Why is recording important? We keep records because it is part of human nature to wish to know more about our surroundings. Among the more practical reasons for individuals and groups to keep fungus records are to:
contribute records towards preparation of a county or regional mycota.
add to the knowledge of local and national distribution of fungi.
compare past finds with those of the present day.
contribute to knowledge of the biodiversity of an area or a specific site.
enable reliable local and national Red Data Lists to be compiled.
assess the mycological value of sites subject to planning applications.
prepare courtesy lists of species for owners or managers of sites visited.
submit records to a local Natural History Society or Wildlife Trust.
Advice on the basics of collecting fungi and on the detailed observations that should be made in the field and back in the workroom is given in the first of the ‘Guides for the amateur mycologist’ series: ‘Guide for the Beginner’ by Jack V.R. Marriott (see Appendix 1). In some respects that publication is now somewhat dated. Some of the recommended field guides are now out of print, and the network of local recorders and area organisers, originally set up by Jack Marriott, has evolved over the years to become a network of local fungus recording groups distributed throughout the country. The booklet, however, remains among the best available introductions to field mycology.
This Guidance Note would be incomplete without some mention of both good and bad collecting practice, as it is a common occurrence for identifications to fail because fundamental procedures have been ignored. It is important that good field notes are made at the time of collection. It is unwise to rely on memory to recall such details as the substrate (referred to as the ‘medium’ in the original Guide to Recording) on which the specimen was growing, or the associated organism, such as the tree(s) under which it may have been found.
For collecting large specimens open baskets are commonly used, particularly the wide shallow ones that are popular on the Continent but not easy to find in this country. Small delicate specimens should be collected with care and placed in closed plastic divided boxes such as those sold in angling accessory shops and DIY stores, or in individual plastic containers e.g. those used for photographic films, or for medicinal tablets. Plastic bags should never be used – the specimens sweat and deteriorate very quickly. It can be helpful to enclose a leaf of a relevant tree inside the container, or a slip of paper with a number or letter cross-referenced to a comment in a field notebook or tape-recorder.
Back home, specimens can be stored in a closed plastic container in a domestic fridge, but should be examined as soon as possible, preferably within 24 hours. If this is not possible a description of the vital field characters should be made and the specimens dried promptly for later investigation, or for passing on to an expert referee.
Even though most of the basic rules of collecting make obvious sense they are often ignored. Try to avoid the temptation to make a quick collection with the fingers – use some form of digging tool or a knife. It is so easy to become casual about this. If the species looks to be a