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Myco-Speak: A Glossary of Mycological Terms

By Dianna Smith

(Illustrations are from Gary Lincoff’s Audubon Society Field Guide to Mushrooms of North America)

This is a glossary – a list of terminology commonly used by authors of articles and books of mycology when describing characteristic features of a fruiting body or mushroom. Rather than guess what they may mean or skip over them, familiarize yourself with the words and their meanings. Doing so will enable you to better understand the descriptions and empower you to use these words when describing your finds to others. Know more – see more – comprehend more.

Mycology: Greek mukēs = fungus + "ology" = study of) = scientific study of fungi


Mycologist: typically a biologist who specializes in mycology

Mycophile: someone who loves fungi

Mycophobe: someone who is afraid of fungi

Mycophagist: one who eats fungi, fungi foodie

Amateur mycologist: typically studies macro-fungi, (the ephemeral visible fruiting bodies of much larger organisms that have been actively growing within their substrates sometimes for years), initially at least for the purpose of foraging for edible food.

Macro Fungi: Visible above ground fungi with large spore-bearing bodies

Taxonomic ranks: Domain, Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order, Family, Genus, Species

Domains: Archaea, Bacteria and Eukarya

Eukarya: defined as having a nucleus in every cell

Kingdom level taxons: Depending on the classification scheme, there are at least 5 kingdoms of groups of living things: Chromista (diatoms, giant kelps, oomycote or water molds); Protozoa (a grab bag of unrelated organisms, including amoebas and slime molds); Plants; Animals and Fungi

Chromists and plants both photosynthesize, but are unrelated = autotrophs (create their own food)

Animals and fungi live by digesting (live or dead) plants and animals that eat plants = heterotrophs (must find and digest food to survive)

Fungi, unlike animals, first dissolve their food via enzymes and then absorb them

A more recent method of organizing information on earth’s living things is to divide the Eukarya into 6 different monophyletic "supergroups" (rather than kingdoms), showing they derive from a common ancestor

Animals, fungi and choanoflagellates are in the Opisthokonta

Plants, being more distantly related, are in the Archaeplastida (with red and green algae and glaucophytes = microscopic fresh water algae)

The most recent way of ranking organisms is to place them all into 7 kingdoms: Archaea, Bacteria, Protozoa, Chromista, Plantae, Fungi and Animalia. Life is complicated, so methods of organizing our knowledge are subject to ongoing changes!

The most basic way of referencing any organism is by using the binomial system made popular by Carl Linneaus in the early to mid-eighteenth century.

Genus: taxonomic rank below family; always capitalized and italicized

species: lowest rank in taxonomy; never capitalize, but always italicize. Both the genus and species need to be italicized, for example Morchella punctipes.


arbuscular = Glomeromycota fungi which penetrate the roots of plants to exchange nutrients

mycorrhizal = fungal structures by which fungi and plants exchange nutrients and water

ectomycorrhizal (EM) = fungi form a sheath around plant rootlets and grow between cells of with root without penetrating the plant cells. Fungi provide water and nutrients to plants in exchange for sugars.

endomycorrhiza = fungi hypha that penetrate root cells of host plants

endophyte = fungus that lives within a plant without causing harm

saprotrophic = fungi that obtains nutrients from dead organic matter

parasitic = organism feeds on substrate at the expense of the host

pathogen = capable of causing disease in host(s)

mycoparasite = fungus that parasitizes another fungus (e.g., Hypomyces lactifluorum, the "lobster mushroom")

thermophiles = fungi able to thrive at high temperatures


Specific or cosmopolitan

Dead wood or living wood


hypha = single-celled-filamentous thread of mycelium

hyphae = many threads interwoven

mycelium = entire body of a fungus, most of which is underground or in other substrate such as wood; branching network of fungi

septum, septate = cross walls in hyphae that separate hypha thread filaments

fruiting body = term for spore-bearing structures of fungi

carpophore = fungal fruiting body

sporophore = fungal fruiting body

ascocarp = fruiting body of an ascomycete

basidiocarp = basidio means "small pedestal"

sporocarp = fruiting body of a fungus

spore = reproductive structure of fungi, single cell typically

MACROFUNGI: 2 Groups of Macrofungi: Ascomycota and Basidiomycota

ASCOMYCETES (asco meaning "open")

ascocarp = fruiting body of an ascomycete

ascus, asci = sexual reproductive cells or sacs in which ascospores are produced

ascospores = sexual spores of ascomycetes within asci (usually 8)

apothecium = cup shaped fruiting body with fertile layer inside of cup

pyrenomycete = flask fungi

perithecium = flask-like chambers that contain asci


basidio = "small pedestal"

basidiocarp = fruiting body of a basidiomycete

basidium, basidia = sexual cells in which basidospores (usually 4)are produced


basidiospores = sexual spores of basidiomycetes

FUNGAL MORPHOLOGY = "Study of shapes"

