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Collecting and Studying Mushrooms.

What you will need.

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Saltsprings Provincial Park.

Clothing should be of a sensible nature with stout boots being an necessity.Also, and especially in the Fall, a brightly coloured jacket or hat will be necessary to alert hunters who may also be around pursuing their pastime. A walking cane is also useful for probing undergrowth and supporting oneself on uneven ground.In unfamiliar surroundings a compass or GPS would also be a wise item to carry. A good knife is also necessary for digging out the whole fungus since one of the identifying characteristics of a deadly Amanita is the cup(Volva) at the base of the mushroom. A good basket is essential.I would recommend one made of wicker if it is available to you. After picking, some mushrooms deteriorate very quickly.It is also wise to segregate the mushrooms within the basket.This can be done by utilising paper bags, wax paper or greaseproof paper to wrap your specimens in. Clearly visible,above and at left, is my favoured wicker basket that allows the gathered mushrooms to "breathe".This kind of container is preferable to enclosed containers such as plastic bags etc. Rounding out the must haves is a 10X hand lense.
And if you are anything like me Don't forget your camera !
Seek out your local Naturalist Society.
There may be a member of the local society who has the necessary knowledge to lead a field trip.
Visit your local bookstore and explore the section devoted to "Nature", check out which mushroom field guides are available to you. If I could only recommend one Field Guide it would be "The Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Mushrooms". It was the first book that I bought myself some 25 years ago and it is still a constant companion when I venture in to the woods.
Studying Mushrooms.
Hopefully, when you find mushrooms they will be in different stages of growth. It is preferable to pick mushrooms that are in several stages of growth since then you will have a good representation of their appearance from immature to maturity.. The difference in appearance of some mushrooms in different stages of their development is sometimes very surprising.
For the budding mycologist the identification of fungi is often a frustrating task. One of the most popular ways of attempting identification is to thumb through a Field Guide in the hope that you will find a photograph of your "find". This can,coupled with the text's description sometimes result in a successful identification. Unfortunately there is no book that covers all the species that you may encounter in the woods of Nova Scotia,or any other place for that matter. I am always on the look out for books on mushrooms and I have quite a collection now,but I don't think that I will ever have enough. In a lot of cases identifying to Genus is quite an accomplishment and should not discourage you from pursuing your hobby.
Pictured below are mature and immature Honey Mushrooms, Armillariella mellea.
 

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MATURE. The Honey Mushroom,Armillariella mellea

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IMMATURE. The Honey Mushroom,Armillariella mellea.

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Fairy Fan, Spathularia flavida.

Therefore to begin the identification process we must follow a logical sequence.The specimens you gather should be systematically examined and notes taken as you progress. It is also particularly important to take note of the environment where you made your find. As well as trying to "fit" your find in to a genus and ultimately species it must also "fit" in to the environment that you found it in. In other words, if you gather only facts then ALL the facts must fit before you can say with any certainty that you have identified your specimen correctly. For instance, is the fungus growing directly out of the ground,is it growing on submerged decaying wood, or the trunk of a tree or on a pine cone as the example to the left shows. Is the tree living,dying or dead? What trees are in the immediate vicinity, since your specimen may have formed an mycorrhizal association with a host tree. Are you in the woods or in a grassy area,a meadow a sandy area(we are almost surrounded by the sea) or some other habitat?  All these questions can aid in identifying your specimen.
The next step is to describe the fungus itself. You may wish to start with the cap and work your way down.
Cap; colour,size ,shape,is the surface dry,slimy,moist. Does the surface of the cap have hairs,warts,scales,striations or is it perhaps zoned(bands of varying colours of different diameters).
Gills;Colour(not always an indication of spore print colour) are the gills free from the stem, are they notched(almost reaching the stem but not quite) this is known as adnexed. Are the gills attached,known as adnate, or do they perhaps run down the stem,decurrent. Are the gills crowded,close or distant.
Ring(Annulus);Is a ring present or absent.Single or double. Is the ring superior or inferior(flaring at the bottom, or the top of the ring).
Stalk(Stipe); Size,shape,hollow,stuffed,single or joined with others (cespitose), are there hairs,warts,scabers.
Flesh;Colour,is the texture tough,firm or soft.Does the flesh bruise(change colour) when touched or cut and if so what colour? After cutting does it exude a milky fluid(latex) indicative of the genus Lactarius. Does the latex itself change colour.
Odour; Is the odour strong,mild ,nondescript or is it reminiscent of something familiar?
Taste; Disagreeable, mild or pleasant?. DO NOT under any circumstance swallow any part of a mushroom that you decide to taste. If you do decide to taste it, break off a tiny piece and always spit it out afterwards.
Host; Is the fungus on the ground,on wood,needles,duff etc. Is it under coniferous or deciduous trees or a mixture of both.Is it growing in a grassy area,meadow,in sandy soil or on dung etc. 

Below are pictured mature specimens of Slimy Gomphidius,
Gomphidius glutinosus and the spore print it deposited.

One of the most important things to ascertain when studying mushrooms is the colour of the the spore deposit (spore print). This can be done by cutting off the stalk at the point where it meets the cap and laying the mushroom gill (or pore) side down on a sheet of white paper in your basket. By the time you arrive home it is very possible that the mushroom may have "dropped" it's spores on to your paper.Sometimes it is necessary to leave the mushroom overnight to collect a good deposit.
The spore print of The Slimy Gomphidius, Gomphidius glutinosus is smoky grey to blackish. It's found amongst conifers,especially spruce.

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Slimy Gomphidius, Gomphidius gluutinosus.

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Spore print of Slimy Gomphidius,Gomphidius glutinosus.



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