Identify a mushroom

Edited by Rich, Lhynne27, Lynn, Eng and 12 others

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Identifying Oyster Mushrooms.jpg

Fungi are an abundant and interesting member of the Eukaryota domain. Their fruits are varied in shape, color, and edibility. This guide will teach you the proper method for identifying mushrooms.

Mushrooms are the fruiting bodies of Fungi. The familiar domed caps, umbrellas, cups, shelves, and other odd shapes hold the spores which fungi use for reproduction. Many mushrooms are edible though an equal number exist which are incredibly poisonous. Never eat a mushroom without properly identifying it first! Contact a professional mycologist if you have any doubts.

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Tools you will need

  • Pocket knife
  • Index cards or plain notepaper or a glass slide
  • Wax paper
  • A basket or carrying container.
  • Glass dome or cup
  • Field guide or reference book
  • Spore print chart
  • Optional: Microscope
  • Optional: Camera

Instructions

  1. 1
    Find some mushrooms.
    Mushrooms love a moist environment. No matter where you live, mushrooms can be found during the wetter months. Mushrooms can sprout in a variety of environments, from grassy lawns to mountainsides. Look for mushrooms in leaf litter, on tree bark, fallen logs, and along disturbed habitats, such as the edges of fields.
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  2. 2
    Document the mushroom's characteristics.
    Is the mushroom brown? Is it cup-shaped? Write down the characteristics of the mushroom itself. Mushrooms are defined by shape, color, veils, gill shapes, spores, and habitat. Write down the size of the cap and the stalk. Photograph the mushroom for later reference.
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  3. 3
    Document the habitat.
    Where a mushroom grows is also used to identify a fungus. Is the mushroom growing on dead logs, on a tree, or in leaf litter? Write down everything you can about the habitat. If the mushroom grows on a tree, then identify the tree. Mushrooms form symbiotic or parasitic bonds with particular trees. For example, some mushrooms only grow underneath conifers. Again, take pictures.
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  4. 4
    Cut the mushroom at the base.
    The mushroom must be collected before creating a spore print. Cut a fully mature mushroom at the base, near the ground, then remove the stem.
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  5. 5
    Place the mushroom.
    Place the mushroom onto plain paper or a glass slide with the gills facing down.
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  6. 6
    Wrap it.
    Use the wax paper to wrap the mushroom for temporary storage. Do not use plastic wrap, as this will increase the rate at which the mushroom decays.
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  7. 7
    Storage.
    Gently store the mushroom in a container until you get home. Be careful not to squash the mushroom.
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  8. 8
    Cover the mushroom.
    Once you arrive home, remove the mushroom from the wax paper and place a glass dome or cup over the paper and mushroom. Clear glass will allow you to monitor the spore prints progress.
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  9. 9
    Wait.
    Spore prints can take from 3 to 12 hours. This is dependent on the mushroom. Consult your reference materials and notes to begin the identification process during this time.
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  10. 10
    Check the spore print.
    Once enough time has passed, the gills will release enough spores to make a print on the paper or glass slide. Spore prints do not change. That is, each mushroom has a unique spore print. Save the print for identification purposes.
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  11. 11
    Match traits with reference manuals.
    Use the information you documented previously - particularly color, habitat, and shape - to find the mushroom in a reference manual. Field guides are generally organized by mushroom shape and how the gills are attached to the stem.
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  12. 12
    Match pictures first.
    If you took pictures, then find the matching mushroom in the picture guide.
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  13. 13
    Match descriptions.
    The field guide description will highlight, typically in italics, the shape and color of a mushroom, the gill color, and any peculiarities of the stalk. Match the sizes of the cap and stalk and also any other characteristics which are offered by the manual.
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  14. 14
    Match habitat.
    Check that the habitat which you described matches with the manuals defined habitat for the mushroom.
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  15. 15
    Check the spore print.
    All references will state the color of a spore print. When your print is finished compare the spore print with the description or photograph within the guide.
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  16. 16
    Always, always, always check lookalikes.
    Many mushrooms have lookalikes. If you are trying to identify a small, brown, button-shaped mushroom, then look through the descriptions and match characteristics for every small, brown, button-shaped mushroom in the field guide.
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  17. 17
    Optional:
    Inspect spores with a microscope. Spores are characterized as smooth, ornamented, ridged, pitted, elliptical, warted, etc. Spore size and shape are well documented and greatly assist in identifying a mushroom.
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  18. 18
    Scrape spores with a knife.
    Gently run a knife through a spore print or around the mushroom gills to collect spore dust.
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  19. 19
    Place spores on a clean slide.
    Slide the dust gently onto a microscope slide and place a cover slip over the slide.
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  20. 20
    Stage the slide.
    Stage the slide carefully onto the microscope staging platform.
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  21. 21
    Find proper magnification.
    Begin with a low magnification and focus on the spore dust. Each time you increase the focus, locate the dust of spores again. This will ensure that you are looking at the correct spore dust.
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  22. 22
    Document spore characteristics.
    Write down the spore size, shape, and color. Include any particular characteristics.
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  23. 23
    Use the new information to clarify which mushroom you have found with the field guides.
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Tree bark mushrooms

