FUNGI PHOTOS & DESCRIPTIONS

The photos and descriptions in this section of the FUNGIKINGDOM website depict many of the most commonly found macrofungi found in the northeast of the North American continent, as well as some unusual finds. Actually, many of the included fungi are common throughout the U.S. and Canada, but especially in the region extending from the east coast to the Rocky Mountains.

FUNGAL ORGANIZATION

Macro-fungi are divided into two divisions: the Ascomycota and the Basidiomycota

Ascomycetes are fungi that produce ascospores within elongated tubular sacs called asci that are situated in the body of the fungus, rather than from the underside of the fruiting body as with gilled or pored mushrooms. With exceptions, most asci contain 8 ascospores each. When their spores are mature, they are forcibly ejected from the fruiting body. There are two main kinds of ascomycetes: those that are cup-shaped and those that are flask shaped. Many ascos are quite small and beautiful such as the ‘Eyelash Cup’ (Scutellinia scutellata). Although there are also some basidiomycete lichens, ascomycetes are the dominant associate of lichens and are considered members of the fungi kingdom. In fact lichens are usually ascofungi that have had a long term relationship with an algae, along with bacteria and in some cases, a virus. 

Ascomycota are at work throughout the year, but larger ones appear in spring and can be found on wood, soil, leaves and other substrates. There are many more ascomycetes than basidiomycetes, but most are too small to be seen without a microscope. They are believed to be evolutionarily older than the macro-fungi in the Basidiomycota. 

Species of fungi within the basidiomycota have reproductive spores that are enclosed within club-shaped sacs called basidia. Each basidium typically has four spores (There are exceptions). Tiny projections on the end of each basidium are called sterigmata. As spores mature they are ejected from the sterigmata and are wafted away in air currents. Most mushroom collectors tend to focus more on fungi in the basidiomycota than fungi in the ascomycota - in part because - with the exception of choice edible species of morels, truffles and the ‘lobster mushroom’, they are usually more charismatic and more noticeable during the course of a growing season. 

The majority of fungi (whether ascomycetes or basidiomycetes) are saprotrophs: they emit enzymes that break down dead organic matter into smaller molecules. These are absorbed by the mycelium enabling it to survive, expand and carry on its mode of living. Many of the molecules may be taken in by mycohrrizal fungi associated with the roots of plants and transferred to trees in return for sugars and other nutrients. 

Beyond these two main divisions, mycologists have organized fungi into orders, families, genera and speciesWithin each of the two main divisions there are numerous orders. The name of each order ends in the letters ‘-ales’.  Within each order there is one or more likely several families. The name of each family ends in the letters ‘-aceae'. Within each family there are between one and numerous genera. Genera end in the letters ‘-ius’. Within each genera there may be one or more typically numerous species.  

HOW TO NAVIGATE THIS SITE: Photos of macrofungi displayed here are organized into the two major fungal divisions: the Ascomycota and the BasidiomycotaThe included fungi are arranged morphologically by form as they are in field guides. However, in the interest of being up-to-date and scientifically accurate, the descriptions will provide you with phylogenetic information appropriate for each fungus covered in terms of its Order, Family, and Genus. Since mushroom enthusiasts have also long been drawn to the fascinating organisms popularly called ‘Slime Molds’, I have also included on this site a collection of photos of specimens belonging to the Myxogastria. 

Click on the division you are interested in viewing (Ascomycetes or Basidiomycetes) in the QUICK LINKS pages listed below and then the name of a general shape or form of fungi that you are interested in examining and learning about. The fungi in each morphologically defined group are pictured and described alphabetically under the following familiar categories: 

ASCOMYCETES: CUP-SHAPED    ASCOMYCETES: FLASK FUNGI   BOLETE-LIKE FUNGI WITH SPONGY PORES   CANTHARELLOID MUSHROOMS   CLUBS & CORALS   GASTROID FUNGI & STINKHORNS   GELATINOUS FUNGI   GILLED MUSHROOMS    LACTARIUS, LACTIFLUUS & RUSSULAS      POLYPORES, STEREUMS & CRUSTS   TOOTHED FUNGI

Note that many fungi are listed with two names: the new one (genus and species) followed by the older one (in parentheses) used in many excellent, but older field guides. I have done this so it will be easy to find descriptions in the literature or online. You can use either name. They are generally considered synonyms. Not all fungi have common names, and this is why we are using scientific binomials to refer to the various families and species within each family. You can simply click on a name and be brought to the photo and description of each included fungus in the Ascomycota. Remember, if a particular name is in parentheses, that is the older name which you can use to find the fungus in your favorite field guide published before 2018. To see enlarged versions of each species photo, just click on it. Numerous photos have descriptions posted beneath them. More will be added as time permits.