CMS will not identify (ID) a mushroom based upon a picture or verbal description. Please do not email us, or post a request on the CMS Web page or Facebook pages for us to ID a mushroom.
We will offer you these suggestions to obtain help with an identification.
- Bring your mushrooms to a CMS monthly meeting. We meet at the Amazon Community Center on the 3rd Wednesday of the month. For more details and a map, go to our CMS Meetings Page.
- The Facebook Page The Pacific Northwest Mushroom Identification Forum is specifically designed to offer an identification based upon a picture. This Facebook group has thousands of members that are willing to tell you what they think your mushroom is. Hopefully, they will all offer the same answer. They do request that when you post a picture you also provide some details about where you found the mushroom. For example, “In Oregon, up highway 999 near Podunk at about 1000′ elevation near Spruce & Fir. Provide whatever details you know.
- You may also learn about what mushrooms other people are finding and some tips on mushroom hunting on the CMS Forums Group on Facebook.
More advice for “Newbies”
- If you are new to mushrooming we do not advise that you eat a mushroom based upon a picture identification. Can identifications based upon a picture be accurate? The answer is yes. Is it worth risking your health, or perhaps your life? The answer is a resounding NO.
- It is best to mushroom hunt with someone who is experienced. CMS Forays are free to CMS members and always includes someone who will be able to distinguish edibles from non-edibles in your basket.
- If you do go out on your own, have someone who has mushroom ID experience double check your mushrooms before you eat any.
- Only harvest mushrooms that are fully formed. Many mushrooms in their immature or button state can easily be confused with other mushrooms. Even ones that are not normally considered to be a look alike.
- Some mushrooms only fruit on or near specific trees or plants. So, it is good to know your tree types (e.g. hardwood vs conifer) and some specific species of trees (e.g. Douglas fir, Sitka spruce, Alder) and plants (e.g. Sallal, Manzanita).
- Start with mushrooms that are the easiest to identify – those that are unique with no look-alikes. These include Goats Beard, Chicken of the Woods, Cauliflower mushroom, and the Lobster mushroom.
- Always follow the Edibility Guidelines when tasting new mushrooms.
The Process of Mushroom Identification
Mushrooms can be identified from their macro characteristics (visibly seen), their micro characteristics (requires a microscope), and their DNA. When you are out foraging in the woods, you utilize macro characteristics such as:
- Body form / overall Shape
- Cap shape, color, and texture
- Stem shape, color, and texture
- Flesh color and texture
- Spore surface type (gills, teeth/tubes or pores)
- Spore surface color
- Color changes due to touch
- Gill attachment
- Presence or absence of a ring/anulus on the stem
- Presence or absence of a volva
- Spore color (may require making a spore print)
Other important factors include:
- Fruiting time of year
- Location and habitat
- Substrate (what are they growing on)
- Odor / Taste (a very small piece then spit out)
- Chemical reactions (if applied)
Each mushroom species that has been formally identified and named has a set of characteristics that completely describes that species of mushroom. A dichotomous key is a series of paired statements that describe an organism based upon these characteristics. As you proceed through the key, you are able to eliminate certain species and reach a specific mushroom identification by affirming characteristics that match the mushroom you are examining. A good mushroom field guide or identification book will include a dichotomous key or at minimum a complete set of descriptive characteristics for each mushroom presented.
You will find some recommended mushroom identification books and online resources on the CMS Links Page.