Mushrooms belong to the fungi kingdom and come in a huge variety of shapes, sizes, colors and textures. There are an estimated 140,000 species of mushroom worldwide, with over 10,000 species found in the United States alone. The specific names given to different mushroom species can be complex, but generally follow a scientific naming system.
The Main Mushroom Groups
Mushrooms are classified into groups based on certain visible characteristics. The main groups include:
– Gilled mushrooms – This is the largest group and includes mushrooms that produce spores on gills located on the underside of the cap. Examples are white mushrooms, portobello mushrooms and morels.
– Pored mushrooms – These mushrooms have tiny holes or pores on the underside instead of gills. Examples are boletes, polypores and chanterelles.
– Tooth fungi – These mushrooms have spines or teeth hanging down instead of gills or pores. Examples are hedgehog mushrooms and bear’s head tooth fungi.
– Coral fungi – These mushrooms resemble underwater coral, with branching structures and colorful tips. Examples are crown coral, candlestick coral and jelly babies.
– Puffballs – These are round mushrooms that start out white and firm, then turn to powder. Examples are giant puffballs, earthballs and gem-studded puffballs.
– Stinkhorns – These mushrooms have a foul odor and initially look like an egg. Examples are the devil’s stinkhorn and the elegant stinkhorn.
– Bird’s nest fungi – These tiny mushrooms look like tiny bird nests filled with “eggs”. Examples are splash cups and urn fungi.
– Jelly fungi – These have a jelly-like texture. Examples are witch’s butter and jelly ear fungus.
The Parts of a Mushroom
When classifying and naming mushroom species, mycologists (scientists who study fungi) look closely at the different parts of a mushroom. The main parts are:
– Cap – The cap is the umbrella-shaped part at the top of the mushroom stem. Its features like size, shape, color and texture help identify the species.
– Gills – These are on the underside of the cap and produce spores. Their shape, spacing, attachment to the stem and color are distinguishing features.
– Stem – The stem supports the cap and its height, thickness, color and whether it has a ring or volva are key identification features.
– Veil – Some mushrooms have a thin veil covering the gills when young. As the cap expands, the veil tears, leaving remnants on the stem.
– Volva – This cup-like structure surrounds the base of some mushroom stems. It ruptures and remains as a sac or ring on the stem.
– Mycelium – This is the underground vegetative part of the fungus, made of threadlike hyphae. The color and strand thickness help identify species.
The Genus and Species Names
Mushrooms are classified using a two-part scientific name consisting of the genus name followed by the species name. For example, the fly agaric mushroom is known scientifically as Amanita muscaria.
Amanita refers to the genus of gilled mushrooms the fly agaric belongs to, while muscaria is the specific species. There are hundreds of mushroom species within the Amanita genus, each with a unique species name.
Some common mushroom genus names include:
– Agaricus – The genus containing the button mushroom and portobello.
– Boletus – The genus containing porcini mushrooms.
– Cantharellus – The genus containing chanterelle mushrooms.
– Coprinus – The genus containing inky caps.
– Lactarius – The genus containing milk caps.
– Morchella – The genus containing morel mushrooms.
– Pleurotus – The genus containing oyster mushrooms.
The species name consists of two words and describes a specific characteristic of that mushroom species. For example:
– psilocybe cubensis – “cubensis” means it comes from Cuba
– agaricus campestris – “campestris” means it grows in fields
– lactarius deliciosus – “deliciosus” means it is delicious
So the full scientific name provides key details about each unique mushroom species.
In addition to the scientific genus and species names, most mushrooms also have common names used more widely in foraging, cooking and conversation.
Some examples of common mushroom names include:
– Button mushroom
– Oyster mushroom
– Lion’s mane
– Hen of the woods
– Shaggy mane
– Turkey tail
– Fairy ring mushroom
These common names are less precise but make it easier to refer to edible mushroom varieties. The same common name is sometimes shared between mushrooms from different genera, or one mushroom may have multiple common names.
Special Names for Some Species
Beyond scientific and common names, there are some special naming conventions for specific mushroom groups:
– Truffles – These rare underground mushrooms are classified scientifically, but more commonly referred to by their French names like black Périgord truffle and white Piedmont truffle.
– Toadstools – This name is used for poisonous mushrooms, especially for woodland species with red coloration like the fly agaric.
– Magic mushrooms – Mushrooms containing psilocybin like Psilocybe cubensis are referred to as magic mushrooms for their hallucinogenic effects.
– Destroying angels – This describes the dangerously poisonous mushrooms in the Amanita genus, like the death cap mushroom.
– Fairy ring mushrooms – These grow in circular rings in fields and forests. The group name describes the distinctive ring pattern.
– Inky caps – These rapidly self-digesting mushrooms liquefy into an inky black mess, hence the descriptive group name.
– Puffballs – These spherical mushrooms get their name from the cloud of spores they puff out when mature.
Edibility and Toxicity
When identifying an unknown mushroom, it is extremely important to determine if it is edible or poisonous. Here are some naming tips related to edibility:
– Edible species often have common names like cep, chanterelle, morel, puffball etc. This suggests human consumption.
– Names including “poison”, “deadly”, “death”, “fool’s” or “destroying” indicate toxicity.
– Genus names like Amanita, Galerina and Lepiota contain deadly poisonous mushrooms.
– Edible species frequently have genus names like Agaricus, Boletus, Cantharellus and Morchella.
– The words “bitter”, “nausea”, “vomiting” or “laxative” suggest an inedible mushroom.
– Terms like “choice”, “tasty” or “delicious” indicate an edible and prized variety.
So while the naming conventions may seem complex, clues in the mushroom’s name can provide insight into whether a mushroom is worth eating or a potential killer!
Naming Conventions Around the World
While Latin scientific names are used for classification globally, common mushroom names differ across countries and languages:
|Mushroom||Latin Name||English (UK)||English (US)||French||Japanese|
|Button mushroom||Agaricus bisporus||Button mushroom||White mushroom||Champignon de Paris||Hatakeshimeji|
|Oyster mushroom||Pleurotus ostreatus||Oyster mushroom||Oyster mushroom||Pleurote en huître||Hiratake|
|Shiitake mushroom||Lentinula edodes||Shiitake||Shiitake||Shiitaké||Shiitake|
|Enoki mushroom||Flammulina velutipes||Golden needle||Enoki||Enokitaké||Enokidake|
This helps explain why the same mushroom may be known by different names in different regions. Nevertheless, the Latin scientific name always uniquely identifies each species.
Importance of Precise Naming
With thousands of mushroom species, some very similar in appearance, accurately naming varieties is crucial:
– Prevents misidentification, incorrect foraging and accidental poisonings.
– Allows effective communication between growers, foragers, researchers and regulators.
– Enables precise record-keeping, cataloging, farming and pricing of species.
– Provides vital clues on edibility, toxicity, habitat, spores and genetics.
– Allows control efforts against invasive, detrimental or pathogenic species.
– Assists biodiversity monitoring, conservation, cultivation and ecological understanding.
So whether using common or scientific names, correctly identifying mushroom species by their unique names can have major implications for health, science, commerce and environment.
While mushrooms display an incredible diversity of forms and colors, each species can be precisely identified through its unique scientific name consisting of genus and species. Additional common names and descriptive terms provide clues into its edibility, habitat and distinguishing features. With over 10,000 mushroom species in the U.S. alone, this specialized naming system is crucial for mycology, foraging and fungal conservation. So learning mushroom names not only satisfies curiosity about those fungi on the forest floor or market shelf, but also opens up their secret lives and indispensable ecological roles.