Tips for Identifying and Photographing Mushrooms
by Dr. Robert Berdan
Pholiota aurivella, Golden Scally cap growing on a dead log, Midland, Ontario in September. This species is not edible.
Phylum: Basidiomycota Class: Agaricomycetes Order: Agaricales Family: Strophariaceae. Some books list as edible, others e.g. by David Arora describe it as a species to avoid. It grows in clusters on live or dead trees. Click here to view a photo-micrograph of its spores.
In this photo I pushed one of the mushrooms over so I could see the stalk and gills. The gills appear to be narrowly attached to the stipe (adnexed). Identity unknown.
Funnel shaped mushrooms, photographed in Prelude Territorial Park, NWT in September.
When flipped over these funnel shaped mushrooms have gills.
Funnel shaped mushrooms Bragg Creek, AB . These had brownish caps and dark brown to black spores. My best guess
Small white mushrooms growing on a decaying larger mushroom, September, Prelude Territorial Park, NT.
Nyctalis parasitica - grows on Russula and whie lactarii mushrooms in the decaying stage.
In this photo I pushed the mushroom over, but I can't clearly see the gills or pores clearly making the identification of this mushroom difficult. It appears to belong to the Boletus group of mushrooms but otherwise identity unknown.
LBJ's or Little brown Jobs - mushrooms growing next to Wedge Pond in Kananaskis covered in frost.
Above two unusual fungi with small stalk, probably members of Helotiales also called Earth tung fungi. The yellow mushroom on the left was photographed in Alberta and is a Club Mushroom - Clavariadelphus truncatus and is edible. The red mushroom on the right is unidentified. For a chart of Edible mushrooms of Alberta click on this link to view - PDF.
Coral-like Mushrooms (Clavariaceae)
The group includes fleshy fungi with 7 genera and about 120 species, some simple, unbranched, upright clubs and intricately branched coral-like forms. They come in a variety of colours. A sterile base, stalk or trunk is normally present. Many species are differentiated on the basis of of microscope and chemical characteristics.
Conifer Coral Hericium (Hericium abietis) other names: coral hydnum, bear's head, goat's beard. Grows on coniferous logs, and is edible. Spines may reach 2.5 cm or 1 inch in length.
When I first saw this mushroom it reminded me of a spiny nudibranch mollusc (Alabaster nudibranch) . This mushroom was found on a dead log in Brown Lowery park outside of Calgary in June. This mushroom also appears to belong to the Clavulina genera consisting of mostly white branched coral fungi. The total length of this fungi was only about one inch.
Ramaria (Coral fungi) include pliant fungi with elaborately branched fruiting bodies. This sample was found in Prelude Territorial park, NWT in early September. It appears to have dried out. Ramaria are distinguished from other branched coral fungi by its tan to orange-yellow spores and frequently colourful fruiting body. Includes over 35 species.
Reddish-orange mushroom with gills and depressed cup. Deciduous forest in Autumn.
Gilled mushroom growing out of a dead tree stump, northern Ontario in autumn.
Tiny red mushroom cap found on the ground of a deciduous forest in October near Midland, Ontario.
Orange mushroom with gills.
This mushroom grew along one of the bike trails near Bragg Creek. It was growing under Jack pine trees, but I did not
look at the underside of the mushroom making identification difficult. My best guess is that this is a Clitocybe sp.
Unidentified yellow-brown mushrooms with decurrent gills, northern Ontario, September.
Unidentified orange mushrooms, northern Ontario, September.
Alcohol Inky - only poisonous if you are drinking alcohol. This mushroom inhibits the liver enzyme alcohol dehydrogenase that we use to break down alcohol. The mushroom changes color from pale to black, followed by liquefaction, and is its most striking character (see photo below).
Small dark brown caps growing out of a rotting log in a deciduous forest, Midland, Ontario in October.
Polypore growing on dead birch tree. Autumn, deciduous forest in Northern Ontario.
This small less then 1 inch in size mushroom was growing on a dead log in Bragg Creek. My best guess is that this Orange sponge polypore (Phaeolus alboluteus). There is no stalk, and the walls are often jagged.
Golden Jelly Cone fungi (Guepiniopis alpinus) grows on coniferous wood debris and logs. Midland, Ontario.
Yellow Fairy Fan (Spathularia flavida) also called Yellow earth tongue. Small and often grow in coniferous forests, this one was photographed in Prelude Territorial park in the Northwest Territories in September. Supposedly edible, but small and tough.
Another fungus growing on a dead log, - identity unknown. It was growing in a deciduous forest in Northern Ontario. this photograph was taken in October.
