absolute identification (was Re: Yellow Moral (sic))

John S. Watson - FSC watson at pioneer.arc.nasa.gov
Wed Mar 1 14:04:03 EST 1995

>Several problems with this picture...1) don't eat anything without absolute
>identification, 2) don't eat more than a couple of forks-ful of a new
>mushroom, 3) verify your first attempt at verification with someone
>who knows the edibles in your area.

Good advice, but what exactly do people mean when they
things like, "absolute identification". 
What does "absolute identification" mean to you?  
I've got about four mushroom identification books, which
can help.  But even then, in some cases,  the mushrooms never look exactly
like their picture.  

For instance, a month or so ago I found what I thought were a bunch
of blewits (Clitocybe nuda).  Light purple, fairly obvious
(spore print had right color).
So I ate a few, and the next day felt kind of sick.  So I raked my brains
trying to figure out what went wrong with my inditification.  
I went back to where I found the blewits, and all the mushroom that
were still there had turned a sort of orangish-yellow.   So now
I was sure I'd mis-identified them.  That weekend there was a 
Mushroom Fair down the road in Santa Cruz, so I took the opportunity
to take a few there and see just what I'd eaten.  Turned out they
were blewits ... just somewhat old.  So I ate a few more (younger ones), 
and they didn't bother me at all.  

Another mushroom I have trouble ID'ing is Boletus Edulus,
which never looks exactly like it does in the books.
Part of the problem is I haven't really seen enough of them
in the wild.

I guess that the problem with books ... they only show you perfect
examples, and don't let you get a feel for the variability in
the characteristics of the species.  Maybe someday one of the 
fungus organization can set up a web site with numerous photos
of every species.

Anyway, I'm not sure if there is any real absolute identification
except for finding someone experienced enough to know them absolutely.

Anyway, just sort of rambling,

John S. Watson                  
NASA Ames Research Center MS/243-9, Moffett Field, CA 94035
<a href="http://ccf.arc.nasa.gov/~watson/watson.html">John S. Watson</a>

"Don't it always seem to go, that you don't know what you've got 'til it's gone ..."

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