Notes On Microscopy & How To Get Started. Scope!

Microscope Identification Microscopy for Agaricales


Many books, journal articles, websites, and personal communications have made their way into the wider world over the past decade and a half relating to microscopic techniques for Agaricales. All sources to date are incomplete (or include minor issues) and lack the full set of knowledge needed for a beginning mycologist to accurately and confidently describe all microstructures used in taxonomy. This text is an attempt to provide the new mycologist with the entirety of microscopic identification, including a fair-sized glossary. It is also a reduced approach by not including other types of fungi normally included and instead focuses only on Agaricales.

Microscopy has been performed on gilled mushrooms for over a century now. Many authors and their techniques have been passed down. Among the hard copy authors who deserve their proper place in this lineage are Avery, Bas, Buller, Clemencon, Johnson, Largent, Marriott, Murrill, Singer, Smith, Vellinga, and Watling.



A compound (biological) light microscope will provide you with more specific information to find out what species of mushroom you've collected. You can also share this information with others using sites like Mushroom Observer.

Among the things you can do with a microscope: View, measure, and describe the presence of spores, cheilocystidia, pleurocystidia, and basidia.

Purchasing An Introductory Microscope

Order a compound light microscope with a 100x oil objective. It should be binocular (or trinocular) so it's easy on your eyes. Here's a good introductory model: 40X-2000X BINOCULAR BIOLOGICAL MICROSCOPE

Other needs: Immersion oil, reticle, stage micrometer measuring-calibration slide, slides, cover slips, and 009 razor blades.

You will also want some type of microscope objective cloth to remove the oil from the lens. The little pieces of paper that they put between microscope slides works well for this as an alternative, or clean cotton.

You can initially use homemade soap water (roughly 99 percent distilled water with a drop of hand soap) to mount with. You will need a 2oz amber dropper bottle for this. Eventually you will want other materials, including KOH and congo red stain - which we'll discuss further down.

How To Use A Microscope

A microscope might look like a challenge. It's not. With the right introduction it can easily be understood. The most important thing you need to know if you don't understand a microscope: It simply magnifies what you're looking at.

Below: There are two areas on your microscope that you should first understand:

  1. The eyepieces (usually 10x eyepieces or 20x) - (x means magnified that many times. For instance, 20x means 20 times your plain sight).
  2. The four objectives - Most compound microscopes come with four objectives for additional magnifications (a 4x, 10x, 40x, 100x). So if you have the 10x eyepiece in with the 4x objective selected that would be 40x total magnification. Likewise, if you have the 10x eyepiece in with the 100x oil objective the total magnification is 1000x.
Microscope: The eyepieces. Microscope: The four objectives.
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