Mushrooms are not just captivating to look at; they are intricate components of ecosystems, performing vital roles in nutrient cycling and soil health. Creating a fungarium, a collection of preserved mushroom specimens, is a wonderful way to appreciate their diversity and contribute to scientific knowledge. In this article, we delve into the methods of collecting, identifying, and recording mushrooms for our own fungarium, combining the joys of exploration with the pursuit of understanding the fungal world.
Step 1: Gathering Supplies
Before you embark on your mushroom-collecting journey, ensure you have the right tools. The equipment listed here will be available on our set foraying days but members are encouraged to record fungi themselves when visiting the woodland:
- Appropriate clothing: sensible waterproof footwear and a jacket/raincoat.
- Basket or Bag: Choose a breathable container to carry your finds. Ideally this is a basket with a flat base. Do not use plastic bags which will cause the mushrooms to “sweat”, a buildup of moisture that could damage the specimen, reducing them to merely a mush.
- Tackle Box: A DIY kit or tackle box is a great way of storing speciemens especially, small fruitbodies.
- Paper Bags: Handy for keeping specimens separated in a collectin basket
- Knife: Carry a knife for cleanly cutting away any hard polypores. It is not use for cutting a mushroom stem when picking a specimen! Also try and take the whole fruit body. If you are out on an edible mushroo, foray you may want to dress down the stem of the mushroom cleaning soil and debris from the mushrooms before putting it into your basket.
- Note book: small pcoket will suffice, you can get hold of waterproof paper notebooks otherwise if its raining you’ll
- Phone/camera: Photos, esepcialy with a camera using a GPS reference is a great addition to the records.
- Trowel: A small trowel can help when needing to carefully lift a fruitbody from the soil.
- Tags (numbered): Taking a few numbered tags makes it quick and easy to
Step 2: Safe and Ethical Collection
When collecting mushrooms, follow these guidelines to ensure safety and sustainability:
- Identify Edibility: If you plan to consume the mushrooms, be absolutely certain of their edibility and only try a small amount if you have never eaten it before. THIS IS NOT A GUIDE FOR EATING FORGAED MUSHROOMS. Just saying that out loud. To begin with we’re going to get familiar with the fungal families, before attempt to ingest them. However, we may find some good edible species for lunch!
- Sustainable Harvesting: Collect a few specimens, leaving the majority to disperse spores and support the ecosystem. Remember we are not the only organisims that enjoy mushrooms!
- Leave No Trace: Avoid damaging the environment, walk slowly and careful through the woodland. Gently lift leaves, moss, soil and debris to access mushrooms, and replace them afterward. Remeber good words leave no trace, good travellers leave no tracks…..
To help our members to gather as much data as possible when collecting and recording specimens of fungi for our Fungarium we provide the following description of the method and best practice of collection and note taking.Firstly you will be assigned a recording number or collection code based on this formula:
Your initials – year – day of the year – number of specimen for the day
- Take at least 3 pictures:
- closeup of specimen or group of fruitbodies;
- wider scale of habitat;
- specimen(s) once collected.
- Numbering the specimen (with the tags) make habit notes: growth patterns, prevalence and the substrate.
- Make habitat notes: nearby flora, other characteristics of the nearby woodlandthe type of trees, soil, moisture level, and any other relevant information.
- Collect the whole fruit body including any basal parts. This may require lightly digging if there is a stem that “roots” into the ground.
- Note the smell and, if you have had the training (and inclination!), the taste (spit out!).
- Store the specimen(s) appropriately, use the tackle box for smaller specimens and the basket with paper bag for larger fruitbodies. Add a tag with number for the smaller specimens and number the paper bag with larger specimens.
- If possible upload picture specimen with grid reference (automatic) and collection code to iNaturalist.
Step 3: Identification and Recording
Once you have collected your speciemens its time to begin the careful process of recording and indentification. Accurate records are essential for our fungarium and potential scientific contributions.
It might be the case the specimen is common and therefore easy to obtain a positive identification of the species of fungi. However, if we are not able to do so, that’s alos very interesting, and we need to be able to record as much information as possible, including the preservation of the specimen, in particular the spores and the DNA, so we can study the specimen in more detail at a later time. Here we describe the process of identification and recording for our fungarium, firstly the equipment and materials we use.
Ruler: for measuring the dimensions of the fruitbody
Colour chart: to refer to the shades of colours.
Glossary of Identification Terms: we have compiled a list of descriptive terms, you might need a dictionary as well, describing fungi can certainly improve your vocabulary!
Recording Sheet: We have put together template recording sheets for different general groups of fruitbodies (see below).
Tinfoil: for taking spore prints.
Zip lock bags: for storing spore prints
Pre-printed labels: the general collection details are used to label the zip lock bag that the recording sheet, dried specimen and sealed spore print are stored in.
- Mushrooms and other Fungi of Great Britain and Europe; Roger Philips
- Fungi of Temperate Europe; Vol. 1 & 2, 2019, Jens H. Petersen, Thomas Laessoe
- Arrange the specimens on a table (we have large white plastic boards for this) with their number tags.
- Taking the correct recording sheet begin filling the relevant details. It might be possible to identify the fungi from the macro features, if not it will help to take a spore print, either way we will take a spore print when possible for all new species added to the Fungarium.
- Where it is possible take spore prints use a piece of the tinfoil twice the size of the area of the fruitbody releasing the the spores (usualy the cap but not necessarily). The spore print can then be stored by folding the tinfoil into an envelope and, ensuring that it is completely dry, place in a zip lock bag.
Step 5: Preservation
We preserve the specimens for long-term study and appreciation:
- Drying: Once all the details have been recorded the specimen is dried using the dehydrator. We use a 9 tray excalibur dehydrator. The mushrooms are placed on a mesh screen and dehydrated on the lowest heat setting.
- Storage: Once completely dried, store mushroom in a zip lock bag and together with the spore print and the folded recording sheet it is placed in another zip lock bag with the completed label attached.
Step 6: Learning and Sharing
Participate in online forums, local mushroom clubs, or workshops to further your identification skills and knowledge. Sharing your findings with fellow enthusiasts can be both educational and rewarding.
A Journey of Discovery
Creating a fungarium not only deepens your connection with the natural world but also contributes to the understanding of fungi’s vital role in our ecosystems. By carefully collecting, identifying, and recording mushrooms, you’re not only nurturing your curiosity but also preserving valuable scientific data. Each mushroom you add to our fungarium is a testament to the intricate beauty and complexity of the fungal kingdom, a living museum that reflects our passion for exploration and appreciation of nature’s wonders.