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The Meaning of Scientific Names for Fungi

By Dianna Smith

In general, fungi names selected by mycologists seeking to describe any particular species relate to an observable characteristic of the fruiting body itself, its odor, taste, habitat, chemical properties or a microscopic characteristic of its spores. A mushroom is sometimes named after a mycologist, his wife or even a country.

The terms employed for naming fungal species are primarily derived from Latin or Greek. Latin, now a "dead" language, is used by scientists throughout the world. While most of us have not studied Latin, the vast majority of us have learned or at least are familiar with one of the Romance languages, such as Italian, French or Spanish. Even if you are not fluent in any of these languages, if you can read a newspaper or most non-fiction books, you are familiar with vocabulary words that are derived from Latin. It is my belief that you will find you know and understand more of the words defined in this presentation than you might at first think. University professors, high school teachers, home-school parents and mycology students are invited to use this program for teaching provided you first contact the author for permission and give proper credit. Email:

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