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Identify Mushroom Gills, Pores, and Teeth

Updated: Jan 28

Now, when it comes to getting to know mushrooms, one of the cool things to check out is how they spread their spores, kind of like their funky way of reproducing.


Intro to Identify Mushroom Gills


Think of spores as the mushrooms' version of seeds. These fungi buddies release loads of spores, hoping that a bunch of them will sprout, get together, and form new mycelium. Mycelium is like the real superstar behind mushrooms. Imagine it as the tree, and the mushrooms we see are the delicious apples it produces. And those spores? Well, they're the seeds of the mushroom world.


 



an image of four different types of gills a mushoom may have
Some of the common "gills" you may see

So, the part of the mushroom responsible for making those spores is called the hymenium, and it's found on a few different setups. Let's break it down step by step, starting with gills, then shifting to pores, and saving the best for last - teeth (my personal fave!). And, just for fun, we'll also spot some mushrooms that do things a bit differently and don't rely on gills, pores, or teeth for spore action.


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Mushrooms With Gills

Alright, so picture this – mushroom gills are like these delicate, paper-thin structures hanging down beneath the cap. We call these gills "lamellae," and their main gig is to churn out spores. These little spores are like the mushroom's confetti, and they get sprinkled all over the place by the wind.

Now, when you're trying to figure out which mushroom is which, taking a peek at these gills is key. Mycologists, the mushroom pros, have their fancy terms for describing gill setups, some sounding like they're from another dimension. You've got "decurrent" gills that run down the stem, like oyster mushrooms do. Then there are the "free" ones, which don't touch the stem at all, just hanging out there, like portobellos or amanitas. And sometimes, they're attached in different ways, either directly or with a little notch. Your trusty guidebook can spill the beans on all the details.



Detail image of detached mushroom gills, elegantly fanning out beneath the cap, unattached to the stem, highlighting the unique structure and spacing of the gills in a natural woodland setting.
Mushroom gills that don’t attach to the stem.

Close-up of decurrent mushroom gills on an oyster mushroom, elegantly cascading down the stem, showcasing their unique flowing attachment in a rich, natural environment.
Decurrent mushroom gills run down the stem (oyster mushroom)






 


Color And Busing

Alright, so here's the deal with mushroom gills and their style. Take a look at the color of those gills; sometimes, they like to be rebels and sport a different shade than the cap. It's like they're going for a fashion statement!

Now, here's where it gets interesting – if you give them a little nudge with your fingernail or a friendly knife, they might just bruise and show off a completely different color. It's like mushrooms have their own little secret mood ring going on. These quirks in color and bruising can be your trusty sidekicks in the quest to identify mushrooms with gills.



Vivid image of milky cap mushroom gills exhibiting a striking blue-green bruising, a unique natural reaction, set against the contrasting colors of the forest floor.
Milky cap mushroom gills bruising blue-green.

 


Gill Spacing

Now, when you're checking out those gills, pay attention to how they're hanging out under the cap. Are they all cozy and packed together in one big group, or is there some breathing room between them? I'll be honest; sometimes it's a bit tricky to be the judge of gill personal space!


Image showcasing the distinctive, widely spaced gills of waxy cap mushrooms, beautifully structured and clearly visible against the smooth cap, nestled in a lush, natural setting.
Widely spaced mushroom gills on waxy caps.

Image highlighting the densely packed, closely spaced gills of brick top mushrooms, creating a textured undercap view, set in a vibrant woodland backdrop.
Closely spaced gills on brick tops.








 


Gill Length

So, here's the scoop – sometimes, the gills don't feel like running the marathon from the stem to the cap. Nope, they take a shortcut and become what we call "short gills." These little rebels might just hold the key to identifying the mushroom correctly. It's like they're the cool kids of the mushroom world, doing things their own way.


Image highlighting the densely packed, closely spaced gills of brick top mushrooms, creating a textured undercap view, set in a vibrant woodland backdrop.
Some gills don’t go all the way to the stem (Cortinarius sp.)

 


Forking gills

Alright, now here's a little twist in the mushroom tale – some gills like to branch out from each other. Yep, we call it "forking." It's like they're saying, "Hey, we're not sticking together; we're going our own way!" And guess what? This forking business can be a pretty big deal when you're on the quest to identify mushrooms.


