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What's in a name?

When talking about mushrooms you may hear terms like "Pleurotus ostreatus", "Agaricus bisporous" or even "Psilocybe cubensis". Fungi, like all living things, are part of the Bionomial nomenclature naming system. These names are also referred to as the Scientific Name or Latin Name. This system provides a more accurate way to identify a mushroom.

Of course this system is just a small part of the taxonomy of fungi. This name is included in the overall classification of the species. Most species will have a higher classification like Family, Order, Class and Division. This classification provides us a map as to where the species resides in the Fungi kingdom.

Can't I just use the common name?

The flip side to using the Latin name is using the common name. For example, the common names for Agaricus bisporous at its browning stage can include Swiss brown mushroom, Roman brown mushroom, Italian brown mushroom, Cremini/Crimini mushroom, or Chestnut mushroom.

Agaricus bisporous (White Button and Cremini)

Common names are simple and easy to remember but the problem is they can vary drastically by region. This can cause an issue when talking with someone from a different country or even a different state. If you do a quick search online for "Chestnut mushrooms" you'll quickly notice two completely different species. Google thinks you're wanting the Agaricus bisporous species but it also lists Pholiota Adiposa as the first hit. Confused yet?

This is why common names are terrible! Yes, they are easy to remember but what you think is a Chestnut mushroom could be totally different from what someone else thinks.

Binomial Naming

This system provides some insight into the species just based on its name. The first part of the name describes the Genus while the last part describes the Species. The Genus in the name is always capitalized, while the species is always lowercase.

These two names make up the last two tiers of the overall scientific classification for a specific species of mushroom. It's like a huge map of the different species and how they relate to one another.

These names can also be shortened by abbreviating the Genus with just the first letter. For example Pleurotus ostreatus would be shortened to P. ostreatus. You can also simply refer to all species in a Genus by shortening the species to "spp." So, if we're talking about all species under Pleurotus it would be "Pleurotus spp."

Where can I find the names?

There are several websites that list very detailed information about mushrooms and their classification. However, identifying an unknown mushrooms is a completely different ballgame. We'll get into that in another blog post but for now here are some fantastic resources.

Using the scientific/latin name for mushroom species is completely up to you. It allows for a more accurate identification of the species you're talking about. It also provides a peak into the lineage of the species. However, it's acceptable to use the common name if you want.