A bread and butter knife, a dollar coin, a smartphone, and a white sheet of paper

Spore Prints and Identification

I am on a few facebook fungi groups and one of the continuing frustration is the posting of pretty photos that lack and diagnostic characters. Generally, it is almost unidentifiable.

Elias Magnus Fries (1794 – 1878)

The characteristics we use for identifying fungi were first defined by Elias Magnus Fries (Swedish) who published a series of books between 1821 and 1874. In these books, he developed a classification system using spore colour and the arrangement of the spore-bearing tissue (gills, pores, teeth etc) as key characteristics. While molecular techniques have in recent years resulted in a lot of rearrangement of species the key characteristics are still the bases for field identification.

The arrival of smartphones means that we all now carry a digital camera so information can be quickly recorded. The majority of photos on my blog have been taken with smartphones and not stand alone cameras.

A bread and butter knife

When I am out looking at fungi I always carry my phone, a $1 coin, and an old bread and butter knife. I use the knife to dig up the mushroom I want to photograph so as to make sure that I get the base of the stem.

Leratiomyces ceres, as it is [photo Geoff Ridley]

A dollar coin

I then lay the mushrooms out so as to see the top of the cap, the underside of the cap so as to see the gills/pores/teeth, any ring or structures on the stem, and whether or not there is a bulb or other structures at the base of the stem.

Leratiomyces ceres showing top and bottom of cap [photo Geoff Ridley]

I include the $1 coin in the photo for scale. I also will include the leaves of any dominant plants just to remind me about the habitat.

Leratiomyces ceres showing top and bottom of cap [photo Geoff Ridley]

A smartphone

I may take all of these photos in the field or I might also take some when I get home (hence the carpet background in some photos.

Leratiomyces ceres showing gill attachment at the stem and inner flesh of cap and stem [photo Geoff Ridley]

Then I make a spore print. The British mycologist George Massee described it this way in 1911:

It is wise … to prepare spore-prints … To do this, a mature agaric (mushroom) should have the stem cut off close to the gills, then place the cap gills downward, on a piece of paper, and cover the whole with a tumbler, basin, etc., to prevent undue evaporation. After an interval of eight to twelve hours, if the cap is carefully lifted up, a perfect impression of the interspaces between gills will be formed on the paper by the deposited spores.

A sheet of white paper

Stems removed from caps [photo Geoff Ridley]

Caps placed gill side down [photo Geoff Ridley]

I always make my spore prints on good quality white photocopier/printer paper. Some people say to use black paper for white-spored species but I find that white paper lets you see the difference between white, cream and pale yellow spores which is less obvious on black paper. I also will wet the tips of my fingers and flick a little water on to the top of the cap before covering it as this will help to maintain the humidity. It’s also worth noting the other reason for covering the caps is to stop air movement carrying the spores away and instead they drop straight to the surface of the paper. Although only gill mushrooms are mentioned it can be used for mushrooms with pores and teeth and for coral fungi as well.

Caps covered with mugs [photo Geoff Ridley]

When you uncover the finished spore print you should record the spore colour as soon as possible as the spores will begin to dry out and may change colour slightly.

Caps removed to show spore print [photo Geoff Ridley]

Have a good look at these two spore prints. They superficial are dark or black prints. However, the one on the left is a very dark chocolate brown going on to brown-black. Whereas, the one on the right is a dark purple-brown. While not necessarily useful at the species level it can be useful for separating genera. In this case Leratiomyces on the left and Psilocybe on the right.

The spore print can be folded in half and stored in an envelope indefinitely.


School holidays at Zealandia

I had the chance to help with Zealandia’s school holiday programme on the 24th April (see my previous blog from 2016). The weather has been all over the place so while there where fungi to find they were few in number.

Zealandia staff members use Nature Watch to record what they find at Zealandia and this includes the holiday programme. Here are two groups being shown how to upload photos to Nature Watch before we hit the bush. All of these fungi were found along the Te Mahanga Track between the lower and upper reservoirs.

[photo Geoff Ridley]

Not a great photo of this little wood decay mushroom. It’s got me stumped at the moment. I had thought Heimiomyces neovelutipes but the stipe is too smooth and the gill too white I think.

