Beginners' Page
by Gary Lincoff

  | Photo | Books | List of Fungi for Beginners | Simple keys for these lists | How to use these keys |
| How to make a spore printPoisonous mushrooms & Look-alikes | Classification/Taxonomy |
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Among currently available books, the best for use in the Northeast are:
  • Arora, David. Mushrooms Demystified.
  • Its strengths are that it is fun to read, it is comprehensive, and it has a lot of great photos.
    Its weakness for Northeastern users is that its focus is on western North America.
  • Bessette, Alan & Arleen, and David Fischer. Mushrooms of Northeastern North America.
  • Its strengths are that its focus is on Northeastern North America, and it includes lots of mushrooms, including many not in other guides.
    Its weaknesses are that its arrangement is alphabetical by genus, that many of these genera are not readily recognized in the field, and that its photos, while many, are too small.
  • Lincoff, Gary. The Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Mushrooms.
  • Its strengths are that its focus is primarily on Northeastern North America, that it is comprehensive, and that it has at least one photo for each of  700+ entries.
    Its weaknesses are that the photos are separate from the text and that the names on the photos are common names, rather than scientific names.
    All three of these books have interesting, helpful, and different materials in their appendices. It could help to use all three together.

    Mushroom books are always available in bookstores, in libraries, and on Internet sites, such as One of the problems with these books, however, is that even the best of them go out of print. But many out of print books can be found at used book stores and by Internet book searches.
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    List of fungi found in Northeastern North America that every beginner should know
    100 gilled and 100 non-gilled mushrooms, with references to The Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Mushrooms
  • Gilled & Non-gilled Mushrooms

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    Simple keys to accompany this list
  • Key to gilled mushrooms
  • Key to non-gilled mushrooms

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    How to use the Keys follow along on your printout of the Keys above:-- up --
    Example 1: You have a white-spored gilled mushroom with a central stem.
    Use the Key to gilled mushrooms, go to White-spored gilled mushrooms.
    Go to 1. This tells you to go to 2.
    Do you have a ring? If No, go to 5.
    Run your finger nail across a few gills. If they ooze a milklike latex, go to 6 and continue with LACTARIUS.

    Example 2: You have a black-spored gilled mushroom:
    Use the Key to gilled mushrooms, go to Purple-brown to black-spored gilled mushrooms.
    Go to 1. This tells you to go to 4.
    Does the cap deliquesce, i.e., liquify into black ink? Try it: put in into a sieve put over a bowl and wait a few hours. If it deliquesces, the sieve will be empty and the bowl will have black ink, in which case you know your mushroom is a Coprinus.
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    How to make a spore print:
    Use white paper only, such as a 3 x 5" notecard; a white spore print is easily seen as a white pattern on a white background. Cut off the stem and put the mature mushroom or a section of it, gills or pores down, on a piece of paper or index card. Or make a hole into the paper, large enough for the stem, poke the stem through the hole, and put the card on top of a glass or other container tall enough to hold the stem, and to hold the paper with the mushroom lying flat on the paper. Do not disturb for a few hours. Then lift the mushroom carefully and see the spores it left.
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    Poisonous Mushrooms in Northeastern North America and Look-alikes
    If you are interested in edible mushrooms, you should study these first of all!
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    Classification or Taxonomy for Fungi: -- up --
    An example:
  • Kingdom: Fungi
  • Division (Phylum): Eumycota
  • Subdivision: Basidiomycotina
  • Class:  Basidiomycetes
  • Order:  Agaricales
  • Family:  Agaricaceae
  • Genus:  Agaricus
  • Species:  arvensis -- note that species names should be italicized (they are in printed books) but on the computer screen they would be harder to read so we are not italicizing them here.



    A complete listing: Kingdom, Division (Phylum), Subdivision, Class, Order, Family, Tribe, Genus, Section, Species, Sub-species, Variety, Form.
    Mnemonic: King David Came Over From Germany Saturday.

    A Little Latin Lesson: genus is singular, genera is plural; species is both singular and plural.
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    Last revised: May 2004   -- Main Menu --