Starting the identification key

Click on the 'IDENTIFICATION KEY' link in the navigation bar above.

The key will load in the same window and you will notice that the screen is divided into four panels:

  • Features Available lists all of the features that you may use to identify your specimen.
  • Features Chosen will list the features and their states as you select them, when you first start the key this window will be empty.
  • Entities Remaining lists the names of the taxa that match the states selected, when you first start the key this window shows all 312 smut fungi species.
  • Entities Discarded will list all those taxa that do not match the states selected, when you first start the key this window will be empty.

Identifying a smut fungus

Identifying a smut fungus is simply a matter of describing the specimen you have before you. As your description becomes more and more detailed the Lucid key will progressively cull the number of matching taxon in the Entities Remaining list until, hopefully, only one taxon remains. You have now identified (named) the taxon to which your specimen belongs.

Features and states

You describe your specimen by selecting states from the list in the Features Available panel. Click on any feature and it will open to display its states. A feature is a broad characteristic used to classify smut fungi (e.g. Spore shape). A state is a particular variant of a feature (e.g. globose or subglobose and ovoid to ellipsoidal are states of the feature Spore shape).

There are two basic sorts of features, multistate features and numeric features. As you can see from the screen capture below, Sorus position is a multistate feature, offering four different options (inflorescence, leaves, stems and roots), whereas both sorus length and sorus width are numeric features.

Selecting states of a feature

Multistate characters
Simply click the box next to a state (e.g. inflorescence in the screen capture below) to select it. One or more states can be selected in this way. You will notice that the selected state will now appear in the Features Chosen list and that some taxa, those that do not match the state selected, have moved from the Entities Remaining to the Entities Discarded list. As you select more and more states the list in Entities Remaining panel will get smaller and smaller.

If you accidentally choose a state so that it becomes one of the Features Chosen and later decide that you were mistaken, simply re-click the box next to the state in either the Features Available or Features Chosen list to remove it. Some taxa may move back into the Entities Remaining list as a result.

NOTE: If you are uncertain about a feature or state, select more than one state of the feature or leave that feature and move on to the next.

Numeric characters
Clicking inside the sunken rectangular box next to a numerical state will result in a popup dialogue box. You can enter either a single number or a numeric range (with the two numbers separated by a hyphen). When using numeric characters you will increase the likelihood of retaining the correct taxon in the Entities Remaining list if you enter a range of values (e.g. 10-24) and measure very accurately, especially if the feature is small.

Other useful functions


This Lucid key consists of 7 subsets (i.e. Host, Sorus, Peridium, Spores, Columella, Spore balls and Sterile cells). You can access the list of subsets by clicking the Show Subsets button on the tool bar. These 7 subsets contain a restricted number of features and are designed to make the Features Available list shorter and easier to scan by removing unwanted features. To select a particular feature subset click the box next to a subset name. You can load two or more subsets at the same time simply by ticking more than one box.



If you are not sure which feature to select next you can ask Lucid for assistance. You do this by clicking the Best button on the tool bar. This will check all features in the Features Available list and find the the one that will give you the smallest number in the Entities Remaining list if you choose one of the states. Sometimes you may not be able to score the best feature that Lucid has chosen for you, in this case you can skip to the next best feature by clicking on the Find Next Best Feature button on the tool bar. Similarly, you can also use the Find Previous Best Feature button to go back.


Clicking the Differences button on the tool bar will load the Differences dialogue box. This box is divided into two panels, the upper panel lists the different features and the lower panel lists the taxa in the Entities Remaining list along with their state scores. You can then use the mouse or the arrow keys to select different features and compare the scores for different taxa. This tool is only recommended when several taxa remain.

Restart Key

If you want to identify another specimen simply click on the Restart Key button on the tool bar. This will clear both the Features Chosen list and the Entities Discarded list, it will also refresh the Entities Remaining list. If you have been using Subsets and would like to preserve this information, you will need to first select the option: Keep Subsets on Restart, which can be found under the heading Key on the menu bar.


One taxa remaining - where to now?

Once you have eliminated all taxa except one, you can click on the small fact sheet icon that precedes the taxon name to access a taxonomic description and images of that particular smut fungus. Note: You do not necessarily have to wait until you have narrowed down the Entities Remaining list to one taxon, you are able to view the fact sheets for any of the taxa listed at any time, perusing the taxonomic desciptions and comparing images to your physical specimen.

Need more assistance?


There are other Lucid functions that can help you to make a successful identification such as Prune Redundants and Find Shortcut Features. You can find out more about these functions by accessing the help menu. Click on the question mark button in the Lucid tool bar.