Heimiomyces neovelutipes? [photo Geoff Ridley]

Hypholoma fasciculares [photo Geoff Ridley]

We only saw one fruitbody of Psilocybe weraroa. Not a great photo of this very pale blue secotioid fungus.

Psilocybe weraroa [photo Geoff Ridley]

Auricularia cornea [photo Geoff Ridley]

Favolaschia calocera [photo Geoff Ridley]

A nice little group of Cyathus striatus – This larger birds nest is easy recognised by the dark brown hairy cup with a shiny fluted interior.

Cyathus striatus [photo Geoff Ridley]

I’m guessing a Mycena but only saw the one and I don’t have a specimen.

Mycen? [photo Geoff Ridley]

Another tiny white Mycena. Looking at the stipe of the larger fruitbody in the second photo I’m thinking Mycena austrororida.

Mycena austrororida? [photo Geoff Ridley]

Mycena austrororida? [photo Geoff Ridley]

These little Mycena were growing deep inside a hole in the trunk of a standing living tree.  It is similar to Jerry Cooper’s  Mycena sp. ‘Ahuriri Reserve (PDD80918)’. See also my find of this from Otari-Wilton’s Bush.

Mycena sp. ‘Ahuriri Reserve’ [photo Geoff Ridley]

The next two photos are what is probably a little Lepiota growing in the litter around the base of a fern. It has a white spore print.

Lepiota [photo Geoff Ridley]

Lepiota [photo Geoff Ridley]

Otari-Wilton’s Bush Annual Foray, 22 April 2018

Wow, 50 to 60 people turned up for the foray this afternoon. It was a beautiful day but the fungi didn’t live up to it as the wettish summer and autumn resulted in lots of small fruiting flushes. And today wasn’t one of them. Despite that, it was an enthusiastic group with lots of questions.

Wilton, Wellington, looking across the Otari Native Plant Museum. Evening post (Newspaper. 1865-2002) :Photographic negatives and prints of the Evening Post newspaper. Ref: 1/2-088441-G. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. /records/22916054

The forayers met at the house in the middle of the photo above which is now the Leonard Cockayne Centre.

Immediately outside the back door to the Centre was a small group of Psathyrella corrugis – a typical woodchip fungus in the Native Garden.

Psathyrella corrugis [photo Geoff Ridley]

All at several spots around the native garden was another woodchip fungus – Parasola leiocephala – a typical coprinoid parasol fungus. There was also one very small group of Leratiomyces ceres which is generally fruiting all through the Native Garden at this time of the year.

Parasola leiocephala [photo Geoff Ridley]

At the north end of the Information Centre is a grove of podocarps which includes Podocarpus totara. Growing on the lower trunk of this specimen is the tiny mushrooms of Mycetinis curraniae. The question arose why only on the lower trunk? My only suggestion is that this part of the tree stays damp the longest so promotes the growth of this bark decomposing fungus.

Mycetinis curraniae [photo Geoff Ridley]

Over in the Fernery, the last sad remains of an Agrocybe parasitica fruitbody quietly decomposes. This fruitbody was growing from the base of a living Beilschmiedia tawa that has been consistently producing fruitbodies every year for the last twelve years.

Agrocybe parasitica [photo Geoff Ridley]

In the bush behind the Alpine garden is log which has consistently produced fruitbodies Lentinellus novae-zelandiae, the native shiitake, for the last twelve years. However, on this visit, there was only one to be seen.

Lentinellus novae-zelandiae [photo Geoff Ridley]

Just off the path, below the concrete retaining wall at the edge of the car park was a standing dead tree with Auricularia cornea and also a fallen branch with Favolaschia calocera.

Favolaschia calocera [photo Geoff Ridley]

We ran out of time so didn’t go down the track to the waterfall however during my reconnaissance on Saturday, 21 April, I saw Clitocybe nebularis and ….

Clitocybe nebularis [photo Geoff Ridley]

… one sad old Macrolepiota clelandii. This is the only place in the Bush that I have seen this species and my son saw a bigger fruiting in the same place three weeks ago (31 March), his pictures are below.

