There are hundreds of thousands of species of wild mushrooms. Some are edible, some can send you on a mystical journey, and some will try and kill you.
So how are we supposed to tell them all apart?
Experience, and careful practice, honed over many years, is the best way to really learn how to identify mushrooms. However, there are some reasonably helpful mushroom identification apps(and a couple awesome books!) that can lend a hand along the way.
Best Mushroom Identification Apps
Rogers Mushrooms App (iOS, Android)
People who have tried to ID mushrooms online before might be familiar with Roger’s Mushrooms. The website was a great resource which had thousands of pictures and identification parameters for many types of mushrooms.
The website is no longer available, however, the information is still available on the Roger’s Mushrooms App for IOS and Android.
The app features identification for over 1600 species with over 2600 high res pictures, all zoomable so you can get a closer look. Warning though, this app takes up a ton of space.
The app also has some other features, such as being able to pin your finds and foraging locations on a map, ability to filter mushrooms by visual appearance and some social features.
It is available for both IOS and Android. The Android app is the older version, which most people say is much better than the updated version anyways.
Book of Mushrooms (Android)
This app claims to be “your personal assistant in the woods”, and it does a pretty good job at that. With over 100,000 downloads from the play store, it is certainly one of the most popular mushroom apps available.
The app only contains 254 of the most common species, and misses some of the big ones. But honestly, there are still a ton of different mushrooms on the app.
There are also over 1400 pictures, all taken from different angles to help with identification.
Other functionalities include a search, a section of helpful articles, and a mushroom calendar so that you can see what mushrooms are currently fruiting.
The app might not be the best thing since fried morels, but it’s free- so hard to complain!
Fungitron Mushroom Guide (Android)
Fungitron boasts the “highest number of free mushrooms”, although there are only 70. That being said, the photos are high quality, and the descriptions are pretty thorough.
The app also has an “Identification Mode” which allows you to filter mushrooms based on characteristics such as fungi type, cap shape, size and other physical and environmental identifiers.
This feature would be awesome if there were more mushrooms in the app, but with only 70, it’s not all that useful. Selecting too many identifier will yield “no results pretty quick.
The fungitron app might be useful if you are mushroom hunting in a place that has no phone service- which is likely, but it really doesn’t hold any advantages over just using a good guidebook.
Again, the app is free, and the interface is friendly, so there is nothing wrong with giving it a try!
Although the name of the app “Mushrooms” (by Kirill Sidorov) isn’t all that exciting, the actual content is pretty good. As far as I can tell, it is pretty much an offline version of all the mushroom species info from Wikipedia.
It breaks down the species between “edible”, “in-edible” and “poisonous”, and you are able to search within each category for the species by Latin name.
However, there is no key or any other functionality, so it isn’t all that helpful as a tool to identify mushrooms, unless you scroll through each one individually, trying to match a find.
Also, there aren’t a ton of pictures, usually just one for each species, which unfortunately leaves a lot to the imagination.
The app is free, and useful if you just want to learn about tons of different mushroom species- overall it might be worth a try.
Skip the App?
To be honest, even though mushroom apps are kind of cool, they may not be all that important.
Although some of them serve functionality, it’s usually quite limited. For example, sure some mushroom apps allow you to pin point your finds with GPS on a map- but you’re probably better off just using a separate GPS app and your camera.
Most of them are just downloads of information and pictures on your phone, which can usually be accomplished better with a book- and you don’t have to worry about running out of battery in the forest!
Audubon Mushrooms Guidebook
With over 750 full color, high quality pictures, and 700 species covered in depth, the National Audubon Society’s Field Guide to Mushrooms is a must have for any mushroom hunter.
Although it is incredibly comprehensive, it’s still small enough to easily carry with you on your next foraging adventure.
The book is organized with a visual key, which makes it easy to try and narrow down the mushrooms you’re actually looking at on the forest floor.
You could consider the above apps as essentially a watered-down version of this guide, with some added functionality you’ll likely never use. For most people, the book is a better option.
The book is organized with a visual key, which makes it easy to try and narrow down the mushrooms you are actually looking at on the forest floor.
You could consider the apps above as essentially a watered-down version of this guide, with some added functionality you’ll likely never use. For most people, the book is a better option.
Although this compendium is large and heavy as a brick (bring an extra backpack!) it’s packed full of incredibly useful information, and is definitely worth it’s weight in morels.
But Mushrooms Demystified by David Aurora is more than just a guide book.
It contains comprehensive information on over 2000 species, tons of helpful pictures, and is organized as a dichotomous key– meaning it’s actually useful for identifying mushrooms in ways other than simply comparing pictures.
There’s an incredible amount of information in this book- and if you were able to digest it all, you’d have a pretty good handle on not only identifying mushrooms, but mycology in general.
Mushroom Identification Groups
So what if you have an identification app or book already… but still need a little guidance?
Although we’d all like to take a mushroom expert along on every foraging adventure, it’s not always possible.
Luckily, there are some awesome communities online full of enthusiastic mushroom hunters that would love to help you identify your finds.
Mushroom Identification on Facebook
There are a number of mushroom identification groups on Facebook. Post a picture of your finds, with as many details as possible (location, size, time of year, ect…) and plent of people will chime in to help you out. Some of these communities are quite active, and a great way to learn.
I have also come across the Ontario Foraging, Wildcrafting & Fermenting Facebook group, which is much better for help identifying local varieties around Ottawa.There are even groups dedicated to specific species of mushrooms, or specific regions, so I’m sure you can find a group that works for you.
Mushroom Identification on Reddit
Don’t like facebook? No problem!
There are a few awesome subreddits dedicated to mushrooms that can help you out in a big way.
The most active of these is definitely r/mycology .
Although not specifically dedicated to identification, they do accept ID requests, and lots of knowledgeable folks there love to help out.
With either of these groups though, keep in mind that identifying a wild mushroom over the internet is extremely difficult. Don’t blindly accept the ID of a mushroom from random strangers online.
Eating the wrong mushroom can be dangerous- so always err on the side of caution!