With its consistently damp climate, Oregon is a paradise for mushroom hunters. With over 10,000 species native to North America, it can be difficult to determine what type of mushroom you're looking at, but with careful observation and attention to detail, you'll be much more likely to identify it. Additionally, you can use some insider tips like taking a spore print of the mushroom to get you valuable information that will help determine its type.
Things You'll Need
- Small piece of clear glass or aluminum foil
- Field guide
Take note of the location of the mushroom and its surroundings before picking it. Pay special attention to the surface that it grows on -- some mushroom groups grow on wood, whereas others may grow on decaying surfaces or even on other mushrooms. Also take note of the season; some mushrooms, such as morels, grow only in the spring, whereas others, such as false morels, are seen only in fall or summer.
Observe the mushroom's physical features. Check to see if the mushroom has an "annulus," a small ring at the top of its stem. Few mushroom species have this feature, so if you see it on the subject at hand, it can help you narrow down what it may be. Another identifier is the "volva," a cuplike surface rising up from the ground at the very bottom of the stem. You may need to remove leaves and other debris around the mushroom to determine if it does indeed possess a volva. Other features to note include whether the stem attaches to the cap at the center or side, whether the cap's underside has spoke-like gills or round pores, and the color of the cap.
Take a spore print of the mushroom by removing the cap of a medium-sized specimen and leaving it for a few hours on a piece of clear glass or aluminum foil. The spores from the mushroom will collect on the surface. This technique allows you to identify the mushroom's spore color, which will help you to determine the type, since spore color is not always easy to determine by just looking at the underside of the mushroom.
Match up your mushroom's features with those listed in a guide book. Ideally, it's best to use a guide book that contains a key. Many species of mushrooms grow in Oregon, so only a book or an expert can tell you exactly which species the specimen is. Some common varieties, however, are the Morchella species, Laetiporus sulfureus, the American matsutake, chanterelles, boletes, truffles, and hedgehogs.
Tips & Warnings
- It may be best to carry either a notebook, so you can log your mushroom's features and location, or your guidebook with you when you go mushroom hunting.
- Never ever eat any wild mushroom without first presenting it to an expert. Many mushrooms look similar, and many are extremely poisonous.
- Never eat or handle a mushroom that has both a ring and a volva, as this is indicative of one of the most poisonous varieties, the Amanita family.
- MushroomExpert.com: Key to Major Groups of Mushrooms
- BackyardNature.net: Mushroom Identification
- AmericanMushrooms.com: The Basics of Mushroom Identification
- Pacific Northwest Research Station: Productivity and Sustainable Harvest Research in the Pacific Northwest
- AmericanMushrooms.com: North American Mushroom Basics
- Photo Credit mushroom image by blaine stiger from Fotolia.com
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