Macrolepiota clelandii [photo Geoff Ridley]

Macrolepiota clelandii [photo Lachlan Ridley]

Macrolepiota clelandii [photo Lachlan Ridley]

Note that all my photos in this post were taken 21 April.


Dr Ann Bell is a mycological artist and also a cartoonist. She was also my mentor and supervisor during my post-graduate studies. While Ann’s artwork can be found in her taxonomic papers and books her cartoons are more ephemeral. During my time as her student, I collected a few of cartoons that had a mycological flavour.

The first one featured on the Department of Botany’s (Victoria University of Wellington) annual Prospectus from 1978 until 1988. It features the staff and their teaching and research interest. Down in the bottom corner is someone studying an Amanita muscaria. Who would have known when I started studying botany in 1978 that I would work on Amanita for my PhD.

Cover of the Department of Botany prospectus [cartoon Bell 1978-1988]

“Amanita ID” [cartoon Bell 1978-1988]

I first worked with Ann for my Honours’ project on dung fungi. At this time Ann was working on her dung fungi of New Zealand book which was published in 1984. She illustrated the passage of the dung fungi spores through a sheep like this:

“The dung fungus lifestyle” [from Bell 1984]

In 1986 the first New Zealand fungal foray was held at  Kauaeranga Valley in the Coromandel. Ann drew this cartoon of the identification process to celebrate the Foray and Dr Barbara Segedin’s birthday. The full A4 sheet has all of our signatures.

“Achieving consensus 1” [cartoon Ann Bell 1986]

Ann later redrew a portion of the “identification process” to illustrate a short report of the Foray in a newsletter.

“Achieving consensus 2” [cartoon Bell 1986]

She also drew this grumpy little elf to illustrate the advertisement for the 1987 foray in the same newsletter.

“Grumpy little elf” [cartoon Bell 1986]

Sometime in early 1988, I gave Ann a portion of my PhD manuscript, as a dot matrix printout, to read along with a pile of photographs that were referred to in the text. This was also before scanning of photos was available. The printout came back with Ann’s annotations, corrections and this little fellow who I have come to know as “Russel the Russula spore”. I have included here the SEM (scanning electron microscope) photo that was the inspiration.

“Russel the Russula spore” [Cartoon Ann Bell 1988]

Russula acrolamellata spore [Photo Geoff Ridley]

In 1988 Barbara Segedin retired from the Department of Botany at the University of Auckland. As a retirement gift “A Memorable Mycological Miscellany” was produced. Ann contributed three cartoons. The first had Barbara ranking the three most important things in her life. Note that Cecil was her husband and he was from Yugoslavia.

Cartoon by Ann Bell, 1988

The next was a troop of helmets or Mycena. I like the German imagery of Mycena as helmets rather than the more English image of bonnets.

“A troop of helmets” [Cartoon Ann Bell 1988]

And the last was “the romantic love story of Mucor”. I have also included Ann’s more scientific drawing of Mucor from 1984.

“The romantic love story of Mucor” [cartoon Ann Bell 1988]

Mucor life cycle [illustration Bell 1984]

The curtain dropped for the Botany Department at the end of 1988 as it was rolled into a larger School of Biological Science. Ann illustrated the School’s new prospectus but these did not include any fungi. It did include a moss and some feral knitting:

“Feral knitting” [cartoon Bell 1989]

The beginning of 1989 marked the completion of my PhD and Ann’s cartoon of students completing their degree sums it up.

“Taking flight with a new degree” [Cartoon Bell 1989]

Although in Ann did remind us not to let it go to our heads (in Green, 1979).

“Wearing nothing but his qualifications”[Cartoon Bell in Green 1979]

If anyone one knows of any other mycological cartoons Ann has drawn please let me know so I can include them here.


Bell A, 1983. Dung fungi: an illustrated guide to coprophilous fungi in New Zealand. Victoria University Press, Wellington [this book is still available from Victoria University Press]

Department of Botany, Victoria University of Wellington, Prospectus. 1978 to 1988

Green W, 1979. Focus on social responsibility in science. The New Zealand Association of Scientists.

