How To Identify A Mushroom
Educating yourself on how to identify a mushroom is vital to your health, if you plan to hunt for your own specimens. Some mushrooms are edible and are even considered delicacies; many others are non-palatable, poisonous, or even deadly.
To identify a mushroom, you will need:
- Mushroom field guide book
- High-powered microscope
- Postage scale
Knowing how to identify a mushroom can be easier if you study the specimen in relation to those catalogued in the mushroom field guidebook and take the following factors into consideration:
- Measure its size and weight. Some types of mushrooms grow to cover a large portion of the forest floor, and some are as small as one millimeter. Use a scale, such as the postage variety, to weigh the mushroom. Since there are more than 38,000 varieties of mushrooms available, some are bound to be similar in size and weight; so this alone is not how to identify a mushroom.
- Observe its color. Mushrooms grow in a multitude of colors: pure white, red, gray, brown—even purple. Some can fool you in their similarity, so color alone is not how to identify a mushroom.
- Smell its odor. If you crush the cap of the mushroom, that might bring out its odor more. Some mushrooms smell like raw potatoes; some smell like green corn; and some even smell like chlorine bleach. Some highly toxic mushrooms smell almost identical to the edible varieties, so smell alone is not how to identify a mushroom.
- Check its form of growth. Some edible mushrooms grow in fairy rings, such as the Marasmius oreades, often called the Scotch bonnet. However, the Agaricus campestris, known as the meadow mushroom, also grows in a fairy ring, yet it is quite toxic; so form of growth alone is not how to identify a mushroom.
- Make note of its habitat. Some mushrooms are found in moist areas deep in the woods, while others can be found in the middle of a lawn. Still, habitat alone is not how to identify a mushroom.
- Note the time of year you found it. Some varieties, like the Morel, tend to arrive in the springtime. Others are better when harvested in the fall. This alone is not how to identify a mushroom, either; all of the factors should be combined for a good identification.
Always gather edible mushrooms that are unique in some obvious way: puffballs, for example, look like a golf ball and are white and featureless inside; and lawyer’s wigs are large and distinctive enough that they can easily be identified.
Choose mushrooms that are firm in texture, even in color, and tightly capped.
Ingesting wild mushrooms without positively identifying them as edible can cause illness, insanity, and even death.
According to the Missouri Department of Conservation, every mushroom hunter should be familiar with amanitas, false morels, and little brown mushrooms. These are the three most dangerous types of fungi.