This page tries to give a few hints on how to record fungi. Not all issues are covered by any stroke of the imagination!! Click on any topic below that interests you.


@ Joan Shannon

Taking a spore print is one of the first things you should do when trying to identify a fungus. It is important to work out the spore colour, but also when you want to measure spores as using spores that have "dropped" means that they are mature and hence the correct size. It is too easy to measure immature (hence smaller) spores if you just take a squash of the gill. It is very easy to take the print. Put the cap on paper or a microscope slide and leave for a few hours. You can protect it by putting a cup over it. Sometimes, if a fungus is dry, leave it to take the print in the fridge and this can encourage it to drop spores. I use a shoe box with knitting needles inserted the length of the box. The knitting needles are so spaced so that a microscope slide fits over them. The fungus can then be put onto the slide and you don't have to cut the stipe off as it hangs down into the box. 


All biological recording should involve a six figure grid reference indicating where that record was found. To be able to find out the six figure grid reference is, you are first of all going to need one of the Ordnance Survey 1:50000 series maps. Any map at a larger scale (i.e. less detailed) will not allow you to take a six figure grid reference which means that it is accurate to 100m. There are 18 1:50000 maps covering Northern Ireland and they are readily available at large book shops.

A grid reference comes in the form of a letter followed by in this case, six numbers. The whole of Ireland is divided into 100 kilometre squares which all have a letter identifying them. There are five different 100 km squares in Northern Ireland. "J" basically covers County Down, part of Armagh and southern Antrim. "D" covers northern Antrim, "C" covers Londonderry, "H" covers Tyrone, most of Fermanagh and western Armagh. "G" covers the very western part of Fermanagh. You can find very easily which square you are in by looking in the legend of the 1:50000 map as it shows near the bottom right corner which grid letters are found in the area that that map covers.

The next step is to sort out the numbers. The first three numbers of the set give detail down to 100m accuracy of the "eastings" i.e. the lines that cross the map vertically from west to east. The second set of three numbers give details of the "northings", i.e. the lines that cross the map horizontally from south to north. So if the grid reference was J456789, the J would tell you that you are in the south east of Northern Ireland, the 456 would tell you which of the vertical lines to look at and the 789 would tell you which of the horizontal lines to look at. If you have a grid reference of J000000, this means that you are in the very bottom left hand corner of the 100km square and J999999 is likewise the very top right corner.

So the letter gives you 100 km accuracy. Looking at the set of three eastings numbers, the first number tells of the 10km accuracy, the second number tells of the 1km accuracy and the last number gives the 100m accuracy. If you were giving a four figure grid reference, the first two numbers would relate to the eastings and the second two to the northings, but the accuracy would only be to 1 kilometre.

So if you have found on the map where the fungus was that you had found, once you have worked out which lettered square you are in, you then have to find out the six figure reference. Note that there is a regular numbered grid covering the map and that each line is marked at the edge of the map by two numbers (these two numbers are repeated on the map at intervals making it easier for the map reader). These are the eastings (at the top and bottom of the map) and the northings (up and down the two sides of the map) to 1km accuracy so this immediately gives you most of the numbers. Looking at the point where you have found the fungus, first follow the line to the left of the point to the top or bottom of the map to find its number. This gives you the first two numbers of the eastings. Then follow the line below the point to the side of the map and this gives you the first two numbers of the northings. It has to be done in this order as eastings always come before northings and the numbers always go from left to right and bottom to top.

Finally, to work out the grid reference to 100m accuracy or the third number in the three digit eastings and northings sets, you then have to estimate how many tenths the point is from the left hand line and the bottom line. Using a ruler often helps in the beginning, but you soon develop an eye for it.

It really is not hard to do, but the thing just to remember is get the numbers in the right order. Putting the northings before the eastings is.




  • Courtecuisse, R. & Duhem, B. (1992). Mushrooms and Toadstools of Britain and Europe. Collins Field Guide. The best up to date general book with the more species than Bon. The key is harder to use and the drawings not quite as nice, but it is more comprehensive.
  • Bon, Marcel (1987): The Mushrooms and Toadstools of Britain and Northern Europe. Hodder and Staughton. Recommended as the key is the best "simple" key to genus level. Contains drawings of the spores of all the species which is very useful, but some of the species names are not those recognised in Britain. Not good on Ascomycetes.
  • Buczaki, Stefan (1989): New Generation Guide to the fungi of Great Britain and Europe. Collins. Drawings are small and not that useful, but it covers many Gasteromycetes and Ascomycetes that Bon and Courtecuisse does not cover. The key is not good, but it includes a lot of excellent information about the classification, ecology, life cycle of fungi.
  • Phillips, Roger (1981): Mushrooms and other fungi of Great Britain and Europe. Pan Books. Photographic guide. Highly recommended, but for confirming identification, not making them.
  • Jordan, Micheal (1996): Encyclopaedia of Fungi of Britain and Europe. Has received mixed reviews, but contains photos of many groups of species not covered elsewhere.


