Key to Shapes

To begin keying, compare the specimen at hand to the illustrated and described shape categories below. After determining the best fit, go to the dichotomous key for that category to continue the identification process. Bear in mind that only one picture is used here to illustrate an entire group. Pay as much attention to the description as to the single image. Once you are more familiar with the shape categories, you can go directly to the keys via the menu below.

Bird's nest | Club, coral, leafy | Crust and parchment | Cup and saucer | Gilled
Jelly | Poroid | Puffball and cushion | Stinkhorn | Teeth and spine

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Example

Shape Category

Description

Bird's Nest

Key

Species List
These fungi look like miniature bird's nests with egg-shaped structures inside called peridioles. Bird's nest fungi are small, only 0.5 to 1 cm in diameter. Drops of water splash the peridioles out of the cups, dispersing the fungus.
Club, Coral and Leafy

Key

Species List

Fungi with an upright club-like (unbranched) or coral-like (branched) growth habit comprise this grouping. Some occur as single, upright, club-like structures. Others, as illustrated here, are clustered and highly branched. Some forms have flattened branches giving them a leafy appearance. None of them form pores or gills.
Crust and Parchment

Key

Species List
Species in this grouping are either 1) sheetlike, crustlike, and spreading over the substrate or 2) projecting away from the substrate as tough, leathery, parchment-like caps or 3) some combination of crustlike and projecting portions. The fertile surface may be smooth, rough, or bumpy but never forms pores, gills, or teeth. Fuligo septica may be found as a gooey spreading mass at first before becoming dry and powdery.
Cup and Saucer

Key

Species List
Ranging from less than a mm to several cms in diameter, these fungi have the appearance of a flattened saucer or disc or of a cup. The underside may be stalked or not. The smooth, upper fertile surface may or may not be differently colored from the lower surface.
Gilled

Key

Species List
Fungi with a lower surface bearing radiating plates or gills are grouped here. These fungi are fleshy and the gills are readily separable from the rest of the mushroom. Certain poroid fungi (e.g., Lenzites betulina, Gloeophyllum sepiarium) have pores which "break down" and form gill-like structures. Unlike the true gilled fungi, the "gills" of these poroid fungi have a tough texture and are not readily separable from the rest of the fungus.

Jelly

Key

Species List

Organisms in this group share two characteristics. First, a fresh specimen must be jelly-like in texture (i.e., soft and gelatinous). Second, the fruitbodies are irregular in shape. These fungi do not form teeth, spines, pores, or gills. Many of these fungi first appear as individual fruit bodies which are irregularly lobed or convoluted or described as brainlike in appearance. In time, these may fuse with others to form large irregular masses 10-20 cm or more long.
Poroid

Key

Species List
Poroid fungi have many holes (i.e., pores) or pits that comprise the fertile surface. These holes are the openings of tubes these fungi form. Spores form on the interior walls of the tubes. Pores may be large (e.g., each over 1 mm diameter) or very small (5-7 pores per linear mm). Use a 10x hand lens before deciding your specimen does not form pores.
Puffball and
Cushion


Key

Species List
If the fungus has the general shape of a ball, then it is placed in this category. The ball-like structure may be somewhat compressed (cushion-shaped) or pear- shaped or turban-shaped. It may be stalked or sessile, hard or soft, smooth or lumpy. These organisms do not have the "open" or "flat top" look of the cup and saucer fungi. They do not have the peridioles of the bird's nest fungi. They are not as narrow in relation to their height as are the club and coral fungi nor do they form branches.
Stinkhorn

Key

Species List
Stinkhorn fungi would fall into the club, coral, and leafy shape category but for one feature: at maturity, the terminal portion of the stalk-like stinkhorn is covered by a brownish-green, foul-smelling gooey slime. The slime is loaded with spores and attracts flies which disperse the spores.
Teeth and Spine

Key

Species List
Fungi in this group form either flattened teeth-like structures or rounded spine-like structures which are either 1) oriented downward (pendulous) in contrast to the upright stalks of the club, coral, and leafy group or 2) occur as a spreading mass of spines or teeth on the substrate. In the latter case, the teeth/spines are tough in texture and just a few millimeters long. Certain poroid fungi (e.g. Irpex lacteus, Cerrena unicolor) have pores which break down to form "teeth."

 

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This page © 2006 by Gary Emberger, Messiah College