There are many types of tree bark mushrooms. Some are edible and some are not edible. The pictures below illustrate the edible and inedible fungi.

  1. 1
    Trametes Versicolor - This is also known as the "turkey tail" mushroom because the shape and the color of this mushroom is similar to the tail of the turkey.
    Researchers says that it is one of the medicinal fungi because of its anti-cancer effects and its enhanced immune system. It can be found in pine trees, birch trees, walnut trees and chestnut trees. It is edible and it is often used in making tea.
    1-Merged 200px-Screen shot 2013-09-07 at 2.52.09 PM.jpg
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  2. 2
    Ganoderma Applanatum - This is another type of edible mushroom.
    It is also called the "artist's conk" because you can write or draw on its body by scraping the white pores off of it. You can create any images you want and it can be preserved for several months or years. It is also a medicinal because of its an anti-tumor properties. In addition, it stimulates the immune system and can help with lowering blood pressure if you make and drink a tea out of it. It can be found in tulip trees, magnolia trees and pepper trees.
    2-Merged Screen shot 2013-09-07 at 3.17.36 PM.jpg
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  3. 3
    Inonotus Obliquus - This is also known as "Chaga." It is another type of medicinal mushroom.
    It has an antioxidant effect and has been used for medical purposes in Russia and Baltic. It is said that it is the most powerful fungi as it has a huge amount of health benefits. Aside from having a strong antioxidant, it is also rich in chloride, manganese, dietary fiber, magnesium, phosphorous, potassium, sodium and other important nutrients. It is colored black and looks like burnt wood.
    3-Merged Screen shot 2013-09-07 at 9.26.07 PM.jpg
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  4. 4
    Ganoderma Lucidum - This is popular in Chinese medicine as they called is "Reishi." Some health professionals claim that it can help fight allergies and can heal diabetes, cancer, heart problem and liver disease.
    Reishi may also be good for high blood pressure because it causes blood thinning.
    4-Merged Screen shot 2013-09-07 at 9.30.24 PM.jpg
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  5. 5
    Fomes Fomentarius - This mushroom also grows in a tree and it is usually called "Tinder Polypore." It is NOT edible .
    It is used for tinder or lighting a fire because of its flammable material. They can also be used as needle cushions so the needle or pin won't rust.
    5-MergedScreen shot 2013-09-07 at 9.36.23 PM.jpg
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Domed fungi

  1. 1
    Panaeolina foenisecii - This is also called "Haymaker's mushroom." It is small and colored brown and can usually be seen in the lawn, meadows or farm.
    It contains a small amount of chemical called hallucinogenic psilocybin, and that's why researchers said that it's poisonous. It's NOT edible .
    Screen shot 2013-09-08 at 9.58.38 AM.png
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  2. 2
    Nolanea quadrata - This is also known as Entoloma salmoneum.
    It is colored orange and can be found in a rocky mountains on moist areas. It is very thin and can be poisonous. It is also NOT edible .
    Screen shot 2013-09-08 at 10.02.00 AM.png
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  3. 3
    Gymnopus acervatus - Its common name is Clustered Collybia.
    It can be found in dense clusters on a decayed woods or logs. The caps are dry and colored brown. Its spore is white and the gills are attached. Do not try to eat this type of fungi because its edibility is unknown.
    Screen shot 2013-09-08 at 10.04.02 AM.png
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  4. 4
    Lycoperdon perlatum - This is also known as "Puffball." Its color is white and sometimes light brown.
    It has circular warts on its cap. It is edible while it's still young, but when the fungi has turned yellow or light brown, it is advised not to eat it. It is usually found in the woodlands and sometimes can also be found in the grasslands.
    Screen shot 2013-09-08 at 10.06.52 AM.png
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  5. 5
    Amanita virosa - This is a beautiful fungus with a pure white color, but it is very dangerous, so that's why it's called "Destroying Angel." It is commonly found in the forest during fall.
    Do not eat this type of fungi. It may be fatal when eaten as it is highly toxic. To identify the "Destroying Angel," please remember that the cap, the stem and gills are pure white in color. The diameter of the cap is about 5-10 cm.
    6-Merged Screen shot 2013-09-08 at 10.09.08 AM.jpg
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  6. 6
    Russula claroflava - This is yellow in color and has a soft white cell.
    It can be found in the woods during the summer and fall under a birch tree. It is edible, but needs to be cooked first before eating it. It has no compelling smell and it tastes a bit spicy. It can be mixed with meat dishes or soups. It can also be used as omelette fillings.
    7-Merged Screen shot 2013-09-08 at 10.12.21 AM.jpg
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What Have Professionals Said About Poisonous Mushrooms and Their Effects

