THE MYCOLOGICAL ASSOCIATION OF WASHINGTON, DC

Have a mushroom you want to identify?

There are many ways to figure out what mushroom you're looking at. Please see the section at the end of this page on how to take effective ID pictures, so we can help you better!

Urgent ID

In case of possible mushroom poisoning, contact the 24-hour National Capital Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222. Several MAW experts work with them on mushroom poisoning cases and will do their best to assist you. (There is also a good Poisoning ID page on Facebook, and resources from the North American Mycological Association.)

Community Science

MAW members participate in two community science projects that can help with ID: 

  • iNaturalist has an AI that will make a first guess at identifying your mushroom. Other iNaturalist users (including many MAW members) may then confirm the ID or make corrections. 
  • Mushroom Observer doesn't have an AI for instant ID, but it does have a wealth of experts who can identify mushrooms. 

Uploading your mushroom photos to these projects makes them part of a database that can be used by scientists and conservationists studying species distribution and biodiversity -- and it's a great way to keep a "life list" of mushrooms you've seen. 

Social Media 

Local Facebook groups are another resource:

MAW Meetings

MAW's monthly meetings always include an ID table where club experts will help identify the mushrooms you bring in. Right now, we're doing this virtually: send photos to forays@mawdc.org and they might be included in our monthly round-up of the mushrooms people have been finding. 

Field Guides

If you get hooked, eventually you'll want your own field guide. Some good mushroom guides for the Washington, DC area include: 
  • Mushrooms of West Virginia and the Central Appalachians by Bill Roody
  • Mushrooms of the Northeastern United States and Eastern Canada by Tim Baroni
  • National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Mushrooms by Gary Lincoff

Still Stumped? 

We strongly encourage people to use the public options above so that others can also learn from the identification of your mushroom. But if you're still stumped, and your mushroom is growing in the greater Washington, DC metropolitan area, feel free to email identifiers@mawdc.org and we'll see if we can help you out. 

Taking pictures for identification

We frequently are unable to identify from photos because they don't include enough information. Whatever ID option you choose from above, better pictures will help identifiers help you! 

  • Images need to be clear, well-lit, and in focus. 
  • Include something for scale (eg keys, pen, your hand).
  • Take multiple pictures at different angles (or put multiple mushrooms in your photo) so we can see:
    • the top of the cap
    • the pore/gill surface on the underside of the cap
    • the stem and base (if applicable)
    • whether it is growing from the ground, wood, or some other substrate
    • if possible, the type of tree it is growing on (or under) -- include leaves/needles next to mushroom, if possible
  • Scratch the mushroom and look for any staining, discoloration or milk/latex.
  • Smell can also be an important identifying characteristic -- give it a sniff and include a description in your notes.


Mushrooms 101

For more on learning how to look at mushrooms for ID, see our video on Mushrooms 101:

Comments or questions? Contact us at info@mawdc.org.

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