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Due to the rapid pace of developments in the area of fungi identification, and the consequent need to update photo galleries on an ongoing basis, photo galleries organized by order, family and genus in accordance with Index Fungorum are maintained at www.FungiKingdom.net. The majority of the photos were taken by Dianna Smith on scheduled COMA walks in New York and Connecticut between 2003 and 2013; photos taken at COMA’s annual forays, and photos taken by other COMA photographers, will be added to the galleries soon. Please read Dianna’s introduction to the photo galleries (below)  and visit www.FungiKingdom.net often to browse the educational programs; articles; and new photos and descriptions Dianna will be regularly adding to the site.

Photo Galleries Organized by Order, Family and Genus in Accordance with Index Fungorum

By Dianna Smith, COMA President Emeritus

Allow me to explain the organizational scheme adopted for the fungi photos, so you will be able to navigate through the collections easily. All the fungi depicted in the photos have, to the best of my knowledge, been reliably identified at least to genus. Almost all are identified to species, with the exception of the tricholomas, a genus with which I continue to struggle. A number of fungi common to the region were not included in these collections, either because we didn’t notice them or we were not able to identify them. Over time we will fill in the blanks!

I relied on Index Fungorum (as well as Myco Bank and published studies) to assist me in determining the name, order, and family of fungi depicted in the photos. There will inevitably be times when you will want to dispute identifications. I encourage you to promptly let me know your objections. Before going further, perhaps I should mention that Index Fungorum is not 100% up-to-date itself!

As you know, over the past 20 years taxonomy has been undergoing a complete change in the way fungi are organized. In our field guides, they are for the most part distributed into different sections based on morphological similarity—by shape. For example, they have separate subdivisons on gilled fungi, coral fungi, jelly fungi, polypores, club fungi, vase-shaped fungi, cup fungi, ‘stomach’ fungi, soft-pored fungi and so on. This organizational tactic is very friendly to both novices and experienced identifiers. It gives us a common starting point to begin searching for answers. Another way of organizing mushrooms is by order. Traditionally the main orders within the Class Agaricomycetes have included the Agaricales, Boletales, Cantharellales, Corticiales, Cortinariales, Helotiales, Hymenochaetales, Hypocreales, Pezizales, Polyporales, Russulales, and the Tremellales. All of these remain in use, but there are now several additional orders and families in which our common fungal finds are being placed.

We have been using observation, chemical clues and microscopic tools to help us identify fungi. Nowadays DNA analysis is being harnessed as the latest tool for identifying fungi and their phylogenetic relationships. We are learning that some fungi that we have grouped together based on their similar structures are distantly related. And some fungi that don’t look anything like each other are actually more closely related than are fungi that do look similar. At the same time, we are realizing that many of the European names North American mycologists adopted for our lookalike mushrooms are genetically different. We are also discovering that at least some of the mushrooms we first learned to identify with confidence are not single species or even a variation of a single species. What we having been calling Amanita vaginata, for example, appears to actually be a complex of different species. The same goes for the common Turkey Tail polypore (Trametes versicolor) and many other fungi. Such discoveries have necessitated not only a change in a given fungi’s order and/or family or genus, but also a change in its name.

This situation has sparked my curiosity and led me to attempt to organize the COMA photos using the latest information available regarding where in the overall scheme of things particular fungi belong. While this attempt may at first be confusing for novices as well as experienced mycophiles who are used to the previously established ways of organizing mushrooms by shape, ultimately everyone will get used to the new approach and will benefit from gaining a deeper understanding of the complexity of fungal relationships. To make searching for particular genera easier for you, I have established a “quick links” guide to the names of all the fungi in the collection based on the example used in designing most field guides: morphological groups. These live links will take you to the mushrooms you are looking for. Most fungi are listed with two names: the new one and in parentheses, the old one. Where two names are still being used synonymously, I have indicated that with the designation “syn.” Several photos have descriptions posted beneath them. More will be added as time permits.

Finally, while more detail can frequently be captured in a photograph of a mushroom than the human eye sees, there is no substitute for being part of a mycology club like COMA and learning from our mentors and each other.