We consider the following books, websites, and online journals to be the best resources in their class for mushroom taxonomists in Central California. Many of them are also useful across the West Coast, and the continent in general.
David Arora's classic text sets the standard for mushroom field guides, and remains unsurpassed. The depth and breadth of this book combined with the quality of descriptions really set it apart. It is very clear that Arora is more familiar with the species that he writes about than anyone else was at the time. Although most of the photos are in black and white (and many species are not illustrated) and the taxonomy and nomenclature are now very dated, it's easy to cross-reference the information in this book with more up-to-date sources online; this is still absolutely required text for mushroom identification enthusiasts of any level. Although it covers all groups of macrofungi across the United States and Canada, its focus is centered on agarics and boletes, and on central California and the west in general.
The writing is clear, entertaining, and thoughtful. This book is a treasure, and an absolute must-have.
All that the Rain Promises and More
David Arora's second publication, this pocket-sized field guide features all color photographs, but covers far fewer species than its bigger brother, Mushrooms Demystified. The coverage is also less local, meaning that more users across the country will get some use out of it, but a user in any given area will find many species in the woods that are not covered in the book, and vice versa. Even though it may be of relatively limited taxonomic use, this book has a unique place in a mushroomer's library due to its profiles of mycophiles and interesting tales, tidbits, and outright works of fiction regarding mushroom culture.
A very dynamic citizen-science database, especially useful for recording occurrence, range, and morphological variation. A large, international community of amateur and professional mycologists upload photos and observations, propose and vote on potential identifications, and discuss a wide range of topics. With a little practice, the mapping and advanced search functions make the database a useful tool to answer specific questions. Data quality varies greatly, so familiarity with the site's protocols and its core group of users is essential to getting the most value from the database.
Althought is still mostly incomplete, MycoPortal has the potential to become an outstanding resource for North American fungi. By digitizing and georeferencing the data associated with new as well as historical herbarium specimens, this site will make it possible to assemble species lists for particular regions that are supported by vouchers. This kind of data is absolutely key to building a reliable mycoflora for North America. Herbarium collections for the Santa Cruz Mycoflora Project can be viewed here.
Mike Wood's excellent site devoted exclusively to coverage of California's macrofungi. The quality and abundance of the images on the site are its main strengths. Also very useful are the lists of references, and inclusion of many montane and Sierra Nevada species. Treatment of taxa with small or rare fruitbodies is somewhat lacking, and coverage of species from the northern spruce and hemlock zones is notably weak.
Michael Kuo's website deals mostly with mushrooms of the Eastern half of the United States, but the introductory pages dealing with general aspects of mushroom collection and study (found on the home page under 'Studying Mushrooms') are excellent. His commentaries on past research, current practices, and directions for future investigation are very valuable. He has also organized data collection projects involving citizen scientists that yield valuable insights and clarify taxonomy of American fungi (The Stinkhorn Project, and Morels of North America).
Point Reyes Mycoblitz
The Point Reyes Mycoblitz has been a collaboration between Dr. Tom Bruns, Point Reyes National Seashore, UC Berkeley, Humboldt State University (HSU), San Francisco State University (SFSU), the Bay Area Mycological Society (BAMS), Sacramento Area Mushroomers (formerly the Davis Mycological Society), Fungus Federation of Santa Cruz, Humboldt Bay Mycological Society, Mycological Society of San Francisco, and Sonoma County Mycological Association. Dr. Terry Henkel and his HSU graduate students also attended one or more forays. For one event, we brought in Dr. Steve Miller from the University of Wyoming. Dr. Else Vellinga and Dr. John Taylor (UC Berkeley), Dr. Michael Davis (UC Davis), Darvin DeShazer (SOMA), Debbie Viess (BAMS), J.R. Blair, Fred Stevens, Norm Andresen, and Mike Wood (MSSF), and a number of UC Berkeley and SFSU graduate students played a significant role. Many park visitors and local residents participated as well.
Photos of vouchered collections, interesting data summaries, trail maps, and other data about the project can be found at the links here:
A repository of mushroom names, including their authors, dates and details of publication, and often time much more (brief descriptions, images of microscopic details). This resource is still being built, but is very useful when researching the origins of a mushroom name in question. Links to outside resources (DNA sequences at Genbank, etc) are still being implemented, but will be extremely handy.
Like MycoBank, another nomenclature database that acts as a repository for species names and the various kinds of data associated with them. Great for researching synonymy and priority naming issues, and overall remarkably up-to-date. Not as multifunctional as MycoBank, and not quite as modern of a user interface, but still very useful.
Thanks to Cybertruffle, digital copies of many journals, old books, and other mycology print resources are available for free online. The site is a bit clunky, the scanned resources are not searchable, (and often must be paged through one page-scan image at a time), but this is an absolutely invaluable resource for engaging primary literature. We use the scanned versions of past issues of Mycologia most frequently.
Although very useful because it's constantly updated and contains links to much outside reference material, Wikipedia should be used carefully. The phylogenies are often quite up-to-date, but the data is very inconsistent, and in many cases only preliminary. Many Mushroom Observer users are involved in building Wikipedia pages, so the data is continually getting better. You could help too!
