Introduction | Taxa DB | Literature | Identification | Techniques | People

What to observe and how to do it?


Making a good description

Taking spore prints

Macrochemical reactions


Iron sulfate (FeSO4)


Potassium hydroxide (KOH)






Primordial hyphae

Hyphal extremities

Tissue and structure

In the field

Lactarius, and even more so Russula, are very difficult genera to identify. Very often, it will be impossible in the field to assign the specimens to a known species with certainty. Most often, you will want to check spores or other features under the microscope and, not infrequently, you will quickly notice that it is not the species you thought it to be when in the field. If you lack sufficient time to try out identification keys and check literature, you may prefer to take some notes and leave the important identification work for later. Whether or not you will be able to identify your mushroom later, will depend on the quality of your notes. So, one of the most important things when collecting Russula or Lactarius for later identification, is providing good illustrations and good field notes for your collections.

Fig. 1. A description of a collection of Russula camarophylla made by the French mycologist Maxime Chiaffi, complete with drawings of the specimens and of the main microscopical features.

When taking notes on collections, try to be as complete as possible. Documenting your collections with photographs, aquarelles or drawings constitute very important elements in this respect, but do not replace a minimum of written notes taken on the fresh material.

Taste and smell are very important features to note on fresh Russulales in view of later identification, but also eventual colour changes of context, latex etc… are features that are best described in extensive detail before drying the material. A complete description necessitates taking notes on a large number of features and the best way to do this is by using a standardized description form. Using a standardized form when taking notes has the advantage that one does not easily forgets one or other character. An example of a detailed description form for macroscopic features can be consulted and downloaded here.

Fig. 2. The present macroscopic description form is used to compile the ALLRUS software, and it is recommended as the standard description form for the genus Russula.