What questions do you have to ask yourself in order to adequately describe a fungus, so you can identify it to genus and species

image 1.png

Cap – Shape, skin, disc, margin, texture, degree of removability

Flesh – Texture, color, durability or fragility

Veil or Ring (Annulus) – If present, note color, location on stem, durability

Partial veil – color, location; solid membrane or cortina

Hymenium = spore producing surface. Gills, soft or hard pores, angular, radially elongate, daedaloid, maze-like, round, veined folds, color, staining or discoloring

Spore color – Light or dark

Stem (stipe) – Shape, color, texture, durability, breakability

Stem context (inside) – solid, stuffed, hollow

Base – Equal, bulbous, clavate, tapered at base or apex, compressed with volva

Mycelial strands – Color, consistency, density, rhizomorphs present or not

Smell – None, asphalt, turpentine, honey, maple syrup, burnt sugar, parsley, old gym socks, maraschino cherries

Taste – None, mild, bitter, sweet, acidic, etc.

Attachment to substrate – Sessile or stipitate

Substrate – on living or dead wood, wood chips, soil, moss, leaves, needles, under what trees

MUSHROOM CAP (Pileus) = Umbrella shape cap above a supporting mushroom stem. Supports the gills.

cuticle = cap skin, sometimes it is removable

pellicle = thin layer of skin covering cap (typically gelatinous) and often removable to some extent

peleipellis = outer surface or skin of cap

disc = center of cap

depressed = navel-like so that the center is below the margin

umbo = central raised knob or mound

umbilicate = having a belly-button central depression

umbonate = having a raised central knob or mound

image 3.png


campanulate = bell-shaped

conchate = shaped like a bivalve shell

conic = cone-shaped

convex = curved, rounded

depressed = central disc

flabilliform = shaped like a fan

infundibuliform = vase-shaped

multipileate = having more than one cap (e.g., Polyporus umbellatus)

plane = flat surface at maturity

plicate = resembling a folding fan 

image 4.png


opaque = dull, lacking shine

glabrous = smooth, bald, absence of fibrils, scales, etc.

mollis (mollusks) = smooth, soft

rugose = wrinkled

corrugated = coarsely wrinkled

granulose = covered in small granules

appressed = pressed closely against but not united with

repent = prostrate

zonate = cap surface marked with concentric bands of color

azonate = lacking zones

concentric = having a series of ringed zones

canescence = hoary pale down

fibers, fibrils = threadlike mycelial filaments or fibers

sericeous = silky

silky-fibrillose = tiny silky fibrils

floccose = covered with tufts of loose cottony scales

furfuraceous = sand-like particles covering surface

hirsute = covered in stiff hairs

pruinose = pale bloom on cap like powdery white dust

pubescent = covered with soft, short downy hairs

squamules = small scales

squamose = covered in scales

squamulose = covered in tiny scales

recurved = scales curved upward or downward

decurved = downward bent scales

tomentose = wooly

subtomentose = finely wooly

villose = having soft, long hairs

tubercles = wart-like projecting knobs

setiform = bristle-shaped

pyramidal warts = pyramid-shaped warts

virgate = streaked with fibrils

gelatinized = jelly-like consistency

glutinous = viscid or slimy gelatinous layer

lubricous = smooth and slippery

viscid = sticky or slimy (at least when moist)

subviscid = slightly tacky or sticky

hygrophanous = color of cap appears soaked with water and translucent when wet and more opaque when dry

areolate = broken small patches separated by cracks in pellicle 

rimose = tiny cracks or crevices

mottled = blotched or spotted with different colors or streaks

autodigestion = self-digesting/liquefying (e.g., Coprinus comatus)


margin = outer edge of cap

incurved = margin turning inward

involute = inrolled margin

appendiculate = hanging remnants of partial veil on cap margin

fimbriate = finely torn or fringed

furrows = narrow grooves in margin

lacerated = torn or shredded

sulcate = deeply furrowed

striate = cap with fine radiating lines or furrows at cap margin

radially striate = minute striations or furrows radiating from cap center

translucent-striate = visible striations on thin translucent marginal tissue showing gills

translucent-sulcate = visible striations and deep grooves in margin



context = mass of hyphae between the cap pellicle and the fertile layer of gills, teeth, pores. The "meat"

trama = flesh or context of a mushroom’s cap, gills and stem


HYMENIUM = fertile spore-producing/bearing tissue of a fungus

gills = spore-bearing plates or blade-like structure of tissue under cap

tubes = cylindrical spore-bearing structures of polypores and boletes

pores = outer growing layer of tubular openings of polypores and boletes, tube mouths

tubes = cylindrical spore-bearing structures of polypores and boletes

pore shape = irregular; maze-like or labyrinthine, round, angular, radially elongate

boletinoid = elongated and radially arranged pores; structure between pores and gills;

ridges/veins = (e.g, Cantharellus sp.)