  • Nordic Macromycetes. Hansen. L & Knudsen, H. Vol 1 covers the Ascomycetes and is just out, Vol 2 contains keys for the Boletes and Agarics. Vol 3 contains keys for the Brackets and associated fungi. These contain only keys and no pictures, but using it you can key out to species level. These are the essential books.
  • Moser, M. (1983): Keys to Agarics and Boleti. Phillips. This was the essential book before Nordic Macromycetes and as with many keys, it is useful trying to key a fungus out with more than one key to get a more confident identification.
  • Breitenback, J. & Krazlin, F. Fungi of Switzerland. There are five volumes with excellent photographs accompanying each species description. Vol 1 Ascomycetes, Vol 2 Non gilled fungi, Vol 3 Boletes and Agarics, Vols 4&5 Agarics continued. These are expensive however.

Of course, it would be better if there was a British Fungus Flora. There is to an extent with 8 volumes so far published, but they are mainly smaller groups. All these volumes are relatively cheap between £9 and £12. The volumes so far produced, available from the Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh and published by HMSO, are:

Vol 1: Boleteceae (1970)*. Out of Print.

Vol 2: Coprinaceae (1979)*. Out of Print.

Vol 3: Bolbitaceae: Agrocybe, Bolbitius & Conocybe (1982)*. Out of Print.

Vol 4: Plutaceae: Pluteus & Volvariella. (1986)

Vol 5: Strophariaceae & Coprinaceae (1986).

Vol 6: Crepidotaceae & Pleurotaceae. (1987).

Vol 7: Cortinariaceae: Galerina, Gymnopilus, Leucocortinarius. (1993).

Vol 8: Cantheralaceae, Gomphaceae and Xeruloid Mayloid spored Tricholomataceae including Melanoluca. (1998).

  • Ellis, M. & Ellis, J. (1990): Fungi without gills (Hymenomycetes and Gasteromycetes). Excellent for Brackets, Fairy Club fungi etc.

Then there are the books that specialise on one group.

  • Boertmann, D. (1996): The genus Hygrocybe. Danish Mycological Society. The excellent book on waxcaps. This is vol 1 of the Fungi of Northern Europe.
  • Heilmann-Clausen, J, Verbeken, A. & Vesterholt, J. (1998): The genus Lactarius. Vol 2 Fungi of Northern Europe. The essential book for the milk-caps. Photography is excellent.
  • Pegler, D et al (1996): British Puffballs, Earthstars and Stinkhorns. Kew. The book for the Gasteroid fungi.
  • Pegler, D et al (1997): British Chanterelles and Tooth Fungi. Kew. Includes Hydnellum, Sarcodon, Phellodon.
  • Rayner, R. (1985): Keys to the British species of Russula. BMS.
  • Galli, R. There are three book in Galli's series which although written in Italian, does have English keys. "Le Russule", I Boleti" and "I Tricolomi" are all very ggod buys.The thing that marks these books out in particular are their fantastic photographs. 
  • Lannoy, G & Estades: Monographie des Leccinum d'Europe. The essential book for Leccinums. In French with English key.
  • Sarnari, M.: Monographie illustrata del genere Russula in Europa. In Italian with English keys, this is an important new reworking of Russula. It covers half the species with volume 2 eagerly awaited.
  • Ryvarden, L & Gilbertson, R. European Polypores, Vols 1&2. Again, an essential book if into Brackets.
  • Ing, B.: Myxomycetes of Britain & Ireland. Again, the book.
  • All the Ellis and Ellis books on non-gilled fungi and microfungi.

Most of these specialist books can be obtained from either Richmond Publishing, PO Box 963, Slough, SL2 3RS or Pendleside Books, 359 Wheatley Lane Road, Fence, Burnley, BB12 9QA. An alternative is to buy some of these books in Italy. This can be a very good option given the strength of the Pound. An address is Mykoflora, via Ottone Primo 90, 1-17021 Alassio-Moglio. Tel: 00-39-0182-469500 or e-mail:

Then there are other keys published by the BMS in the KEYS series. Of note is the key to British Lactarius by Patrick Leonard. Full details of all the keys in KEYS can be found on the BMS website. Roy Watling’s key to Leccinum can also be downloaded from the web. Details also in the BMS website:

The BMS has also a set of four very useful booklets in the series "Guides for the Amateur Mycologist". They are:

1. Guide for the beginner £1.50

2. Guide to Identification with a Microscope - £2.00

3. Guide to Recording Fungi - £2.00

4. Guide for the Kitchen collector: preserving and cooking - £2.50

Available from:

Mrs Valerie Barkham
The Herbarium
Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
Richmond, Surrey TW9 3AB, UK
(e-mail: )



Drying fungi is very important. If you have a rare find or something you have not managed to identify, you have to dry it so it can be looked at again. The taxonomy of many groups is not fully understood and is constantly being reexamined. Your dried specimens may be able to help such a revision and also you may want to discover what an old find is now called! As drying alters the fungi, good notes are also essential.

