Vouchering and Documentation Protocol

Photograph and Collect your Finds

You will need a collection vessel and a camera for field photographs. Keep each collection separate in the field.

Upload your Observations Online

Use a platform such as Mushroom Observer or iNaturalist to upload your individual observations.

Take Tissue Samples

See the link above for a full description of how to take tissue samples for this project.

Dry your Collections

Ideally using a dehydrator with an adjustable thermostat at 120° F or less. Dry as soon as possible after you return home.

Mail in your Specimens and Tissue

Mail your specimen bags to your selected fungarium and your tissues samples to the lab.

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Vouchering Specimens Video Protocol

Learn how to properly collect mushroom specimens from the field and how to provide scientifically valuable documentation of those specimens.

Before You Head Out

Gather your Field Materials

Required Protocol

At a minimum, all you need to participate in the field component of this project is a collection vessel and a camera.  The camera will allow you to take color photographs of the fungi you encounter, and the collection vessel will allow you to keep your collections separated and in good condition during your outing.

Camera Requirements

There are no specific requirements for cameras. You may choose to use a DSLR camera or a good quality point-and-shoot to take your color photographs. Most newer cell phone cameras also take images with high enough resolution to be valuable for this project. Some suitable cell phones would be an iPhone 5s/6/7/8, Galaxy S7/S8, etc. One advantage to cell phones is the ability for images to automatically be individually tagged with the GPS coordinates of your collection. However, some newer DSLR or point-and-shoot cameras also contain functions for basic GPS metadata.

Collection Vessel Requirements

There are no specific requirements for collection vessels. The most typical collection vessels are baskets and/or tackle boxes. A tackle box has many individualized compartments, allowing specimens to be easily segregated. Many individuals who use a basket will put each collection into separate wax paper bags to prevent them from being mixed. Whichever method you choose, the goal is to get individual collections back to your home base in good condition and without independent collections getting mixed together.

Also, always be sure to dress for the weather and for the environment.  Etc.

Optional Protocol

There are several other things you can consider bringing with you on field outings. Each of these have specific uses, and you may find benefits having them handy in the field. Filling out voucher data slips and maintaining a field notebook are not required, but can significantly add to the value of your collections. Also consider which type of numbering system you plan to use for your collections. Other optional materials to bring into the field include:

Voucher data slips
Field Notebook
Knife and/or trowel
Collection number labels

Photograph, Collect, and Document the Species

Required Protocol

In the Field

Take high quality pictures of the mushroom

The first step to documenting any species is to take high quality photographs of the mushroom where it is found. Additional notes on mushroom photography can be found in Appendix 2 and through other online sources.

Collect the mushroom - Store in individualized compartments

You may have been taught to cut mushrooms off at the base when collecting edible species. While this prevents you from collecting dirt and debris, the base of the mushroom often contains critical features that needs to be saved for an accurate identification. With any mushroom you collect, dig down into the ground a little bit to ensure you are collecting as much of the base intact as possible. Many hunters will bring a small trowel to accomplish this or they may dig a knife into the ground a little bit around the mushroom to bring up the entire base. Another option is to simply dig underneath the mushroom with your finger if the ground is soft.

After you have your collection out of the ground (or off the wood), put each species into an individual collection space. You do not want to put many different species together into the bottom of a basket. There are a couple common options to avoid this that were touched on previously. The first is to put each collection into its own wax paper bag. Another option is to bring a tackle box in order to help separate out the smaller species you encounter. A combination of these methods would be the norm.

A tackle box is an easy way to keep your collections organized in the field. Use a new cell for each new collection.

Back at Base

Organize/edit your images

There are no required protocols for image editing or organization, other than ensuring the photos are uploaded to individual observational records online. It is also possible to take additional lab photographs of your specimens at this point once you are back at base. These images usually include a ruler and a color chart as additional documentary elements. See appendix 3 for more information on organizing photos and taking lab images.

Create individual reports on the platform of your choice

Once your images are organized, you are able to create individualized reports on Mushroom Observer, iNaturalist, or MycoPortal. We encourage you to try out each platform and see which one you are most comfortable working with. Each has areas where they excel, and areas that could use some improvements. The primary metadata you need to include with each report is the collection date, collection location, the species name, images, and any notes you took about the collection. Also be sure to select the Voucher specimen field for any reports where you have a collection. See the specific documentation at each of these domains for creating these reports or contact us if you need assistance.

