Hey mushroom fans! I have always had room for mushrooms in my heart — but the amount of space devoted to them has grown exponentially since moving to the woods. When I started seeing red-capped mushrooms popping up in the middle of the trail, or a glimpsed a flowery growth through the trees which hadn’t been there the day before, or when, be still my heart, I saw my first giant puffball, I realized I NEEDED TO LEARN WHAT THESE MAGICAL THINGS WERE.
I’m now an excellent reference book (“Mushrooms of Ontario and Eastern Canada” by George Barron), many dozen websites, some community lectures, a day-long workshop, a week-long workshop, and countless hours exploring the woods later. Which has taken me from completely ignorant to… solid beginner!
I knew nothing at all about mushrooms, so part of the joy in learning was learning how to look at them. Mushrooming tends to throw you in at the deep end, with mushroom folks going Full Nerd on you without a beginner’s introduction. And if you jump straight to the basidia of the hymenium of basidiomycota, then someone who just thought that purple mushroom looked neat might feel like this pool only has a deep end.
So I made this handy-dandy sheet to start people off in How To Look At Mushrooms. I love IDing — nature is stuffed with puzzles which are in turn stuffed with stories — but to ID anything you first learn how to look at it. What are the parts I’m looking at? What are the things I’m looking for?
This sheet starts with gilled mushrooms, though there are also boletes and brackets and slime moulds and sac fungi and … But in my experience, once someone gets hooked looking at gilled mushrooms they will find their own way back to the slimes. In mushrooming, all roads lead to everywhere. If mushrooms have one lesson for us, it’s that everything is connected. You just need to take your first step.
Fun fact: “bitorquis” means “two collars”, referring to the two rings on this mushroom’s stalk. Always dig into the scientific name — there is good stuff in there!