Where to Start, Tips and Tools for Learning Mushrooms

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Just as I suspected…

by Brady Raymond

Learning mushrooms can be a frustrating experience, unless of course you have a photographic memory and hours of free time to devote to studying texts and spending time in the field.  Remember, not even the experts always agree on the expert stuff and there will always be more to learn.  If your interests are beyond finding some basic edible species you will no doubt start on a lifelong  journey of trying to figure these gosh darned things out.  Good luck, so are a lot of other people.  Much progress has been made since humans started documenting the different types of fungi they have found but it almost seems like wasted time as every advancement in science always inevitably disregards the old in favor of the new.  Certainly, we pay homage to the work of those done before us but invariably with a snicker and a grin, “If only they knew what we know now.”  But, what we know now will one day be what was known and still not up to snuff as time rolls on, all the while mushrooms are changing and adapting to new environments, constantly staying a step or two ahead of any attempt we make in really figuring them out once and for all.

Books

There are lots of mushroom books out there, find a good one for your region. For the Pacific Northwest I recommend the following;

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Mushrooms Demystified is California biased and the names are a bit outdated but it is still indispensable and quite entertaining.  Both these titles are available at our monthly meetings as well as a large selection of other titles.

-Mushrooms Demystified,
by David Arora, Ten Speed Press

-Mushrooms of the Pacific Northwest,
by Steve Trudell & Joe Ammirati, Timber Press Field Guide

Remember, having a variety of guides can help in identification, there can be quite a bit of variation among species and having lots of pictures, descriptions and keys all help in sorting stuff out. Don’t discount old books found at used bookstores, garage sales, etc… The names may have changed but the mushrooms don’t (well, probably not that perceivably in our lifespans at least). There is a lot of valuable information contained within the older texts.  Plus, it is interesting to see how things have changed over the years.

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Some of these titles are old some new, some general info some more specific info.  You can get deep into mushrooms and this accounts for only really just the tip of your toe.

Books with illustrations instead of photos can sometimes be very helpful in ID, they tend to emphasize features that you may overlook in a photo.  The same can be said about monochrome photos (black and white).  You often times notice the structure or texture of a given mushroom that you may miss with a color photo.  Don’t forget your trees either,  something as simple as the pamphlet in the picture above goes a long way in the field for identification.  Many mushrooms are mycorrhizal, forming relationships with trees, knowing what trees a mushroom was growing around can aid greatly in that specimens ID.

 

Online

The internet is an awesome resource for almost anything, including malarky. Always double and triple check your ID if you intend to consume. “If in doubt throw it out” follow that mantra religiously. With that said, here are a few interesting sites to check out.

Matchmaker this is downloadable, enabling it’s use in the field

Pictorial Key to Mushrooms of the Pacific Northwest

Mushroom Observer

Atlases & Maps

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There are lots of map options, the USGS also has topo maps that get even more detailed.

How else are you going to know where to go, or for that matter where you’ve been? If funds permit, invest in a variety, often times they have information that the others may not. You have to find mushrooms to learn mushrooms. All the books, classes and clinics are no substitute for getting out there and finding some specimens to dig into.

 

Puget Sound Mycological Society

PSMS offers a variety of classes, field trips and workshops for its members. If you are not a member consider the benefits of joining by visiting our website.

Puget Sound Mycological Society

Remember to visit our website for updates or changes to schedules provided below

PSMS Monthly Meetings open to the public on the second Tuesday of the month at the Center For Urban Horticulture.

When: Second Tuesday of the month, meeting begins at 7:30pm, doors open around 7:00pm

Where: Center for Urban Horticulture (CUH), 3501 NE 41st Street, Seattle

 

Hildegard Hendrickson ID Clinic for identification of your wild mushrooms in the Glass Atrium at the Center for Urban Horticulture. One or more of our identifiers will be there to tell you the name of your wild mushroom collections, and answer your mushroom-related questions.

When: Mondays from 4 – 7pm during the spring and fall wild mushroom seasons

Where: Center for Urban Horticulture (CUH), 3501 NE 41st Street, Seattle
The spring ID clinics usually start in mid-April (or earlier depending on the weather) and continue until the end of the spring mushroom season. The fall ID clinics usually start in late September (or when the fall rains start in the Pacific Northwest.)
At the same location and time, the Master Gardeners hold a plant identification and plant disease identification session. You may also bring plants for consultation.

 

North American Mycological Association

To find a club near you check out NAMA’s website and click on “CLUBS” in the header bar.