Optional Protocols

In the field
Start a voucher data slip or field notebook

It is best to start filling out a voucher data slip while you are in the field. This will allow you take some preliminary notes about the substrate the mushroom was growing from (ground, wood, etc.) and will allow you to note any trees that are in the area. Many mushrooms have an association with different trees, so the more you can document about the environment where the mushroom was found, the more useful the voucher collection will be. You may also choose to assign a collection number and to put the photograph numbers on the collection slip at this time. If you have a busy day with many mushrooms, this will help you to keep your collections and photographs in order later. A GPS location may also be good to include (if it is not automatically included as metadata on your images). Another option is to take a picture of the species with your voucher slip and collection number in order to help track the image-specimen associations later in the process.

Back at base
Finish filling out your voucher data slip

Once you get your collections back to your final sorting location, it is time to finish writing up your report on the species. Remember that many of the most important features will be lost as the mushroom is dried, so the better you document these features now, the more useful the report will be in the future. Does the mushroom have a smell or taste? Note the size of the cap and stem, any colors that are found on the mushroom, and any other interesting features that may be lost upon drying.

It is often very useful to perform chemical tests on the species at this time as well. Many species have specific color change reactions to chemicals such as KOH, NH4, and/or iron salts. Documenting these chemical reactions will be very useful for future scientists looking at your specimens. Be sure to take pictures of any chemical reactions you test for and include these photos with your report.

In most cases, our voucher data slip will be sufficient to document the species. If you have a fairly good idea of the genus (and you have a little extra time) it would be useful to fill out one of the genera specific data slips that have been developed by experts on the following particular groups of mushrooms:


Take lab photographs

Typically, the first thing I do once I return from the field is to take lab images, with a color scale and ruler, of each individual collection. This is an optional process that is described below.

Dry your Specimens

As you start making a significant number of collections over time, you will quickly find one of the most difficult tasks to maintain is organizing your collections for DNA extraction, drying, and eventual send-off to a fungarium. This process takes a significant amount of time if it is going to be done right and in an orderly fashion. As we have mentioned, many of the identifying characters are lost during the drying process, so you must maintain organization of your collections during the drying process, as you will not be able to identify them as easily later.


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Drying your Specimens Video Protocol

The video to the left will discuss organization of specimens through the drying process. Mushrooms will change shape, size, color, etc. as they dry and you will often not be able to identify the mushroom again after the process.

Required Protocol

Drying Your Samples

If you intend on collecting fresh tissue from your specimens, you should perform that task before starting the drying process. That process can be found in the next section.

The overall goal of drying mushrooms is preserve the specimen for long-term storage in a fungarium. This process should be started as soon as possible after harvest. Air drying is the most common method.

Air Drying Mushrooms

Food dehydrators are perhaps the most accessible option for most people to dry their collections. The best models have fans that will allow air to circulate around the unit. This will help the mushrooms to dry out faster, which is very important for species that start to degrade quickly. The normal temperature is 40 – 50 degrees C (about 100 – 120 F). The entire mushroom is usually dried intact, however you may need to longitudinally slice some larger mushrooms, particularly Boletes.  Be sure to label your specimens on the rack while they are being dried.

We recommend NESCO Gardenmaster dehydrators. They are commonly used by mushroom collectors, have an adjustable thermostat, and feature removable racks. They also have a fan that circulates air throughout the unit as it is drying. You can get some models for around $100. There are cheaper options that work just as well ($30-$50 range), but at a minimum, look for a model with a circulating fan in conjunction with heat.

Oven drying is not recommended as it tends to cook the mushrooms.

It will usually take 24 – 48 hours to completely dry the mushrooms in a dehydrator.

Once the mushrooms are cracker dry, you can print specimen packets/labels for storage or store them in ziplock bags for transport to the fungaria. If you are not going to be able to send the specimens out soon after they are dried, put the sealed bag in the freezer for 5 days in order to kill any insect larvae that may be residing in the dried specimen. This process will be repeated once it gets to the fungarium, but it may be worth doing at your location soon after the mushroom is dried.

Final Shipment to Fungarium, and Sequencing

Create your Shipment

Be sure to include the following with the shipped package:

  1. The physical specimen with all of the labels with each specimen. Each specimen needs to be labeled with the reference number, location, collection date, and species name.
  2. A packing slip printed from your spreadsheet.

Email your fungarium about your upcoming shipment, along with the MO/iNat spreadsheet for your collections (each MO/iNat number associated with the label on your tubes). CC the Mycoflora Committee at info@mycoflora.org.

About North American Mycoflora Project

NAMP is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. We are working towards a single goal - the development of the first comprehensive mycoflora of North America. This project is a consortium of citizen scientists and professional mycologists performing a biological survey of all the macrofungi that occur in North America.

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