour change occur? (Immediately, in a few seconds, after some minutes, after some hours).

Take a spore print: -
If possible take a spore print. Knowing the colour of the spores can really help in identifying fungi to genus.

To take a spore print, cut off the stem just below the cap, support the cap above a small flat piece of glass (eg. A microscope slide, or the glass from a small photo frame would be ideal – but beware of cut fingers!!!).
Cover the glass and cap with an upturned dish (to prevent draughts) and leave until sufficient spores have dropped onto the glass.
Depending on the individual fungus, this might take only a few minutes, or several hours.

Some authorities advocate taking spore prints on white or black paper/card, but when taken on glass, white or black paper can be placed below the glass to best highlight the spore print.

NB: when determining colour, the spore print should be scraped together into a small pile, and then pressed flat to give a solid colour to work from. (Using the edge of another microscope slide for this, and then pressing the pile between two microscope slides is ideal).

Note the texture of the fungus:
There are many textures ranging from smooth and glossy, through to rough and dull, with every combination in between. Some are dry to the feel, some are wet, some are sticky, and some extremely slimy. As with colour, many species exhibit different textures during their life cycle.

Taste: -
The Genera Lactarius and Russula are noted for their taste or reaction! - If you are confident that your fungus is one or the other, chew a little on the tip of your tongue – spit it out and then wait a few minutes. Was it hot? mild? bitter? – Was the taste sensation instant, or did it take some time to occur?
Do not taste any fungus that you are not sure of. Taste testing is not for the beginner.
It is something that should only be considered by those having considerable experience with fungi.

Likewise, if you are considering taking fungi for eating, ensure you have 3 samples: -
1 for yourself
1 for your Doctor
And 1 for the Coroner!
The above statement is a serious thought. – The consequences of false identification can be life threatening!

Microscopy: -
Many species will still require microscopy, or DNA analysis to be positively identified. Some may even be new to science!

Starting a thread: -
Please use a proper title such as: -
"Unidentified brown mushroom found under Oak", "Unknown Lactarius species", etc.
And not: -
"What’s this", "what’s this fungus", "large blob on tree", "fungi ID", or ????? . . . etc. etc.

Finally: -
Please take into consideration that many of those prepared to help with fungi identification have full time jobs, as well as fungi recording and other duties/activities, and not least - families!
Their time in trying to help others is given willingly and freely.
It will therefore be much appreciated when posts asking for ID's include the words 'Please' and 'Thank you'.
This of course applies to requests on any of the other forums too!

And please remember … to be correct, we use the phrase "these fungi" (plural) when discussing more than one, and "this fungus" (singular) where only one is involved.

Common sense is not so common.


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