A-Z Notes

  1. General
  2. Photographs
  3. Species
  4. Common Name
  5. Smell
  6. Taste
  7. Habitat
  8. Season
  9. Distribution
  10. Spore Print
  11. Edibility

General

The descriptions in the Fungi A-Z are taken from specialist and popular works and my own collection records. Any errors are mine. For further details please refer to works listed in the bibliography section of this web site.

Please note that the A-Z is a work in progress, and some of the descriptions are incomplete.

Photographs

All photographs, unless indicated otherwise, were taken by me. Whenever possible I have tried to photograph fungi in situ, in order to record the growth habit, and the colours and textures of fresh material. All photographs prior to late 2004 were taken on film, either Kodachrome 64 or Fuji Provia 100F, and digitised with a Minolta 5400 film scanner. Later photographs were taken using Nikon D70, D200 and D600 cameras.

All photomicrographs (photographs taken through a microscope) were taken by me at home using a trinocular laboratory microscope with a Nikon D200 or D600 camera mounted on the photo-port.

Species

The species names follow the conventions in the Checklist of the British & Irish Basidiomycota.

Common Name

The English names given are ones in widespread use in the English speaking world.

In general I recommend using the Latin name for all but a few species which are so distinctive as to merit an English name. Having multiple names simply adds confusion.

Smell

The smell is often rather variable, and subjective. Faint smells can sometimes be intensified by placing a specimen in a sealed container for 30 minutes or more.

Taste

Do not taste any fungus unless you are certain that it is not a poisonous species. To taste a fungus, simply chew a small piece, and then spit it out. It is worth chewing for several minutes as for some species the taste is initially mild, and then hot, and this can be diagnostic

Habitat

For a more complete list of habitats for each species see the Checklist of the British & Irish Basidiomycota.

Season

Although most fungi are seasonal, many will occasionally appear out of season, especially during bouts of unseasonal weather.

Distribution

The distribution is very hard to determine accurately for many reasons. Databases of collections of fungi tend to be biased towards areas with one or more active collectors. Thus Surrey and Devon are particularly well represented, whereas Scotland and Ireland have fewer records. Databases also tend to be biased towards those fungi which can be more readily identified. It is not uncommon for amateur mycologists to ignore some genera, such as Inocybe, simply because they cannot identify them without a microscope. And of course some fungi are easier to find than others. The Scarlet Wax Cap is readily spotted, whereas dull coloured fungi are more likely to blend in to the background.

The distribution also varies across the country, due to different soil types, flora, microclimates, and habitat. Thus wax caps will be scarce in areas that have little or no unimproved grassland, and areas with predominantly acidic soils will favour acid-soil loving species. Many species are known from only a few habitats such as the New Forest, or the Scottish Caledonian Pine forests, but where they are found they can occur in large numbers.

Finally the distribution may vary from one year to another, usually due to climatic differences. Some species may be common one year, but almost absent the following year.

Suffice to say the indicated distribution should be taken as no more than a rough guide.

Spore Print

The Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh publish a useful spore print colour chart which is sometimes ditributed for free with volumes in the British Fungus Flora series. The popular guide by Michael Jordan also includes a useful spore print colour chart.

Edibility

Although many fungi are edible, with excellent flavour, some are deadly poisonous, and others are poisonous unless well cooked. In a few cases a fungus which is highly prized by most people will cause gastric upsets in a minority of people. Do not under any circumstances eat a fungus unless you know for sure that it is an edible species. Simply matching the fungus to an image in a book, or online, is insufficient. If in doubt, throw it out.

The safest approach is to use a book or an online guide to identify a species, and then ask a knowledgeable friend or acquaintance to verify the identification. Alternatively join a local nature or fungus recording group, and enlist the help of one of their experts. Even when you are sure that you have an edible species, it is best to consume only a small quantity at the first meal, to check for any ill effects.

It is also best to avoid picking mushrooms in polluted areas, such as road sides, or areas that are sprayed with chemicals as fungi are known to accumulate toxins and heavy metals. I would also avoid collecting in areas where dogs are walked for obvious reasons.