Agaricales, “Gilled Fungi”

The agarics, or gilled mushrooms, bear their spores on radiating blades or plates called gills. They are by far the most numerous & complex group of fleshy fungi, & are thought to have arisen from several different sources.  They comprise the majority of the fleshy fungi & contain a great many families & genera.  They vary considerably in spore colour, gill attachment, shape, & size. Although many choice edibles are found in this enormous group, it also contains most of the deadly poisonous species, principally in the genera Amanita &Galerina. They were originally placed in a single massive genus, Agaricus.  In the 19th century, however, Elias Fries (the father of mushroom taxonomy) divided them into several dozen genera based on macroscopic features such as attachment of the gills, texture of the stalk, presence or absence of a veil, & spore colour.  The “Friesian” system suits the amateur because of its simplicity, but does not necessarily express natural relationships. In recent years, microscopic & chemical characteristics have assumed a great deal of importance in the taxonomy of agarics, & more than 100 genera are now recognized.  This currently-employed mode of classification keeps their names still in a state of flux to this day. The agarics have been grouped into 14 families.  Since the spores of gilled fungi show a wide range in  colour, it is necessary to know the spore colour in order to properly identify them. The term “agaric”: is not to be confused with Agaricus, the genus to which the cultivated mushroom belongs. Bibliography:  Mushrooms Demystified by David Arora, Mushrooms of Western North America by Robert T. Orr & Dorothy B. Orr, The Mushroom Handbook by Louis C.C. Krieger,http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agaricales

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