Dynamic image of jack o'lantern mushroom gills, showcasing their closely packed arrangement, with some gills running down the stem and others fascinatingly forking, set in a mysterious, shadowy forest.
Gills on jack o lantern Closely packed gills, some run down stem, other fork (jack o’lantern)

 

False Gills

Now, sometimes those forking gills can be sneaky little tricksters! Take the edible chanterelle, for instance; it has structures that might seem forked, but they're actually what we call "false gills." Unlike the real deal, these false gills aren't individual features you can just pluck off. Nope, they look more like melted folds on the underside of the mushroom. So, if you're out there hunting for chanterelles, it's crucial to master the art of telling true gills from these sneaky impostors. They like to keep us on our toes!


Captivating image of a chanterelle mushroom featuring its distinctive false gills, resembling elegant ridges rather than traditional gills, beautifully highlighted in a natural forest setting.
False gill on a chanterelle.

 

Fun Little Project

Here's a fun and safe experiment for you, my mushroom-loving buddy. Head over to your friendly neighborhood grocery store and grab yourself some portobello mushrooms. These little guys are like the perfect study buddies for mushroom gills. You can poke, prod, and examine them to your heart's content.

Now, here's a quirky twist – you might stumble upon some recipes that suggest removing the gills before cooking. And guess what? It's not because they're dangerous or anything, but purely for aesthetics. Those gills have a knack for giving a slightly darker, grayish hue to the dish, and well, it might not be everyone's cup of tea in the looks department. After all, we eat with our eyes first, right? So, it's all about making that meal look as appetizing as possible!


 

Mushroom With Pores

Now, if you're looking for an alternative to gills in the spore-dispersal game, say hello to the "pores." These are like tiny holes that hang out on the underside of the mushroom cap.

But here's the cool part – those holes are actually the ends of a bunch of little tubes hidden inside the mushroom cap. Spores are like the stars of the show, and they're produced on the sides of these tubes. When they're ready to make their grand exit, they travel down the tube, pop out of the pore, and take flight into the world. It's like a mushroom spore adventure, with wind, animals, and insects helping them on their journey. Nature's little distribution team!


image of a bolete mushroom showcasing its unique pores underneath the cap, tiny yet intricate, replacing traditional gills, set against the rich backdrop of the forest floor.
Pores on a bolete mushroom

 

Boletes and Polypores

Now, when you're on the hunt for mushroom identities, pay close attention to their pore surface. Things like the color, how big the pores are, and the pattern they form can be your trusty clues to figuring out the species. It's like playing detective in the mushroom world.


But here's the deal – you might want to have a handy key or guidebook by your side. They're like your mushroom ID partners in crime, helping you narrow down the suspects. But, here's a little heads-up – some features might change as a mushroom gets older. But hey, don't fret, gills won't suddenly turn into pores, so you've got some consistency there! It's all about cracking the mushroom code.



Image illustrating the fascinating phenomenon of mushroom pores changing color upon being cut or pinched, showcasing the natural reactive process in a vivid, forest environment.
pores may change color when cut or pinched

Now, when it comes to mushrooms with pores, we've got two cool groups to chat about – the boletes (from the Boletus gang) and the polypores. Let's give you the lowdown on what makes each of them special:


here's the scoop on boletes – they're like the cool kids in the forest who form buddy-buddy relationships with tree roots. You'll often spot them hanging out near trees, especially in the summertime. Most boletes rock a classic look with a stalk, an umbrella-shaped top, and underneath that cap, you'll find a spongy area packed with tiny pores, where they let loose their spores.


Now, here's the important part – while some boletes, like the famous porcini mushroom, are considered top-notch eats, others might give your stomach a bit of a rollercoaster ride, especially some of those red-pored ones. So, rule number one: don't assume any bolete you stumble upon is edible. Take your time to make sure you're making the right call.


Now, shifting gears to polypores – these folks are the wood lovers of the mushroom world. You won't catch them chilling on the ground; they prefer the cozy embrace of rotting trees, stumps, and logs. They've got a unique look, kind of like shelves, earning them the nickname "bracket fungi." No fancy caps or distinct stems for these guys.


And here's the cool part – polypores are like the goodie-two-shoes of mushrooms. They're all about positive vibes because none of them are poisonous. In fact, they're a great group to study if you're diving into the world of mushroom identification. Plus, some of them even have medicinal superpowers, like the reishi mushroom and the turkey tail. So, they're not just cool; they're good for you too!



