|MadSci Network: Microbiology|
There are many different kinds of molds or "filamentous fungi" and it really takes an expert to be able to identify all of them to the species level. On the other hand, if you just want a scientific name (a correct one at that) for molds you may find around your house, that is a little easier. A few fungi account for most of the ones you see normally. Greenish-bluish ones are probably either from the genus Penicillium if the colony has a white border around it, or Aspergillus if it doesn't have a white border around the colony. A black-looking colony is probably in the genus Rhizopus (commonly called "bread mold" although it is not the only fungus which grows on bread and it also grows other places besides bread) or Neurospora. To aid in your identification (and see some neat stuff) a microscope helps. It doesn't need to be very powerful either, probably the kind you have at your school. Put a drop of water on the mold and mix it gently with a toothpick. (It may take a couple of tries to get the right amount of mixing. Some molds give up their secrets more easily than others.) Then put some of the liquid on a slide and look at it under the microscope. What you will see are the mold spores and the spore- forming structures (the sporangia), which give a more certain identification of the mold than just the colony color. (If you just see a big black blob, you probably have too much stuff. Look at the edge of the blob and see if you can make out individual structures, or try again with less mixing.) This is the first thing a mycologist would do also. To find out what you have, most basic books on fungi (and some general biology books) will give pictures of common fungal spores or sporangia. I use a book called Beginner's Guide to the Fungi by C. L. Duddington (Drake Publishers, New York, 1972). There is a new book with much of its information online called The Fifth Kingdom (which refers to the five major groups of living organisms-plants, animals, bacteria, single-celled organisms, and fungi) which can be found at http://www.pacificcoast.net/%7Emycolog/fifthtoc.html If you have something you can't identify in this way, or if you want to know the complete scientific name (genus and species), call up the nearest college or university Biology department and ask if there is a mycologist on the faculty. I am sure they will be happy to help you with a school project or to just satisfy your curiosity.
Try the links in the MadSci Library for more information on Microbiology.