With fall come mushrooms - what should we know?

As fall approaches in the Northern Hemisphere, many observations of mushrooms will be made in the coming months. What should we do to make excellent observations of mushrooms so the fall of 2023 will be an outstanding year for mushroom identifiers?

So far, what I aim to do is take a photo from the side, under the cap and a broader photo of the surroundings.

Anything else worth mentioning about mushrooms?


Smell doesn’t come out well in photos, but worth mentioning. Also, what colour the flesh goes when you bruise it can be diagnostic, but there is the question of how long you wait for the colour change. It varies from species to species.


I’m sure you already know this, but please be sure to add at least a general ID (like Fungi) to your observation when you upload it to iNaturalist. That will make it easier for people who do know fungi to find and ID your observation more quickly.


The substrate the mushroom sprouts from can be an important distinction. Deadwood? Leaf duff? Soil? Tree?
Also the base of the mushroom can help. Rounded? Footed?
You don’t need to be overly cautious about touching them. Is it soft, hard, sticky? And as mentioned, scent, although that is subjective, it can help.
The attachment of stem to cap can also help.


If you’re out at night some mushrooms fluoresce under UV light.


It also works if you can block enough ambient light. I’m adding an LED-UV flashlight to my field kit for just this reason.


Thank you all for the information so far. Some new insights for me there!

Can anyone share some graphic with the terminology of a mushroom?


This article seems to have some decent illustrations of parts of anatomy.

Things to consider

-Clear pictures of as many features as you can - cap, stem, and gills/pores if it has them, plus any other features like veil remnants, volva/basal bulb, gill attachment, etc.
-Are the gills flexible, or do they break easily
-Does it bruise? If you scratch it, does it change color? If you break the gills, do they emit liquid? What color is the liquid, does it stain the mushroom - get a picture of this if this happens
-smell, if its obvious
-Trees its near. Broadly, deciduous or conifer helps, but sometimes individual species can help (I’ll usually just end up asking the OP and hoping for a response if I know the host species is the key identifier between multiple species
-taste? (nibble, spit, mostly important for boletes and some russula/lactarius. Safe as long as you don’t swallow the mushroom) - is it spicy? Bitter? How much?
-What color are the spores. If you can’t tell, do a spore print, it can help narrow it down

Basically document as much as you can. Good pictures from multiple angles are the most important, but everything helps. Some species are fairly easy to ID from photographs but some are never going to be IDed without microscopy, DNA testing, and scientists sorting out the mess of genuses that are some North American fungi, so don’t worry if not everything you have doesn’t hit research grade, even with good pictures.

There’s less people taking pictures of fungi, sure, but also way less people that can ID them confidently.


These are great additional tips, thank you.

I actually love hunting mushrooms and taking photos of them. And indeed, I have noticed my mushrooms don’t get much identifications. I haven’t been so thorough in the past with photos though, and would just like to improve this season. Hope that helps the IDs too!

It will definitely help some, but if it doesn’t just don’t get too disheartened - some fungi just really need stuff like microscopy to id & some of the literature is just contradictory, confusing, poorly documented, etc. Don’t get me wrong, I have so much to still learn and there are many many people that are better at iding some of the more obscure stuff - but seriously, just take a gander at this project https://www.inaturalist.org/observations?project_id=167811 and you can see how weird stuff can get.

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Taste can also be a diagnostic point. The safe way to test this is to take a small piece in your mouth for just a second, then spit it out without swallowing any. Even poisonous ones will not hurt you unless you swallow.

I see that @lothlin already explained that. I believe that this Bitter Bolete observation was able to make RG because I mentioned the taste in the notes.


Maybe I’ll get around to taste… I’ve never had a mushroom that I like, and I’m sure I wouldn’t be able to say more that “yuck”… who knows, maybe someday I’ll be surprised!


I was preparing this morning to remember some new mushroom photo positions before my forest walk. However, I have some trouble remembering the different positions. It would really help me if there are some clear visually depictions of the angle under which to photograph parts of the mushroom and its surroundings.

A prioritization of identifiable positions would be nice too. I go out to enjoy nature, and often I like to take some photos of mushrooms I see. However, I do not want to take 12+ photos at different angles with every mushroom I encounter. If I want to take 2, 3, 4 or 5 photos, how would I best take these photos for identification purposes?

I only go out into the field with a phone camera. An additional benefit for me would be to know which positions can be photographed with reasonable quality using a phone camera.

In summary, information I am looking for would ideally be readable on a phone with a visual prioritization list of angular phone photo positions.

You don’t need to take 12 photos. This observation of mine has 4, but honestly I could have gotten away with just uploading the first two https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/185184410

Here’s one with four that does a good job showing the big features - shot of the cap, shot of the gills, shot of the volva, and one more pulled back side shot to show the whole mushroom https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/183770066

I go nuts and upload a bunch of pictures sometimes, but its not strictly necessary; you just want to make sure that all the features of the mushroom are visible. More angles can help, but even just getting one good shot of the cap plus one good underside shot that shows the gills, gill attachment, and stem is going to be better than most mushroom observations on the site.

With polypores, you might not even need that much. Basically just a shot of the top and a shot of the bottom. Depending on the polypore, just a top shot may suffice - IE this tiny chicken nugget of the woods I found recently https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/185084662


Play with your iPhone! That’s all I’ve been using.
I have found “upside down” works well for changing point of view, especially for catching the underside, the .5 wide angle helps more than I thought, too. Sometimes I have used the front facing camera and the timer for undersides, too. I often take several shots trying stuff out. Because I grew up with film, taking a lot is pleasure.


Selfie camera is huge for undersides.


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