Interactive key to the species of Australian waxcaps

Project summary

Building on the FunKey interactive key system utilised in FunKey – Key to Agarics (a key to the genera of Australian agarics), we are constructing an interactive key to the species of Australian waxcaps. Waxcaps are members of the family Hygrophoraceae, characterised by the waxy appearance and comparatively thick lamellae (gills). There are around 100 species in Australia. Many are brightly coloured. Some species are highly endangered and included on threat status lists. Indeed, the Hygrocybeae Community of Lane Cove Bushland Park in the Sydney Basin Bioregion is the sole fungal community formally listed in Australia, under the New South Wales Threatened Species Conservation Act.

FunKey – Waxcaps will be an interactive key including both macroscopic and microscopic characters. Therefore, users will be able to start an identification session with any character. The advantage of an interactive key is that highly distinctive character states of the fungus at hand (such as the purple lamellae of Hygrocybe lilaceolamellata or the spiny spores of Hygrocybe anomala) can be entered at an early stage in the identification process, rather than needing to follow the pre-determined steps of a traditional dichotomous key.

The genera covered by FunKey – Waxcaps are all the agaricoid (mushroom) genera of the Hygrophoraceae and some similar genera in other families, including: Arrhenia, Camarophyllopsis (=Hygrotrama), Camarophyllus (=Cuphophyllus), Gliophorus, Humidicutis, Hygrocybe, Hygrophorus, Lichenomphalia, Neohygrocybe and Porpolomopsis.

FunKey – Key to Agarics included more than 100 characters, including detailed fact sheets on each character state of each character. This character set will be utilised for FunKey –Waxcaps, with additional characters as required. Data on the characters of each Australian waxcap species will be captured from the literature and information with herbarium collections. We are developing a crowd-sourcing system that will support volunteers in carrying out the coding up of the characters of each species.

The system being created for the crowd-sourcing of the character coding is intended to be used in future for other keys. Groups of fungi under consideration for key development include Cortinarius and Mycena. Please contact us if you are interested in developing interactive keys using the FunKey system.

Volunteers for crowd-sourcing of waxcap character coding

We are looking for volunteers to assist with coding of the characters of each waxcap species. Coding will involve converting species descriptions in literature and field notes into a spreadsheet, where each species/data source is a separate column in the spreadsheet, scored for all the character states. Images will also be utilised for character coding.

Each character (such as pileus shape) has a number of character states (in this case: parabolic, rounded, conical, plane or infundibuliform). The description is converted to one or more of these character states. So, a description of ‘hemispherical to convex’ would be coded as rounded. There are extensive fact sheets on each character state that guide the choice of coding.

Training will be provided in the use of the character state spreadsheet and in interpretation of the original data. Coding will be checked and compiled in the master spreadsheet which will be used in production of FunKey – Waxcaps. Experience with excel or similar spreadsheets is preferred.

Training will be provided in February 2017 at the National Herbarium of Victoria at Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne. Once training has been undertaken, we will supply the source information (literature, field notes and images) electronically, and you can work on your own computer in your own time. The peak coding period for the Waxcap project was Feb-May 2017. Please contact Tom May if you are interested in contributing to the coding for other Agaric character data.

Call for donations of images and collections

We would like to include colour images for all species of Australian waxcaps. All images are welcome, but we are particularly interested in images that are linked to voucher collections lodged in herbaria (collected under appropriate permits, such as when collecting in national parks). If you are willing to provide images and/or collections please contact Tom May

Project Team

  • Tom May (Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne)
  • Sapphire McMullan-Fisher (Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne)
  • Kevin Thiele (Eubio Consulting)
  • Tony Young (Blackbutt, Queensland)


The crowd sourcing system for development of interactive keys for mushroom identification, including the FunKey – Waxcaps key to endangered waxcaps is supported through funding from the Australian Government’s Australian Biological Resources Study (ABRS) Bush Blitz Program.