hydnoid = dentate = teeth

coralloid = resembling corals

gasteroid = "stomach" fungi, enclosed spores within the fungus for most of its development

image 5.png

GILLS = spore-bearing plates of tissue

lamella, lamellae = gill, gills

adnate = broadly attached to stem

adnexed = narrowly attached to stem

emarginate = notched at point of attachment to stem

sinuate = wave-like gill attachment

decurrent = running down stem

sub-decurrent = gills run a short distance down a stem

free = attached to underside of cap and not to the stem (e.g., Pluteus cervinus)

seceding = inside gill edge that pulls away from stem

depressed (boletes) = sunken pores at stipe apex


sinuate = refers to gills with notch or depression near stem

crenulate = finely scalloped gill edges

scalloped = having shell-like forms

SPACING between gills, width of pores

image 6.png

crowded = tightly-spaced gills

close = between crowded and subdistant

distant = widely-spaced gills

subdistant = between close and distant

forked = branched

furcate = forked

dichotomous = forking into pairs

intervenose = connecting veins between and on gills

DEPTH = relative length of gills, tubes or other fertile spore containers

broad =  (e.g., Megacollybia rodmanii, Megacollybia patyphylla)

narrow = (e.g., Rhodocollybia maculata)

GILL EDGE = downward-facing bottom edge of gill

image 7.png

marginate = pertaining to edge of gill being darker than the faces

crenate = rounded scalloped edge  


serrate = having saw-toothed points like a serrated steak knife

dentate = tooth-like gill edges

deliquescent = curling backward, dissolving, liquefying and dropping

latex = milky liquid that oozes from cut; does it change color?

color reactions to handling of fruiting bodies


dark = black, purple-black, brown, red-brown (e.g., Agaricus, Psathyrella, Stropharia, Inocybe, Cortinarius)

light = white, cream, pale yellow, yellow, ochre, pink, salmon (e.g., Tricholoma, Amanita, Lepiota, Russula, Lactarius, Marasmius, Mycena, Entoloma)

image 8.png

RING = annulus 

Partial Veil = membrane that protects gills during development

annulus = ring of tissue from partial veil that remains on stalk

annular zone = indistinct area covered with fine fibril remains of ring (e.g., Galerina marginata)

cortina = web-like veil protecting gills of Cortinarius and other mushroom genera

evanescent = short lasting or disappearing ring on stem

ascending = ring located on upper section of stem that flares up and out

superior = located on the upper section of stem

descending = ring that flares downward and outward

inferior = location of ring being low on stem

velar = pertaining to ring

image 9.png



stalked = with a stem

stipitate = having a stem

sessile = without a stem

pedicle = small stipe

eccentric = attached off center

apex = the top of the stem

fluted = sharp ridges running down stem

clavate = club shaped

fusiform = tapering at top and bottom (e.g., Clavulinopsis fusiformis)

ventricose = stem swollen around its mid-point

cartilaginous = firm, but readily bent, breakable

glutinous = with a viscid or slimy gelatinous layer

mucilaginous = covered in slime

floccose = covered with loose cottony scales

granulose = covered in small granules

hirsute = covered in long, stiff hairs

coriaceous = leathery texture

scabrous = stem having rough scale-like projections

scabrous-dotted = with scattered short projections that look like dots

squamose = covered in scales

squamulose = covered in tiny scales

glandular dots = glands of sticky drops on stems of Suillus

punctate = minutely dotted or pitted

twisted striate = having lines that twist around the stipe (e.g., Entoloma strictius)

reticulate = net-like pattern on some bolete stems

reticulate-pitted = a network of ridges and shallow depressions

stuffed = soft cottony tissue made up of mycelium that tends to dry up and hollow out with time

hollow = empty of hyphae


bulbous = base is enlarged

basal mycelium = mass of hyphae at base of stem

caespitose = stems clustered together, growing in tufts

gregarious = many of same species in given area

pseudorrhiza = tap root-like extension of mushroom stem

rhizoids, rhizomorph = cordlike mass of hyphae

volva = cup-like or sac-like remains of the universal veil at the base of some mushrooms

SUBSTRATES – the material or place in which a fungus lives & feeds

habitat = environment in which a fungus lives

host = organism with which a fungus is mycorrhizal, saprotrophic or parasitic

broadleaf forest = forest of trees that lose their leaves in autumn

deciduous forest = forest of trees that lose their leaves in autumn (larch is a conifer that drops needles annually)

hardwood forest = forest of trees that lose their leaves in autumn (hard because grow slowly)

conifer forest = evergreen forest with pines, hemlock, junipers, cedars, firs

softwood forest = usually refers to conifers, but some like the yew has hardwood (soft because grow fast)

mixed woods = mixture of both hardwoods and conifers

coprophilous = dung loving

lignicolous = wood loving


central attachment

eccentric = off-center attachment

sessile = lacking a stem or stalk

stipitate = having a stem

terrestrial = growing from ground

tiers = rows

lateral = broadly attached to substrate (e.g., polypores)

solitary = growing alone, singly

gregarious = scattered closely

caespitose = clustered with stem bases attached or nearly so

resupinate = lying flat against wood substrate

resupinate reflexed = one edge flexed upward creating a small cap


Acrid, hot, peppery, bitter, sour, sweet


Fruity, coconut, honey, parsley, crustaceans, lobster, fish, rotting flesh, maple syrup, bleach, old ham, gym socks, tar


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