North American Mycoflora Project
Although this site originated as companion material for Funga Nordica (a print key and mycoflora of the Nordic European countries), the interactivity, breadth of coverage, and very well-done generic descriptions are broadly useful for the northern hemisphere temperate zone. We often use the descriptions to search for candidate genera in cases of very difficult identifications. Users can purchase access to a much greater volume of material and interactive tools and data that can be downloaded. This provides much inspiration for what a well-done and functional North American Mycoflora might look like.
Geographically, it may not be exactly... er... topical, but the photography, illustrations, and discussion on this site will be of value for anyone interested in the taxonomy of this often rather difficult but very rewarding genus.
"A joint effort of an international team of enthusiastic, young mycologists ... aiming to cover all aspects of Russulales worldwide and in the phylogenetic sense of the order: all groups of mushrooms that share a common ancestor with Russula and Lactarius... The mycologists that will keep this website up-to-date may have very different interests, these can be with hypogeous as well as with resupinate taxa instead or with the typical agaricoid Russula or Lactarius."
Although incomplete, the breadth and depth of data available here are invaluable for serious students of this fascinating and difficult order of fungi.
By some of the same authors and in much the same format as Russulales news, this site covers the diversity of chanterelles worldwide, with a current emphasis on Europe and the United States. High quality information, good photography, but extent and completeness currently limited.
An online-only publication of fungal taxonomy, every issue of mycotaxon is worth reading, even if not immediately relevant to local species, at least for the perspective it presents on the state of the art worldwide.
The preemninent journal of fungal biology, Mycotaxon is only partly devoted to taxonomy. Fungal evolution, genetics, sexuality, eclogy, and chemistry are all covered, and the journal as a whole is worth reading for a fuller picture of the unique nature of fungal organisms.
North American Fungi
An online-only journal that publishes original, peer-reviewed articles on Fungi (Chytrids, Zygomycetes, lichenized and non-lichenized Ascomycetes, and Basidiomycetes) as well as other organisms traditionally studied by mycologists, such as Oomycetes and slime molds. The journal is freely available worldwide, at no cost to authors, readers, or libraries. Electronic publication enables authors to include color illustrations, extensive lists of references, specimen citations, and supplemental materials. Manuscripts are published following rigorous peer review. In order to expedite publication, postings occur as soon as manuscripts are ready for publication rather than at set intervals. Due to its open nature and low cost for all parties, probably should become the new golden standard for amateurs publishing taxonomic articles.
Fungus Federation of Santa Cruz (FFSC)
The Fungus Federation of Santa Cruz is an informal affiliation of friendly, fun-loving, sometimes frenzied fungophiles dedicated to the knowledge, pursuit and appreciation of wild mushrooms. We organize many activities during the mushroom season from September through May. Our annual Fungus Fair, held in January, is a popular activity for the whole community.
Bay Area Mycological Society (BAMS)
- We teach the safe and mindful collection of mushrooms, through field trips, lectures and classes, references and an online pool of local experts.
- We encourage the celebration of the beauty and wonder of mushrooms through photography and illustration, poetry and prose.
- We foster participation in "citizen science," where amateurs can contribute in meaningful ways to the advance of mushroom knowledge.
- We encourage cooperation and collegiality between the many mushroom societies of Northern California, and believe that the synergy of many talented individuals help to make a greater whole.
Mycological Society of San Francisco (MSSF)
Formed in 1950 to provide education and to disseminate scientific information about mycology to our membership and the general public, the Mycological Society of San Francisco is the largest amateur mushroom society in the United States.
On a regular basis, the MSSF holds classes ranging from basic mushroom identification to mushroom cultivation, photography, and workshops on specific fungal genera. It also organizes forays, led by experienced and knowledgeable mycologists, to collect fungi in their natural habitat and optimal season. Forays are one of the best ways for new members to learn about the mycology of California.
North American Mycological Association (NAMA)
The North American Mycological Association (NAMA) is a non-profit organization of professional and amateur mycologists with over 75 affiliated mycological societies in the United States, Canada and Mexico.
- NAMA is committed and dedicated to the promotion of scientific and educational activities related to fungi.
- NAMA supports the protection of natural areas and their biological integrity.
- NAMA advocates the sustainable use of mushrooms as a resource and endorse the responsible mushroom collecting that does not harm the fungi or their habitats.
Sonoma County Mycological Association (SOMA)
- Appreciating and learning about local mushrooms
- Educating the public about the vast and diverse world of fungi
As a resource for wild mushroom lovers in Sonoma County and beyond, we sponsor a variety of activities and services open to the public:
- Monthly meetings, often featuring nationally-recognized speakers
- Local wild mushroom-hunting forays
- Poisonous mushroom identification
- Three-day SOMA Camp
- Annual mushroom fair
Members enjoy the additional benefits of joining special interest groups, gorging themselves at potlucks, and enjoying the monthly newsletter.
The keys below are not arranged in taxonomic order, nor do the keys necessarily treat phylogenetically coherent groups. They are intended to provide clarity on difficult or poorly-known groups (ie. Cortinarius, Inocybe, Entoloma), well-known but commonly-misidentified species (ie. the so-called 'PseudoXerocomoid Red and Yellow Boletes'), as well as groups of species in which even generic identification can be uncertain. One of the most difficult groups comprises the small fruitbodies with white spores and no veil: Mycena, Hemimycena, Baeospora, Pseudobaespora, Crinipellis, some Clitocybe, Gymnopus, Marasmius, Marasmiellus, Micromphale, Fayodia, Gamundia, Xeromphalina, Omphalina.