This is designed to give you some guidance in the identification of the larger fungi.
Firstly examine the area where the fungus is growing:-
1) The time of year: Spring, Summer, Winter or Autumn: many species will be seasonal or occur all year round.
2) Habitat: Do they grow on wood i.e. SAPROPHYTIC or PARASITIC species, in woodland or parkland under trees (what type?), in grass, moss, or, on moors and heaths?
3) Abundance: How common locally, is the species? Does it grow singly, in groups, troops or rings? Count specimens – are they tufted?
Secondly, examine the appearance of the fungus:-
Check the following carefully
2) Size: record height, width, length (if necessary); with a ruler! Don’t guess as size measurements may be deceptive, large fungi tend to look larger than they actually are!
3) Colour: Check CAP, STEM AND GILL COLOURS for ‘mushroom’ types. Upper and lower surface colours for other types. For ‘mushroom’ types only – cap features can be applied to other fungi such as bracket fungi
Greasy, sticky or dry?
Striate margin? With scales or warts?
Inrolled margin? Is there colour zoning evident?
Most importantly – RECORD THE COLOUR!
5) Stem: again record length, width and shape: uniform bulbous based or tapering
Does it break easily, or is it FIBROUS? Is it hard or soft?
Is there a ring on the stem or a cup (VOLVA) at the base ? RECORD COLOURS!
6) Cap undersurface: GILLS or PORES ? Are they crowded or distant?
Cut the cap in half and examine how the GILLS meet the stem;-
7) Spore print: Cut the stem of the cap and lay the cap on a sheet of white paper with the gill surface downwards: Cover with a glass and leave overnight. In the morning the cap will have left a spore print. This may be white (check rubbing the paper with your finger), pink, brown, purplish-brown or black . See instructions for Making a Spore Print under Education tab.
This is important as it divides the fungus into its family. REMEMBER: Take spore prints from FRESH caps only.
8) Flesh: Cut the cap open and examine the flesh: What colour is it? Is it firm or soft?
9) Smell: Is there any distinctive smell? Maybe foetid, sulphurous, floral, radish, flour, garlic or curry?
ALWAYS MAKE SURE AN EXPERT HAS IDENTIFIED A SPECIES BEFORE GATHERING IT AS AN EDIBLE FUNGUS!
FIBROUS: made up of long, thin fibres producing a tough barely breakable structure
GILLS: narrow, slit like structures, producing spores, on the underside of the cap ‘mushroom’ type fungi
PAPILLA: Narrow projection in the centre of the cap
PARASITIC: living on and feeding off a living organism, giving nothing in return
SAPROPHYTIC: living on and feeding from a dead organism
PORES/TUBES: Spore producing hole structures on underside of cap, some producing sponge like texture
UMBO: A broad projection in the centre of the cap
VOLVA: A cup-like structure at the base of the stem
MYCORRHIZAL: in mutual symbiosis with plant