Identification Guide

Identification Guide

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

1) Shape:

mush shape

or otherwise



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


4) Cap:

cap shape

Greasy, sticky or dry?


Striate margin?  margin1                                            With scales or warts?

Ragged Margin?

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?





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