Vibrant image of the chicken of the woods mushroom, highlighting its status as a polypore with a smooth, uninterrupted pore surface under the cap, set against the contrasting textures of its natural woodland habitat.
Chicken of the woods is a polypore with a smooth pore surface under the cap.

 image showing the turkey tail mushroom, another polypore variety, distinguished by its smooth, white pore surface, beautifully contrasted against the colorful, fan-shaped cap, in a lush forest environment.
Turkey tail is also a polypore with a smooth, white pore surface.

 



Tooth Fungi

Now, here's a funky way mushrooms spread their spores – through what we call "teeth" or "spines." Imagine these fungi as having these long, thin toothy structures that hang down and play the spore-producing game. It's like they've got their own dental plan for reproduction!


Now, even though there are fewer mushrooms in the teeth club compared to their gilled and pored pals, this group still packs a punch. Take, for example, the hedgehog mushroom, a popular edible that's like a cousin to the golden chanterelle. It's a real crowd-pleaser in the culinary world.


And let's not forget about Hericium erinaceus, also known as Lion's Mane, Bearded Tooth, or Bearded Hedgehog. Not only is it a tasty treat, but it's rumored to have some medicinal tricks up its spiny sleeve. These toothy mushrooms sure know how to make an entrance!



 image of the Lion's Mane mushroom, showcasing its unique, shaggy appearance that resembles a lion’s mane, with cascading white spines, set in a natural, earthy environment.
The Lions Main

image of the Hedgehog mushroom, featuring its distinctive underside with soft, tooth-like projections rather than gills, set against a backdrop of natural foliage, highlighting its unique texture and form.
The Hedgehog

Now, when it comes to spotting tooth fungi, they're like the unique rebels of the mushroom world. One glance, and you'll know they're not your typical gilled or pored mushrooms. Why? Well, these toothy characters don't play by the rules; their "teeth" can dangle anywhere from a few millimeters to more than a whole centimeter! It's like they've got their own style, swinging those dental features around.


So, here's the cool part – when you're out there trying to ID mushrooms, just the presence of those teeth will be your trusty compass, instantly narrowing down your search. It's like nature's way of giving you a shortcut to mushroom recognition!


 


Some Unique Examples

You know, not all mushrooms follow the traditional playbook of gills, pores, or teeth for spore action. Some like to march to the beat of their own drum:


  • Chanterelles: We've talked about these culinary stars before. Those folds under their caps might look like gills, but they're sneaky "false gills." These champs drop their spores from the smooth undersides of their curly caps.


  • Stinkhorns: Now, these guys are a bit, well, stinky. They produce spores in a jelly-like substance that's not exactly pleasing to the nose. Flies, however, find it irresistible and help spread the spores after landing. Talk about a unique strategy!


  • Puffballs: These fungi are like the puff of the mushroom world. They release their spores through a hole in the top or when the mushroom dramatically ruptures, kind of like fireworks for fungi.


  • Coral Fungi: Picture these fungi as having microscopic spore-creating tissue covering all their branches. The spores simply drop from there, like nature's confetti.


  • Cup Fungi: They're like nature's cups with a surprise inside. The spore-bearing surface is tucked away on the inner side of the cup, no gills or pores needed.


  • Morel Mushrooms: These iconic mushrooms have sacs along the insides of their pits or wrinkles that do the spore-producing dance.


And guess what? There are even more mushroom mavericks out there, like jelly-like fungi, molds, and mildews. They've got their own unique ways of releasing spores, but I doubt you'll be putting those on the dinner plate! well. Idk , maby.



image of a Morel mushroom, illustrating its distinctive honeycomb-like cap with internal spore sacs, highlighting the intricate structure and texture, set within a serene natural setting.
The morel has spores sacs inside the cap.

 image of a Chanterelle mushroom, showcasing its characteristic false gills that seamlessly 'melt' onto the stem, highlighting the smooth transition and vibrant coloration in a rich, forest environment.
Chanterelle with false gills that “melt” onto stem

image of Puffball mushrooms demonstrating the unique release of spores from the top of their caps, capturing the moment of dispersal in a natural, earthy setting.
Puffballs release their spores from the top of their caps.

 



Hey, here's a friendly tip for your next mushroom ID adventure – make sure to give those spore-bearing structures a good look. It's like the mushroom's way of showing you its unique personality!


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