Things to Avoid when Photographing Mushrooms
if you are photographing in a forest on a sunny day you will get more even lighting if you photograph specimens in the shade. If there is no shade create it using an umbrella or stand in front of the mushroom. If the specimen is dirty or covered in debris consider cleaning up some of the debris or removing branches and leaves around the mushroom that obscure the view.
This photo shows several things to avoid when taking a photograph of a mushroom. In general try not to put the mushroom in the center of the frame - there are exceptions. If there are branches, wires, grass or garbage in the scene selectively remove them or pin them back when you take the photo.
Some photographers like to use a flash or artificial lighting, others prefer natural light, the choice is yours, you may want to experiment to see which type of lighting gives you the best results.
Close-up view of mushroom gills
For identification and documentation purposes you may also want to include components that reveal the size of the mushroom, a person's hand, finger, a pocket knife, pine needles, a coin or ruler in your photos.
Yellow capped gilled mushroom. Found growing in a coniferous forest near Bragg Creek, AB in July. Identity unknown.
Possibly a yellow Russula. Gills adnate, stout stem lacks ring and volva.
Finally, if your camera supports HD video, consider shooting a short clip of the mushroom from different angles. Or if you want a challenge try taking some time-lapse video of the mushroom while it is growing, be sure to protect your camera if you do this in the field. Some photographers cover the mushroom and their camera with a plastic dome (e.g. watch Amanita muscaria time-lapse video).
Unidentified mushroom growing on the tundra in the Northwest Territories. Caribou have been observed to eat mushrooms as well as lichens.
I would love to find some of thes emushrooms to photograph! Panellus stipticus, grows on rotting wood and has luminescent gills. More common in Eastern North America then the west. Photo by Ylem from Wikipedia commons. A good reason to be photograping in the forest at night. See list of bioluminescent fungi at Wikipedia.
Mushrooms are cultivated and available for sale at many grocery stores and farmers markets. Picking wild mushrooms is also a growing business in parts of North America particularly the West Coast. Before you try eating wild species you collect why not start by tasting those sold over the counter? This is a safe way to be introduced to the flavour of wild mushrooms. As part of my research on mushrooms I am selecting different species to cook and taste from the store. I can't think of a more fun research project.
Most mushrooms sold in supermarkets are grown commercially mushroom farms. The most popular of these mushrooms, Agaricus bisporus, is considered safe for most people to eat because it is grown in controlled, sterilized environments. Several varieties of A. bisporus are grown commercially, including whites, crimini, and portobello. Other cultivated species now available at many grocers include shiitake, maitake or hen-of-the-woods, oyster, and enoki. In recent years, increasing affluence in developing countries has led to a considerable growth in interest in mushroom cultivation, which is now seen as an important economic activity for small farmers (info from Wikipedia).
Above is a Western Cauliflower Mushroom (Sparassis radicata) collected on Vancouver Island, and purchased by Gabriel Ehnes-Lylly at a farmers market in Calgary. This edible mushroom belongs to the Coral and Club Fungi (Clavariaceae) and fruits at the base of pine trees. I was told they were delicious.
Portobello mushrooms (Agaricus bisporus) - photo by Leif K-Brooks, Brattlebororo Food Co-Op. From Wikipedia - read more.
Agaricus bisporus better known as Portobello mushrooms. These mushrooms are large, about the size a persons palm and are readily availalbe in supermarkets. They have free grills (gills don't touch the stalk), light brown or white with scales on the cap. Stipe has a ring but no volva. They are a good source of vitamin D. In 1999 there were about 1.5 billion tons cultivated worth over $2 billion world wide. I eat these mushrooms fried in Olive Oil with potato patties and they are delicious.
Whether you hunt for wild mushrooms to appreciate, eat or to photograph them, the more you know about them, the more likely you will encounter them. The best place to look for mushrooms is in wet and damp forests and fields. I have found mushrooms to be most abundant in late summer and autumn, some species only grow in spring (e.g. morels). Check out shady forests, areas around waterfalls, ponds, and lakes. Mushrooms grow quickly and can pop up within a few days of rain - watch some of the time lapse movies of mushrooms growing on YoutTube (e.g. Mushroom time-lapse over 48 hours) to see this. Mushrooms can appear quickly and also disappear quickly and the only way to truly preserve their beauty is to sketch, paint or photograph them. I hope to post more articles on mushrooms next year along with photomicrographs of their spores and I plan to start photographing them at farmers markets and other places of re-sale. Who knows I might even try and grow some mushrooms. Happy mushroom hunting. RB
Disclaimer: I am not a mushroom expert, if I made an error in identification I would appreciate if any mushroom experts would help me identify the species in the pictures where I couldn't. According to David Aurora in Mushrooms Demystified, he says "It takes a good deal of commitment and effort to identify mushrooms correctly" and I am just getting started.