Sharing this post I made for the Australian mushroom hunters Facebook group.

These tips are intended as a guide rather than a rule, while we do try to answer all ID requests some are more easily recognisable than others and providing all the info you can will ensure you have the best chance of recieving an ID and a correct ID.

  1. Clear photos, don’t rush, get down and let your camera/phone focus, tap your finger on the mushroom (on phone screen) to focus your camera phone better.
  2. Take photos of the whole mushroom in the place it was found (in situ) a detailed pic of the cap and a side view, this shows where the mushroom is growing. Note the habitat, substrate the mushroom is growing from, close by tree species if you can. For example - mushroom found in dry sclerophyll forest, growing from soil, close to eucalyptus and acacia species, or mushroom growing directly from pine stump in mixed natural forest/habitat, or mushroom growing in suburban garden bed, amoungst wood debris and leaf litter.
  3. Pick the mushroom fully intact. This might mean digging the mushroom out but can be essential for some genus.
  4. Lay the mushroom down and photograph again, look around if there are more specimen, maybe there are some of different maturities and this can help in someone recognising the species. Line a couple up and photograph again. This also means you can get more than one ID feature in the one photo. Watch out for glare, You want to be in natural light but not direct sunlight if possible
  5. Take photos of some key features, close up of the gills/lamellae, stem/stipe, annulus or partial veil if present or annular zone, stem/stipe base, texture/ornamentation of the cap/pileus.
  6. Cut a cross section through the mushroom (through the cap and stem all the way to the base) pay attention to flesh colour, bruising reaction if any and photograph again. A cross section can really help show the true shape of the mushroom. Maybe the base is covered in dirt and you can’t tell that it is bulbous. You can also easily see the gill attachment.
  7. Something for scale, or a measurement. You can estimate the size of the cap and height or use something such as a coin or lighter. Knives can be handy but we don’t always know the length of your knife.

Bonus points - Smell, taste and staining reactions

It’s not always required but definitely handy to add these features to your ID checklist. Tasting mushrooms like Russula and Lactarius can quickly tell you something about the mushroom to help with ID. Smelling an Agaricus will also tell you something. Staining for boletes is almost essential.

Smell - take it easy, take gentle smells (if that makes sense 🤣), cut or damage the flesh/squash the stem, rub the cap, these actions can all provoke smells, even cooking or microwaving can be handy in the case of differentiating Agaricus. Smells to look for are sweet, almond/marzipan, anise, mushroomy, spicy/peppery, floral, foul/fishy or maybe it smells spermatic. Yes that is a describing smell used for some fungi

Taste - it’s perfectly safe to taste and spit any mushroom with one exception being Podostroma cornu-damae the fire coral - *I’m not certain if you will get a reaction from a taste test but it’s not one I would recommend.

Take a piece of mushroom in your mouth, chew and move around your tongue. Describe any taste, it could be mild, bitter, spicy/hot, acrid, fishy, plain/bland. It’s handy to have a bottle of water in the event of tasting a spicy Russula.

Staining (and exudation)- probably the most important when it comes to Agaricus and Boletes but certainly for others; the colour, rate of reaction and location of reaction can all help to distinguish between closely resembled species. Scratch or bruise the cap/pileus, press on pores for Boletes or cut/damage gills/lamellae (this may show a latex exuding from the cut gills, or a colour reaction) Cut a cross section, this is important and should be covered in an ID anyway but cut the mushroom lengthways through the middle of the cap and stem all the way to the base. In all cases it’s good to observe the staining over time, some may present later (up to ten minute) some may change ( in the case of some Boletes for example it may bruise blue first and end up grey or black or disappear completely back to flesh colour) some may be one colour in the cap and another in the stem. Pressing on the pores of some Boletes may yield you a blue reaction but also, pink or brown

I hope this helps and isn’t too long to read. Remember it’s ok to pick a mushroom for ID but please don’t pick baskets full if you are not sure and observe any local laws for example national parks are only accessible with permits. Wait for confirmation of ID and do your own research before consuming any wild mushroom.

Posted on 31 July, 2021 10:06 by shane_marshall shane_marshall


This is fantastic, Shane. I wish I had known about it just a week ago when I began to notice that mushrooms were sprouting everywhere because of the heavy and continuous rains. Anyway, it is not too late.

I have taken quite a few photos of mushrooms and they are lying among my observations on iNaturalist, many unidentified. Obviously, I did not know the first thing about identifying mushrooms, not being a mycologist or even a botanist.

Someone did tell us that we need to photograph the top and bottom - which I now do. But from your notes I realise that is not enough.

I will try to revisit the mushrooms I photographed recently and aim to get more information on them.

Last night, after I read you comments, I found a diagram of a mushroom on the internet with the parts identified. Besides your detailed instruction, a diagram is a great help. That's the kind of basic information novice observers like me need.

Thank you. if I do succeed in getting more detailed info and pictures, I might call on you for an identification.


Posted by kalimata about 2 years ago

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