specimens submitted, noting particularly smell, colour when fresh, texture and any other features that may change with time or when dried. Include sketches of microscopic characters if possible i.e. spores, cystidia, etc. and give a reference to any books or keys that you have used in your own attempts at identification.
You should also give the site location, habitat and substrate. Unless specifically stated to the contrary most field mycologists prefer to work with fresh material so you should send specimens while still in good condition, using first class post, wrapped in grease proof paper or kitchen foil (never polythene bags), and protected in a cardboard or plastic box or container. Dry kitchen roll can be used as packing, but never be tempted to include moistened paper tissue as this sticks to the specimens and accelerates the decay process. Damp moss helps to maintain freshness.
Dried material can be placed inside a sealed envelope but must be inside a box to prevent crushing in the post. If sending fresh material it is essential that you check by telephone beforehand to ensure that the intended recipient is at home and willing to accept it. Boxes of putrefying fungi on the doormat are a poor welcome home after a holiday! Remember to enclose a stamped addressed envelope, unless you can correspond by e-mail.
Drying specimens for a reference collection ‘herbarium’
There are several good reasons for drying specimens, in addition to the attractive one of preserving edible species for later consumption. During an expedition, or a foray extending over several days, the collector is likely to have more material than can be examined in the short term. Drying by an approved method preserves the microscopic features of the fungus and they can be reconstituted later during determination. In other circumstances, if a collector working alone has identified something new or unusual, say a new county record, or a national red data list species, or even just an unfamiliar fungus where a second opinion is required to confirm the identification, it may not always be easy to get a specimen to an ‘expert’ within the few days that it remains in a recognisable fresh state. Drying it gives all parties time to do a relaxed identification, possibly months after the collection was made. A third reason is that following determination of an unusual or interesting specimen it is well worth storing it indefinitely in a personal, a local, or a national reference collection, so that it is available as voucher material for study by others at some future time.
Dryers can be purchased from specialist suppliers but the field mycologist handling only a few specimens at any one time can achieve perfectly satisfactory results by rigging up some form of open mesh tray over a domestic radiator. In the summer months, when the central heating is switched off, some form of home-made drier can easily and effectively be contrived in the form of a box or tin with a mesh cover to carry the specimens and the use of a low wattage electric light bulb as a heat source. A domestic oven on the lowest setting with the door left open has been suggested but this is not recommended as the specimens may become cooked or burnt.
After thorough drying, which may take several days, the specimens will store indefinitely in paper envelopes, ideally with a spore print on paper or on a glass slide enclosed. Details of the collector, identifier, date and grid reference should be written on, or stored inside, the envelope. The dried material must be stored in dry conditions, ideally with a more or less constant temperature, preferably with some insect deterrent material nearby, and it should be examined occasionally to ensure that the collection remains free from mould or insect attack.
Woody polypores can be preserved in the same manner, though they may need to be left over the heat source for a longer period until thoroughly dry. Large specimens can be cut down