Guide to Mushrooms of the Chicago Region
With information for the Upper Midwest and North America
Pages are added as time permits. See the Site Map for current content.
Chicago Region History and Partners
The Chicago Region is the focus of this guide. The counties in Illinois around the metropolis are rich with parks and forest preserves and the three counties of Indiana contain the Indiana Dunes State Park and National Lakeshore. The long history of mycological work in this area has documented a diverse mycoflora of well over a thousand species. This effort continues with the help of many participants.
Key to Fungi of the Chicago Region
This identification key to mushrooms will have photos to help make choices that lead you to various mushroom genera and species. The keys will be built as time allows. The first page shows how the different mushroom fruitbody types will be sorted out. The keys will use visible morphology as much as possible and microscopic characters where needed. Some groups require the mycological literature to identify the many similar species and will not be covered in detail here.
Here are description pages for the region's fungi arranged by taxonomic groups from phylum down to species. I include distribution maps. Added details on taxonomy can help us make sense of those name changes. Many mushrooms are found in the Phylum Basidiomycota while morels, cup fungi, and most lichens belong to the Phylum Ascomycota. An introduction to the fungi and their importance provides background information.
Glossary for Fungi
Nothing to see here yet. The glossary will be a companion to the keys and the description pages. Terms and morphological characters for macro-fungi will have definitions and where possible have illustrations or photos. There are many technical terms used for describing mushroom fruitbodies, their parts, textures, and shapes. The terms used can be generic like cap and stem or more specific like pileus and stipe; either work in this case. But in other cases the technical term has a precision of meaning that is absent from a generic word.
Methods in Mycology
There are many steps in the documentation and identification of mushrooms. We plan to cover the methods we use. Collection involves taking notes, recording location, and photography. Descriptions are written while examining the fresh mushroom; some characters are best written down and not reliably seen from photos. Mushrooms are dried and packaged. Identification work can be done on fresh or dried mushrooms depending on the time available. A microscope is used to observe and measure spores, cystidia, the surface features, or other anatomy. Identifications are made by using keys and reading descriptions. Finally we will describe how specimens are preserved in the herbarium.
North American Mycoflora
Like bird watching, mushroom hunting is a great activity when you can travel across the country or around the world. There is no end to the new kinds you can discover, even new species. The North American Mycoflora Project is an idea by Dr. Bruns and others that is starting to take shape. There are many components to the goal of assembling a mushroom flora for North America. Some of the related websites are listed here. Various clubs from Washington D.C. to California and Alberta and points in between are beginning the process of documenting their mushrooms with photos, specimens, and location data. The 2014 Telluride Mushroom Festival did the same.
Resources for Mycology
There are many great mushroom clubs across the United States and Canada. You can probably find one in your region. There are links here for clubs in the Upper Midwest and a list for the rest of the country. Find out what books we recommend. A variety of other websites are listed here that help with some aspect of mushroom collecting. Our club has started producing videos so check those out. I have monthly checklists and will be adding other content you can download.