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When you get home

The following notes are aimed at helping you get the necessary information to start identifying agarics and boletes and will need adapting if your fungus is a bracket, jelly, cup, club or coral fungus. This page does not deal with the gathering of microscopic information but noting the following macro information will be important even if you are planning to use a microscope to help with your identification.

First things first:

Start spore prints (see below ‘making a spore print’): if you have more than one good quality fruit body in your collection, remove the cap from one and set it to drop spores. You will need to keep track of the now split collection and know where you collected it – what it was with etc. If you only have one specimen, cut it longitudinally through both cap and stipe and place one half of the cap to set spores. Carefully retain the other half for sketching and working on later.

Go and have a cup of tea!

On returning to the table:

Cut the remaining good quality specimen in half and make an annotated sketch of what you see (this doesn’t have to be a work of art!).

Start each sketch by writing out the date, site name, habitat and what the fungus was growing with or in (or at least as much as detail as you recorded in the field or can remember).

I would then start with macro characters and then move onto micro characters if you are using a microscope.

Macro characters to note:

·         Spore colour – from the spore print

·         Gills / teeth / pores / tubes - attachment to the stipe; note their colour and any difference in colour on the gill edge; how close are the gills together (measuring the number present in ¼ of the cap will help you get a feel for this), in some genera eg Mycena it is important to note the number of gills that go from the edge of the cap all the way to the stipe; do the gills fork; are lamellules (gills that do not reach the stipe) present; are the gills deep or shallow etc.

·         Stipe – overall shape with particular attention to the base (is the base bulbous, does it have a volva, sclerotium or rhizomorphs); is the stipe central or offset; measure the height and width; note the presence of partial veils (rings or cortinas) or any other pruina, fibres, scales or slime that are present; note the colour and any changes in colour throughout the length; note if the stipe is hollow or solid; note the consistency – is it fleshy, fragile, cartilaginous, leathery, woody.

·         Cap – shape; measure the size; is the cap smooth, lumpy, wavy, split, incurved, striate; note colour using the RBGE Colour Chart or paints / water crayons (if you so wish); colour change if any on drying; consistency (dry, greasy, viscid); veil remains (pay particular attention to the cap edge); innate scales etc.; does the cap cuticle peel off either as a gelatinous skin or (for the genus Russula) how far does the cap cuticle peel toward the cap centre; does the cap deliquesce.

·         Any changes in flesh colour once it is exposed to the air and / or bruised.

·         Any smell immediately on cutting – both of these features can be fleeting and should also be noted in the field.

·         Taste – this is important for some genera including Russula, Lactarius, Galerina and Hypholoma. Note that in Lactarius the milk can taste quite different to the flesh. In all cases, only take a very small amount, chew and remove, do not swallow. Do not try tasting any fungi that are old and decomposing as you will risk a bacterial upset! If you are unsure, ignore this test – you should not be chewing members of the genus Amanita for example!

·         General growth form – is the fungus in a ring, single, trooping or growing in a cluster from a point of shared origin.

 General notes:

·         There are several formalised tick sheets available to help with recording this sort of information.

·         As you get more experienced, you will discover that some of the above information is really only relevant to certain genera but initially it is worth recording as much information as possible.

·         If you have collected a range of different aged specimens, you can sketch the changing outline and characters as the fungus develops.

·         The above is an attempt to get you into good habits but won’t suit everybody. If you think that you know what your fungus is it can be very tempting to talk yourself into seeing what the key / book tells you that you should see. That is fine if it corresponds with what you have objectively drawn or noted but it is an approach that can (and does) lead the best of us down the garden path on occasion!

 Have fun!….

Making a spore print

  • Cut the cap from the stipe 
  • Place the cap gills down onto either paper or, preferably, a glass microscope slide. 
  • Put a drop of water on the cap 
  • Cover with a plastic pot or glass to maintain humidity and stop draughts 
  • Leave for at least an hour but not longer than overnight 
  • Remove cap 
  • If the deposit is made on glass, scrape it into a pile with a cover slip and place the cover slip onto the pile. In this way a fairly consistent thickness of spore layer and thus colour will be obtained


There could be several reasons why spores are not obtained:

  • The toadstool has been stored on its side and the gills have rearranged themselves gravitropically to that position. Thus when the cap is put back into the normal position to take the print, the spores fall onto the face of the gills and not between them. If the toadstool is in good condition the gills will sometimes realign themselves a second time and still produce a spore print.
  • The toadstool is too old or too dry to drop spores – in this case keep a very careful eye out for escaping fungus gnat larvae and deposit the cap in the compost!