Your Cart


Free Shipping on Orders $49+.

Shop Now

Add $12 to unlock FREE Shipping!



Secure Checkout

30-Day Returns

How Researchers Are Using Taxonomy to Tell the Story of Mushrooms


Mushroom taxonomy is the next step to understanding life on Earth.

The fungal kingdom boasts staggering diversity, from single-celled structures to massive life forms. They resemble both plants and animals but don’t belong to either group. According to estimates, it contains 2.2–3.8 million species.

Humans have discovered and described only around 150,000.

Scientists work to change that and figure these life forms out. They dissect, analyze, classify, and explain their behavior. Doing so fills the gaps in our picture of the world.

And this task starts with taxonomy.

Join us to learn about the field seeking to explain the fifth kingdom.

What is (Fungal) Taxonomy?

Taxonomy is the science of naming and describing organisms. Scientists arrange specimens into classifications, offering a blueprint for all life on Earth.

Fungi taxonomy is a sub-branch of the main field concerned with mushrooms. It lets us build databases and describe the fifth kingdom.

Taxonomy usually follows a set hierarchical structure. This convention lets biologists from different countries cooperate and share their findings.

Taxonomy has seven ranks: kingdom, phylum, class, order, family, genus, and species. Each is more specific than the one above, letting us zero in on a specimen.

What Criteria Does Mushroom Taxonomy Use?

Mushroom taxonomy used to rely on visual traits to differentiate between fungi. As we got better at making microscopes, we started using spores to analyze specimens.

Researcher in a lab

Modern researchers, expert or amateur, may use these criteria for taxonomic purposes:

  • Morphology and appearance: Fungi sometimes have fruiting bodies with stalks and caps. They exhibit various sizes, shapes, shades, and textures.
  • Life cycle: Fungi practice sexual and asexual reproduction to colonize new areas. Species may vary based on the mechanisms they favor.
  • Spore type and dispersal: Fungi have spores with different traits and dispersal mechanisms.
Mushrooms in basket

Understanding Mushroom Hierarchy: 7 Levels of Fungal Classification

We’ve arrived at the meat of mushroom taxonomy: the hierarchical classification. Let’s see how biology organizes fungi and what each level can tell us.

  • Kingdom: This level encompasses all organisms with shared traits. It includes organisms that differ from plants, animals, and other major life categories.
  • Phylum: Mushrooms enter phyla based on their shared evolution and morphology. This level communicates the way specimens reproduce and the structures they form.
  • Class: Members of the same class often have similar shapes and prefer the same type of reproduction. They share environmental preferences, like weather and surfaces.
  • Order: Mushrooms within the same order are closely related to each other in evolution. They also resemble in color, texture, and pattern. This level is still too broad to tell which are edible or toxic.
  • Family: Members have matching spore colors, cap appearances, feeding tendencies, and chemical properties. Similarities tell us about mushrooms’ ecological functions.
  • Genus: We divide families into genera to describe closely related groups. They have similar chemistry, cultivation requirements, edibility, and spores.
  • Species: The lowest and most specific level in fungi taxonomy. It refers to organisms that can breed and produce fertile offspring. They show which phenotypic variation can occur within one organism.

Does this sound oh-so-theoretical? Let’s illustrate by describing the second level of classification: the phylum.

5 Fungal Phyla Explained

Consider the Death Cap mushroom. Its name in biology is Amanita phalloides; its tricky character is well known. But the kingdom also includes nutritious, healing, and trippy fungi.

Taxonomists struggle to divide and describe this diversity. Separating fungi into phyla yielded the most productive results so far.

Let’s dive into these distinct groups.

Chytridiomycota (Chytrids)

Chytrids are the simplest and most primitive fungi. They likely appeared over 500 million years ago, during the “age of early life.”

These organisms are predominantly unicellular; only a few form multicellular organisms and mycelia. They often live in water, but several species appear on land.

Some chytrids are parasites, while others feed on dead organic matter. They reproduce sexually and asexually, and their spores can swim.

Zygomycota (Conjugated Fungi)

Conjugated fungi got their name for their method of sexual reproduction. They’re a small group within mushroom taxonomy, their most famous member being mold.

Most species live off decaying organic material, but some are parasitic and connect to insects. They also matter in the leather, detergent, and medical industries.

These fungi create spores that germinate and produce mycelium. They lie dormant for a long time, making them sturdy and adaptable to various surroundings.

Ascomycota (Sac Fungi)

Ascomycota is the most numerous phylum within the fungal kingdom. It includes lichens, yeasts, and some mushrooms used for food production. Other species harm humans, animals, and plants.

These fungi have sacs that contain spores until dispersal. They reproduce sexually and asexually. 

Basidiomycota (Club Fungi)

Mushroom taxonomy calls Basidiomycota “gill fungi” because of the gills underneath their caps. This phylum contains species with large fruiting bodies, like brackets and puffballs.

Gill Fungi AKA Basidiomycota

Most edible mushrooms belong to Basidiomycota, although some are toxic and deadly. It also incorporates smuts, rusts, and shelf fungi, which cling to tree barks.

Unlike most fungi, this phylum prioritizes sexual reproduction. The fruiting bodies carry basidiospores, which combine to produce mycelium and new mushrooms.


Glomeromycota is among fungi taxonomy’s latest discoveries. This phylum incorporates 230 species that live in symbioses with tree roots. These fungi don’t reproduce sexually and need plants to survive.

Mushroom Taxonomy: Filling the Knowledge Gaps

We know plenty of plants and animals, and fungi taxonomy seeks to reach the same level for mushrooms. It may let us harness these organisms as materials, food sources, medicine, and who knows what else.

From the dreaded Death Cap mushroom to the delicious oysters, there’s a world of diversity to explore. And everybody can join the collective effort.
As microscopes become more accessible, hobbyists can join experts on this quest. Visit our shop to purchase lab-grade fungal spores and try amateur taxonomy at home.

All of the content and images on our site are for informational reference only. The cultivation of psilocybin mushrooms is federally illegal in the United States. We do not promote the cultivation of psilocybin “magic” mushrooms under any circumstances. Do not contact us asking for advice related to this subject. Any products found on this site are for microscopy and taxonomy purposes only. None of the psilocybin mushroom spores we offer are for consumption or cultivation. We do not sell any products containing psilocybin.


Subscribe To Our Newsletter!

Stay Up to Date on Magic Mushrooms.

Enter your email below to sign up to receive product updates, bi-monthly news, and weekly articles.