Time for a New Field Guide

Within the last few weeks, more than ten species of mushrooms have emerged in a grove of oaks in our yard and I’m only familiar with one of them. Mushroom identification is complicated and depends on a number of factors that I tend to forget from year to year: whether or not there are gills and how they are attached, the shape of the cap, the color of the spore print, color, habitat, season, and more. For now, looking more carefully and making sketches and field notes before these ephemeral species disappear is more valuable than knowing the names. But soon, it will be good to have a guide to fungi on my shelf.

Though I set out to paint these, I quickly decided to simplify and just use a mechanical pencil. It made it easier to move from one cluster to another and maximize limited sketching time.

23 Comments on “Time for a New Field Guide

  1. Yes, get several field guides! I used to work at ID’ing mushrooms and found I needed more than one guide. I hope we’ll see paintings too, for those subtle colorations. But I won’t be greedy – this is wonderful!

    • That’s a good suggestion. I get easily frustrated with what’s online, too. I’d like to find a guide that is limited to the east/northeast so that I can eliminate things that don’t occur here. I hope to have some time for painting, too, but it’s been dry now and the existing crop is starting to turn bad. There’s such value to seizing the moment with mushrooms!

      • Yes, give them a few days and they lose their look. As for online field guides, I agree, there’s nothing comparable to leafing through a physical book. For flowers I start there and then if I’ve got it narrowed down but am still unsure, I’ll go online. I’ve found there are plant lists for many of the sites I visit – those are invaluable. Maybe there are fungus lists for certain areas too? Do you know about the NY Mycological Society? They’re very good!

      • Thanks for the tip. That NYMYC looks like serious business. I noticed a few in the yard today just getting going, so I’ll have to follow their progress.

    • Thanks Catherine! I typically go from observing and sketching to research so that I learn more about what I’m seeing. I tend to revisit subjects from year to year, so my knowledge and skills grow.

  2. these are stunning. Mushrooms are on my list to paint up, especially the red capped ones! I always expect a gnome to be hiding underneath that variety. ;o)

  3. I know I’ve already told you this in the NJ group, but it’s worth saying again… These are simply wonderful, Jean! Though I have William Roody’s guide for my area (Southern Appalachians) which is great, and Peterson’s guide which isn’t super great but it sometimes works, my favorite ID resource is Michael Kuo’s online keys at mushroomexpert.com. (Start here: mushroomexpert.com/major_groups.html) Still, mushroom ID is hard, and I very rarely get an ID with 100 percent certainty. However, I can usually get the species down to the family. For observation purposes, it’s close enough! Have fun exploring!

    • Tonya– just looking more at your blog–terrific! We seem to pursue similar subjects. I’m working on moths attracted to our porch light as well as mushrooms these past few weeks. Your pages are beautiful and engaging! Thanks for reaching out to me so that I could find you.

      • I like Michael’s site also, so I’m glad it can be helpful to you. Your compliment is very kind. I’ve followed your work for a while and greatly admire your awesome sketching skills, and yes, we both love nature, watercolor, etc. Kindred spirits! 🙂 Have a great week, and happy mushroom hunting!

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