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What to illustrate and how to do it?



Surface views

Individual elements

Taking photographs

In the field


Electron microscope

Taking photographs

In the field

Having good pictures at disposition can help considerably when trying to identify species. Good pictures are also invaluable additions to a written description. With the availability of cheap digital photography, documenting species has become relatively easy. Preferably several pictures should be taken to give necessary details for features of gills, stipe and cap.

A few elementary guide lines should be respected when taking pictures in the field:

Fig. 1-2. When taking photographs in the field, take a small tripod with you. It will allow for longer exposure times and thus considerably more depth of field resulting in less blurry pictures. In these two pictures of Russula pseudocarmesina you can see the difference.
(Photos © Bart Buyck)

Fig. 3. Avoid using flash as well as strong contrast between the colours of the fungus and its surroundings. Taking pictures of the fungi in direct sunlight is therefore not recommended. In this picture of Russula burlinghamiae you can note an excessive contrast, due to the use of a flash.
(Drawing © Bart Buyck)

Fig. 4-5. Allow the fungus to fill as much space as possible in the picture. Tiny mushrooms in a large landscape convey little information. Using a good macrolens is therefore a good solution. Example: Russula parasitica.
(Photos © Ludwig Beenken)

Although you may want to show the mushrooms exactly as you found them, leaving them untouched for the picture, there are very few situations in which this will result in a informative, scientific picture. It will usually be necessary to move some of the specimens closer to each other, and to orientate others so that details of the gills and stipe are clearly visible in the photograph. A cross section of one fruit-body may often be useful to highlight diagnostic features of context and stipe.

Optical microscopy

Illustrating microscopic features with photographs has the inconvenience of lacking depth of field in comparison with drawings. However, photographs have the advantage of presenting color and color changes.

Fig. 6 (left). Mature spores of different species of Russula as seen in Melzer's reagent, showing the variability of their size within the genus. Fig. 7 (right). Sulfovanillin reaction of cystidia in Russula sp.
(Photos © Bart Buyck)

Fig. 8 (left). Primordial hyphae are always orthochromatic in Cresyl blue. Fig. 9 (right). Metachromatic reaction of hyphal walls in Cresyl blue (R. cyanoxantha).
(Photos © Bart Buyck)

Scanning electron microscopy

When discussing morphology, scanning electron microscopy (SEM) can be an invaluable source of information for certain groups of fungi, in particular where fine ornamentation of spores is concerned. In Russulales, however, SEM is not supplying any substantially new information compared to a good optical microscope and its use is limited to the facility of obtaining good black & white photographs of detailed spore ornamentation.

When available, the Russulales News website is going to supply SEM photographs for type collections. Already online examples include: Russula brunneorigida, R. tomentosa, Lactarius pulchrispermus.