Almost seventy of all the mushroom species are toxic. While most cases of mushroom poisoning only leads to minor ailments and damages to the body, there are which that causes permanent damage and worst; fatality. The toxin or poison in mushrooms are caused by fungi that naturally grow in them.

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Five of the Deadliest Mushrooms:

  • Deadly Conocybe or Pholiotina filaris
  • Death Cap
  • Deadly Galerina
  • False Morel
  • Destroying Angel

Common Symptoms of Mushroom Poisoning

  • stomach cramps
  • diarrhea
  • high fever
  • vertigo
  • irregular heartbeat
  • dizziness
  • excessive thirst
  • delirium
  • convulsion
  • lowered high blood pressure
  • hallucination
  • pupil constriction
  • blurry vision

More Serious Effects of Poisonous Mushroom to the Body

  1. 1
    Liver damage
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  2. 2
    Sudden Kidney failure
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  3. 3
    Death
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First Aid on Mushroom Poisoning

One should immediately call a doctor, but while waiting for professional medical assistance to come, here are some steps that you can do to apply first aid treatment:

  • Induce vomiting.
  • Pump the stomach to get rid of the remaining toxin inside the body.
  • When conscious, make sure to hydrate the victim. This will help him or her have better chances of survival.

To ensure that you are only consuming the edible mushrooms, do your research. There is tons of information that can help you. It is better to invest a little more time reading than compromising your life or the people you love.

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Identifying a parasitic mushroom

Mushroom.jpg

Hypomyces is a genus of parasitic Ascomycete fungi. The host is a member of the genera Russula or Lactarius, and the parasitic fungus is Hypomyces lactifluorum. One of its members is known as Lobster mushroom. Russula brevipes is a species of mushroom, also known as the short-stemmed russula. This mushroom exudes milky fluid if cut or damaged. However, once it becomes parasitic from the ascomycete fungus, it transforms into lobster mushroom. The parasitic fungi needs a host, and when it grows with Russula and Ascomycete fungi grows, the original color of Russula will turn to orange and the size will be doubled or tripled. The shape will also be deformed. Why is it called lobster mushroom? When you cook lobster mushroom, the color looks like a lobster shell and it has a seafood-like aroma.

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Tips Tricks & Warnings

  • Never eat any mushroom you are unsure of. Never!
  • Never use plastic bags. Use a paper grocery bag if a basket is unavailable.
  • Always wear gloves. Protect your hands from the natural oils that plants secrete which cause rashes, e.g. poison ivy.

Questions and Answers

Who were the first people to eat mushrooms?

I'm curious as to who would try that.

Probably somebody who was lost in the woods and sick of eating bark and leaves.

If someone was starving and about to die anyway, they would have nothing to lose if it was poisonous.
If they live through it, then they have a story to tell afterwards.

I just found mushrooms in a planter of flowers?

They are like none I have seen around before. They are shaped like half-opened drink umbrellas, but a button or knob on top. Babies start out as little spears. I cannot find any photos that resemble these.

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There are several types of mushrooms whose appearance is reminiscent of an umbrella, both edible and their nonedible twins. According to your description, you have found a poisonous mushroom Strophariaceae or Psilocybe semilanceata. This mushroom has a cap of 2-20 mm. Its surface is smooth and mucous. Its stem is 4-10 cm long with the diameter of 2-3 mm, often curved. The gills might be gray with a sallow hue. The smell is slight, grass- and mold-like. The mushroom grows in humid spots.

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If this is the mushroom that we have described, then it is a very poisonous mushroom; be sure to avoid it and do not let anyone pick it up! If you have touched it, then wash your hands with soap thoroughly as soon as possible.

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