In the ABFG journal, Vol III, issue 1 (Feb 1999), Jack Marriott gave a description of how to make a tray that fitted onto a radiator for drying fungi. It involves using a sheet of expanded aluminium sheet which you can buy in car shops for repairing car bodies. You can shape it into two trays with a central groove which fits over the radiator, the two trays sitting on either side of the radiator.

The key to drying fungi is to allow a flow of hot air to flow around the fungi. Circulation is very important. It must not be hot enough to cook them and not slow enough to allow them to rot. Large species eg Boletes have to be sliced or the insides will not dry quickly enough.

I converted an old pedal bin into a drier. I drilled a few holes through the bin and threaded some knitting needles through the holes. These supported two layers of chicken wire upon which the fungi could be placed. The heat was supplied by an electric bulb mounted in the insides of an old lamp at the base of the bin and the larger specimens were put on the bottom layer and the smaller ones on the top layer.

An easier method is to buy a continental fruit drier (the Sigg-Dorrex make is a popular model). This allows a variety of heating levels and a series of trays to be stacked on top of each other. They can be purchased from Switzerland (if anyone knows of a UK stockist, I would like to know) at: Breitenbach, Alpenstrasse 9, CH-6004 Luzern. Tel: Switzerland 041-410 14 76. In 1999, they cost 133 Swiss francs for the drier plus two trays with an extra tray costing 22 sfr. Postage was 40 sfr. It came out then around £90.

One important point to remember is once the fungi are dried, they have to stay dry or you can get a very unpleasant surprise! Keeping them in sealed containers in a dry room with silica gel in the container is important.



Fungi make excellent topics for photography as they don't generally blow around in the wind and they don't run away. However, there are some basic hints to take into account. 

  • First of all is use a special macro lens. These can be expensive, but they allow you to get to 1:1. A very good macro lens for a very reasonable price is the Cosina 100mm macro. I got it a few years ago for £110 and the results have been excellent. Well recommended. 

  • Use a tripod. You cannot take serious photographs of fungi without this. It is very important to get a tripod that allows you to reverse the central column thus getting the camera very near to the ground. Two of the best tripods in this line are the Benbo and the Manfrotto tripods. The Benbo is a very unusual design that works in nearly every situation but that can need an IQ test to use. The Manfrotto is more conventional.

  • Use slow film for greater detail. Fuji Velvia 50 ASA is the best film you can get for British light I think. Kodak is best in bright light situations like the USA or the Mediterranean, but in our dull Autumn light, Velvia is very hard to beat. 50 ASA is perfect for detail and also forces you to use a tripod!!

  • Get a good book. The best I have seen for Nature Photography is: The Nature Photographers Complete Guide to Professional Field Techniques by John Shaw. It is published by Amphoto and the ISBN number is 0-8174-5005-X. Better and more informative is hard to find and if anyone knows of other good books, please contact me.


Fungi smells are notoriously difficult. How are you supposed to know what the Goat Moth, Cossus cossus, smells like if it doesn't occur in your country? What does used elevator oil smell like? Researchers in the University of California have now found that if you inhale through the right nostril, it gives an emotional response, i.e. if it is pleasant or unpleasant. If you inhale through the left nostril, this is the scientific side of the brain and is better used if you are trying to identify the smell!! So....try only using the left nostril and tell us if it works!!

Or is there another help on the horizon? There is now an invention that is going to allow smells to be sent over the web. By using a couple of dozen primary base scents, DigiScents have created hundreds of smells like freshly mown grass or suncream. Even better, there is software that allows you to create your own smells. So we are all waiting for someone to create a mycological smell library that we can tap into and allow us to compare the fungus in front of us with the "recognised" smell of known species! The smell of Lactarius glyciosmus or Phallus impudicus could even be sent with e-mails!


Getting an image of a fungus when it is fresh often helps identify the species, but also provides images for this website! You may not always have your camera at hand, sp scanning fungi is very simple alternative. Any scanner can be used. Just place the fungus on the scanner and experiment. Scan at a high dpi (dots per inch), say 300 or higher, which can allow zooming in and looking at particular features in detail. Just remember to clean the scanner once you are finished. Here are a few examples. Remember these are web images and the resolution of the original image is a lot better than this. It can be very interesting to scan very small fungi - even myxomycetes (slime moulds). You can even see things on the scan it is very hard to see with the eye!!

Tarzetta cupularis                                                        Scutellinia cejpii

Stemonitis flavogenita

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