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NC State Extension

Submitting Samples of Something Else

dog vomit slime mold

A good sample is essential for an accurate diagnosis. Please follow these instructions carefully. The instructions on this page apply to the collection of organisms or materials not specifically covered in other pages. If what you need is not listed below, check our description of services, where you will find indications on who handles situations not covered by us, such as plant/weed identification.

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Identification of mushrooms and other fungi

The PDIC, often with the assistance of outside collaborators, will attempt to identify macrofungi such as mushrooms, conks, and slime molds. In cases of confirmed or suspected ingestion by people, you should also contact NC Poison Control at 1-800-222-1222. We do not make recommendations regarding edibility of fungi.

Proper Collection of Fungal Material for Identification

  • Dig (do not pull) several fruiting bodies at different stages of development, if possible.
  • If the fungus is emerging from the ground, it is extremely important to include the part of the stipe (stem) that is just below the soil line.
  • For slime mold fruiting bodies and wood decay fungi, the best method is often to include the fungus on it’s natural substrate. This may involve cutting into the decayed wood.
  • Wrap the sample in absorbent material but do not put it in a plastic bag.
  • In the comments section of the sample submission form (digital, handwritten) make a note of the habitat from which the collection was made (lawn, woods, mulched bed, etc.) especially noting the kinds of nearby trees, if any. If the fungus was collected from the trunk of a tree, indicate the height off the ground as well as the kind of tree.
  • Place the wrapped sample in a sturdy cardboard box along with a copy of the submission form.
  • Ship to us via an overnight courier service.

Proper Photography of Fungal Material for Identification

Many fungi can be identified from digital images, and images are a helpful supplement to physical specimens, especially for very delicate specimens. Keep in mind the following:

  • Take photos of the top, bottom, and side of the fruiting body. Be sure to include any underground structures at the base of the stipe (stem).
  • Include in each photograph a size reference such as a ruler or coin.
  • Be sure that photos are in focus before submitting.
  • Note the habitat (lawn, woods, mulched bed, etc.) especially the kinds of nearby trees. If the fungus is growing from a tree trunk or root, indicate the kind of tree or else include a photograph of it so we can identify.
  • Upload photos and accompanying information in the database. Choose “Fungus ID” in the host field. If images were taken in the past, indicate the date in the label fields next to the files being uploaded.

Identification of unknown materials of biological origin

Although we do not do chemical analyses, if you have found debris or residue that appears to be of biological origin, please contact us beforehand to discuss to what extent we may be able to help identify it.

Written By

Mike Munster, N.C. Cooperative ExtensionMike MunsterPlant Disease Diagnostician for Commercial Ornamentals Call Mike E-mail Mike Entomology & Plant Pathology
NC State Extension, NC State University
Page Last Updated: 2 months ago
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