This project began as a result of a seemingly easy question asked of me
during a laboratory of an introductory mycology course I was teaching
for the first time.
We were looking at our field collections one afternoon and a student
was puzzling over a small mushroom that might have been a Mycena or
a Marasmius, and in the key he was using they were differentiated by
the fact that Marasmius revives after drying, and Mycena does not.
He looked at me, and with a scrunched up face asked (incredulously)
this is what differentiates these genera?
We had begun the Berkshire Mycological Society a year earlier, and I
often asked of those who knew much more than I, what makes a Collybia
a Collybia, what makes a Laccaria a Laccaria? Field mushroomers learn
to identify particular species quite well, but they were often at a
loss to be able to say why this specimen belongs to a particular genus.
For the discerning student this is quite frustrating.
All the field guides are organized around the principle and goal of
the accurate identification of a species. A few, (e.g. Barron, 1999)
make an attempt to give some of the generic characters, but most do not.
They are organized by spore color, fruit body shape, or other macroscopic
characters to ease identification to species. They usually ignore
microcharacters other than spore color.
On the other extreme are the scholarly works, e.g. Singer, 1986 that is
so dense that it is quite unusable except by professionals. I checked
what he said about every genus described in this work. I used his sense
of type species exclusively.
Largent, et al., 1977 and Largent and Baroni, 1988, Largent and Thiers, 1977
and Stuntz, 1978 put together the series How to Identify Mushrooms
to Genus I-VI. This seems to be the first attempt to make mushroom
identification based on observation of key microscopic and macroscopic
features to genus. The last volume came out about six years before the
World Wide Web became accessible to most. These are invaluable texts,
and have been both inspiring and invaluable to this work. They are quite
technical in nature, and the beginning student would find them formidable
It seemed to me, then, that a guide to the genera of agarics was needed
to answer the simple question of the amateur and primordial mycologist
what makes genus "X", genus "X", and how can you identify it in the field
and the laboratory? And, with the advent of the Internet, I could do it
"on the cheap". Too bad Largent's et al. work predated this technology.
This work, then, is designed to be a supplement to the field guides all
mushroomers' carry. It is not meant to replace them. It is not meant
to supercede Largent, Largent et al and Stuntz. I have, simply, tried
to create a version of what they have done that is more accessible to
the novice mushroomer.
This work does not contain keys. There are plenty of keys out there,
and I saw no reason to try and compose another. My links
sections will guide you to some of them. In addition many of the field
guides contain keys.
This kind of work often contains a "How to Use " section. These
paragraphs will have to suffice. I assume the reader will refer to this
website after a tentative identification through the use of a key or a
field guide to verify their finding.
Each genus is, or will be, illustrated with a photo of the "type
species" (almost exclusively European) for that genus, and/or field
photos of species of that genus that occur in the Berkshires, along with
other microcharacters that are important in identifying that genus.
The text description of each genus is in three sections: Microcharacters,
Field Characters and Notes. Important microcharacters include
pileipellis construction, location of cystidia, spore iodine reaction,
germ pore presence and absence, lamellar trama, an example of the spore
print (color), and photos of "typical" spores etc. Important generic
characters are described. If there is nothing special about one of
the microcharacters for that genus, it is left blank. I have tried to
illustrate important microcharacters for each genus.
The Field Characters section includes the kind of things stressed in
field guides, such as pileus shape, presence or absence of an annulus,
consistency of the stipe, stature, and ecology, etc. I have compiled
and included a description of the "stature types" as
described in Largent, 1986.
In Notes, I tried to bring together what others have said or used to
identify that genus. It is also the place where I discuss nomenclatural
problems and issues.
In the summer and fall of 2003 the Berkshire Mycological Society collected
these 35 genera in western Massachusetts and Connecticut.. There are some
notable omissions e.g. Hygrocybe, Hygrophorus, Agrocybe, Chlorophyllum,
Melanoleuca, Clitopilus, Paxillus, Marasmius, Stropharia etc. This summer
I plan on adding these to this website, assuming I can find them.
It is most important that my descriptions and illustrations are accurate.
No, doubt, I have made mistakes. Please let me know if there is anything
inaccurate in my descriptions or captions! If you have better photos
of these mushrooms in the field or of the important microcharacters,
I would like to include them in this site. Please e-mail me at
firstname.lastname@example.org. Any other feedback is, of course, welcome...
Bard College at Simon's Rock
Great Barrington, MA 01230