Fungi is mainly classified based on their reproductive structure. There are 7 Phyla currently proposed: Microsporidia, Chytridiomycota, Blastocladiomycota, Neocallimastigomycota, Glomeromycota, Ascomycota, and Basidiomycota.
The two most common types of fungi are boletes or agarics. Agarics have gills and boletes have tubes that give it the appearance of a sponge. Each of these types evolved to provide more surface area for spore production.
Fungi is responsible for most of the decomposition of fallen trees and dead limbs. The fruiting bodies are what we think of as the fungus, but sometimes we don’t see these for years. The real impetus of fungi is the mycelium that is deep within the wood, litter, or ground. This fruiting body may last for only a few days before it is eaten or decays.
Identifying and naming fungi is difficult because the names are changing quite often. These changes are based on scientists use of microscopes to examine the fungi rather than the original classification based on their appearance in the field.
Some general questions to note in your field guide that are helpful to making an accurate ID are:
- On what strata did you find it? (certain type of tree, decaying wood, dirt, manure,etc)
- What type of odor does it have? Many mushrooms have a distinct aroma and this can be key to making an ID.
- Does it have gills, pores, or ridges?
- What color are the gills? This is easily told by making a spore print. Cut the stalk off and put the cap on a piece of transparent or wax paper with a cup over it so it remains moist. Leave it overnight and you’ll have the print in the morning. By using the wax paper, you can put different colors underneath it to see if the spores are light colored or dark colored.
I generally consult with professionals when I’m identifying fungi I find but sometimes I venture out on my own; accuracy is my goal so please advise me if you find a wrong ID. Here’s a list of the references used.
Calvatis gigantea -Giant Puffball
Conocybe tenera group – Brown Dunce Cap
Coprinopsis lagopus -Inky caps
Cyathus striatus – Dung-loving Bird’s Nest Fungus
Morchella esculenta – Yellow Morel
Morganella pyriformis – Pear-shaped Puffball
Stereum complicatum – Crowded Parchment
Trametes versicolor – Turkey-tail