School of Biological Science, Victoria University of Wellington, Prospectus. 1989

Systematics Association of New Zealand, Newsletter 27, December 1986


Fungi of The Rigi

3 June 2017

On the way to the supermarket, I saw this large troop of Psathyrella growing on wood mulch in Glenmore St, Wellington, just up the hill from The Rigi. (If you are intrigued by the name The Rigi read more here.)

The Rigi and Glenmore St intesection 2013 [photo Amy Jackman]

Large fruiting of Psathyrella on wood mulch [photo Geoff Ridley]

These were Psathyrella microrhiza. Note the colour change as the caps dry out with age as a result of air replacing water between the hyphae that makes up the cap tissue. This is known as hygrophanous.

Psathyrella microrhiza [photo Geoff Ridley]

Psathyrella microrhiza [photo Geoff Ridley]

Just as I was about to go I noticed that some of the Psathyrella near the edge of the mulched area, where there was more grass, were more reddish. I grabbed a few without stopping to get a picture. Looking at one of the pictures of the whole area you can just make out these pinkish brown specimens with more conical caps than the Psathyrella microrhiza.

Psathyrella bipellis marked by the arrows [photo Geoff Ridley]

This appears to be Psathyrella bipellis which has a reddish-brown cap and stipe. There are a number of Psathyrella species fruiting on wood mulch in Wellington and I need to spend some time and see if I can sort them out.

Psathyrella bipellis [photo Geoff Ridley]

Amazing what you find on the way to the supermarket!

Otari-Wilton’s Bush Annual Foray, 28 May 2017


This year the foray was held on a cold damp day in May rather than April. This year has been cooler and consistently wetter then the last couple of years. This has meant that fungi have been fruiting sporadically over a much longer period of time. Here is what we say today.

Southern Beech Grove

This is the first Cortinarius / Thaxterogater found at Otari-Wilton’s bush.

Cortinarius epiphaeus [photo Geoff Ridley]

Plant Collection below the Cockayne Lookout

The fungi in the plant collection garden are all growing in the thick wood mulch used in this area,

Psathyrella sp. [photo Geoff Ridley]

Lycoperdon perlatum [photo Geoff Ridley]

Leratiomyces ceres [photo Geoff Ridley]

Lepiota aspera [photo Geoff Ridley]

Kauri Lawn and Fernery

Leratiomyces erythrocephalus [photo Geoff Ridley]

Crucibulum laevae [photo Geoff Ridley]

This Psathyrella has a faintly reddish tinge to the gill margin and the cap is hygrophanous. Possibly around Psathyrella corrugis.

Psathyrella aff. corrugis [photo Geoff Ridley]

Armillaris novae-zelandiae [photo Geoff Ridley]

Stump with Armillaria novae-zelandia, Favolaschia calocera, Auricularia cornea, and a small Ganoderma [photo Geoff Ridley]

Auricularia cornea [photo Geoff Ridley]

Coprinellus disseminatus [photo Geoff Ridley]

Favolaschia calocera and Auricularis corneus [photo Geoff Ridley]

Heimiomyces neovelutipes [photo Geoff Ridley]

 Circular Walk Below the Bowling Club

Hohenbuehelia or Resupinatus [photo Geoff Ridley]

Read about the foray in the Otari – Wilton’s Bush Trust News and Views, September 2017

The first mushroom for 2017

Walking in the Wellington Botanic Garden today I saw this young Agrocybe parasitica. It was growing from a well-decayed branch stub of titoki [Alectryon excelsus] on the Serpentine Way track behind the Dell.

Agrocybe parasitica [photo Geoff Ridley]

Agrocybe parasitica [photo Geoff Ridley]

 A guide to this blog

To better find your way around Spores, Moulds and Fungi I have added a couple of extra pages:

  • Blogs – this is a numbered chronological list of all blogs I have written.
  • Index – this is an alphabetical index of all Latin names for fungi used in the blog. There are active links to every blog where the name is mentioned and usually a photo as well.
  • Readings – this is a chronological list of interesting web articles and blogs on fungi.
  • Stuff – this is just interesting bits and pieces that I find.