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Visions223

I Would Like To Learn To ID Mushrooms, But I Don't Know How To Learn.

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I'm really interested in foraging for wild mushrooms, and I'd like to be able to identify them safely.  However, I am completely new to this.  I'm unsure how I should begin to learn how to do this safely.  Should I take a class in person on mushroom identification?  If so, how would I go about finding one?  I am very interested to begin this, but I'm somewhat unsure of where to begin...... and this looked like a good forum to begin learning.  I've already done online research a bit and watched some videos, but I certainly wouldn't trust myself as far as picking anything.  I'm well aware of the risks and the deadly potential of certain amanitas and species with similar chemical properties.  I would simply like any individuals who are familiar with this to point me in the right direction so I can safely enjoy this hobby and be sure I don't inadvertently poison myself.  Thanks.  I'm a very strong visual learner BTW.  I also have been reading a bit and may have a small amount of knowledge on the subject of identifying, but I'm very, very far from being at the point where I really know how to do it safely ingestion wise.

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Join a mushroom club or find like minded folks online - where ya from?

Spend a few hours here looking at photos to start putting images in your head, learn how to identify features of a mushroom and just get out there and get overwhelmed ?

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Sounds to me you're on the right right path. Just don't get into a big hurry. A simple mistake could cost you your life. I've only been at this for approximately 5 years and can count on one hand the edibles I've consumed. Feel free to ask questions at anytime. Lots of knowledgeable folks here(excluding myself) lol. I just know I love mushrooms !!! Welcome and happy hunting!! 

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Well, you've come to the right place. There are some very knowledgeable people here that can help you with IDing mushrooms and know what to look for and observe so you can ID them on your own eventually. We have some good suggestions in the section of our forum on Books, Magazines and articles that are good for doing research and/or learn from.

Here are some tips that basically helped me when getting started.

  • Buy a good field guide for MUSHROOMS. The National Audubon Society Field Guide to Mushrooms is one that is often suggested. It has some good photos and descriptions to assist in IDing mushrooms. There is also an app now. (which I just realized isn't available in the United States yet)
  • Buy a good field guide for TREES. Many times, identifying the type of tree a mushroom is growing near or on will help you ID a mushroom. Sometimes you can find a good guide specific to your region.
  • Get very familiar with IDing one or two common edibles that grow in your area. Its a lot of fun to bring them home and eat them. Just please be sure you know for sure what you have before you eat it. You can die a pretty slow death from eating poisonous mushrooms. There are some mushrooms that are edible but don't really have any look-alikes that can kill you. I would suggest starting with those.

Basically, just try to have fun. This community is great for sharing finds, even if you already know what they are. At least in my case, I don't have many people who like to eat wild mushrooms. So sharing finds and seeing other peoples' finds here is a lot of fun for me.

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As was said, field guides, clubs, and this forum. Hopefully the Audubon guide has been updated since I bought mine 12 years ago. A camera , even on your phone, is good to post pictures for IDs. Be sure to get top, bottom, and side photos as well as info on environment and types of trees.  We also have a Facebook group. My approach is to harvest nothing that has a toxic look alike. It looks like you are farther south and will have some different mushrooms than we have here in PA. And the motto is "when in doubt, throw it out." Some of us have been doing this for a long time and are still unsure sometimes. Good luck and happy hunting!

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When I was a kid growing up here in Virginia and Georgia, my family would hunt morels in the spring, but that was pretty much it .. We just didn't know about the delicious bounty around us, and there were no forums, well there was no internet at all, (yeah I'm an old fart lol) . Several years ago I stumbled across a patch of chants in No. California, and from then on I was hooked . I searched the web, and bought field guides . I read everything I could find about shrooms in my area . I soon realized there was way too much to learn in a short period of time . So I picked out 2 or 3 edibles each year, and learned them well . Next year I would add to my knowledge with a couple more, and so on to date . But I am still learning, and still clueless ! Lol ! It's not just a matter of learning what the shrooms look like, but when, where and under what conditions to find them . Tree id's, spore prints etc. .. I love the hunt, as much as the table fare, so for me it's well worth the effort . It takes time to learn. Good luck !  

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I am still learning too. I mostly have books and Internet, and once I have an ID I'm sure of, I post it here. If I don't know at all I also post here.

 

I also started by learning some things I can't mess up with the foundation knowledge I need for mushroom hunting. Oysters and chicken of the woods and young dryads saddle are fairly fool proof and all delicious. Morels are fairly distinctive with a false morel poser that grows at the same time (but false morels are fairly easy to distinguish). lions main and crown tip corel I like too.

 

It is also important to learn your fatal mushrooms. Anything with a bulbous bottom I don't touch. White mushrooms in general i shy away from as there is soooo many look alikes and I know I'm not ready for them. I know what a destorying angel looks like but there's others that aren't great. Amanita is a family of mushrooms you should learn to recognize.

 

I have been mushroom hunting for a few years. Im getting better. I probably have more photos of mushrooms than my kids. I take spore prints and dissect samples. I have a polypore collection in my kitchen. I am building more confidence but I can't find local hunters. So if I find something that I am absolutely sure of, and I post it here, and the hunters here come up with the same guess, then I put a mushroom on a tray on my deck. If the squirrel eats it, I put one out the next day. If the squirrels eat it too, then i guess the squirrel didn't die the first time. Then I try if I'm sure, just a sample. If I dont croak or get explosive poops (yet to happen) then I eat a whole one.

 But if I'm not totally sure, I take samples, look at gills, cap, stem, smell, touch, spore print, cross section, what medium it grew in, everything. Every single thing has to be what sources say, and sources need to be consistent

 

Also learning your trees is a good step in the right direction

 

 

Also keep in mind some mushrooms are edible, but take special measures to prepare. Cooking instructions

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Amara, good point about learning the easiest ones first. Also, patience, caution, and getting lots of opinions. Some of the types of mushrooms that I now collect for the table were initially learned in stages. That is, I took home collections for study, but did not eat any until I had convinced myself that I could recognize them. 

There's a couple of pinned topics at the top of the "Identifying Mushrooms" forum on this site. There's some good suggestions there. And, even with excellent photos, spore print color, and other readily observable information, it's sometimes impossible to be completely certain of an ID. As for IDing a type/species for the table... As has often been said, "when in doubt, throw it out". 

One not-uncommon error --often made by seasoned mushroom hunters-- is to inadvertently include a toxic mushroom in with a collection of some edible type. 

Amara, that's interesting about your Guinea-pig-squirrel idea. Except, some mammals can tolerate ingesting some substances that are toxic to humans. I don't know if this applies to the really dangerous mushroom toxins --for example amatoxins, gyromitrin, or muscarine.  

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Including something toxic in a group is on my mind as I'm moving on to ground mushroom groups.

You are also right about the squirrels. They can technically eat some species toxic to us. It's not 100%. For me it's fun observation and many help me ID later. Maybe some mushrooms squirrels, voles, mice prefer and it can be an indicator depending on whos eating what.

I observe a lot if forest stuff and have only found nibbling on Amanitas in red squirrel territories. I have not found black squirrels to care for them or other toxic specimens thus far but I do have to race them for the oysters! It isn't 100% but more times than not, it's the mushroom I want to eat that they savagely take a bite out of, just one bite, every square inch, so I don't get any

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I think it's a good idea to have three (or more) field guides. For the southeastern US there's a Bessette book specific to this area. It's displayed --along with others-- here   https://www.amazon.com/Mushrooms-Southeastern-United-States-Bessette/dp/081563112X  . There aren't many guides specific to SE NA. But the West Virginia book by William Roody is also a good choice. 

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