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Wednesday, 1 January 2020

Book Review - Fungi of Temperate Europe - Vol. 1 & 2 - Princeton University Press

     One of the authors comments at the very beginning, "I cannot fathom nature any more.....the longer you are in the game, the more you realize how little you understand." How many of us would freely admit to such humility? Count me among that number for sure.
     Yet this monumental work, bringing together a combined experience of more than forty years of mycological study, clarifies so much as to be staggering in its scope. "Monumental" has become a bit of an overworked term in recent years, but when applied to Fungi of Temperate Europe it is richly justified. 




     Furthermore, while the focus of the work is Euro-centric there is an enormous amount of knowledge to be extrapolated to fungi the world over. No one with even a moderate interest in mycology should dismiss this work on the basis of not being European. The authors, Thomas Laessøe and Jens H. Petersen are European by birth, and probably by choice, but their knowledge is universal.
     More than 2,850 species from about 1,000 genera are discussed in this book, all of which are accompanied by at least one photograph. As the authors point out much splitting is being done due to DNA-sequencing, as indeed is happening with most organisms.  Doubtless there are already new species that have been identified as a result of molecular analysis.
     A good deal of information is provided at the beginning of volume one covering all the essential components of the fungal kingdom and their role in the ecosystems in which they are found, their nutrition, their vital function in decomposition, their biogeography and habits - and so forth. The first forty-four pages are key to a basic appreciation of fungi, and a thorough understanding of them will equip you with the knowledge you need to proceed further.
     One of the incredibly useful tools, found on page 25 is a colour key, so that descriptions of mushrooms from one person to another are uniform and based on standard values. Instead of one person assigning a term like "buffy," or "rusty," or "chestnut," based on the way his or her eyes perceive it, reference to the colour chart will enable standard descriptive nomenclature to be used. Buff will be buff, cinnamon-buff will be different, but both colours will be the same for everyone.



     The essential key to these volumes is the use of an innovative technique called a fungal wheel. By checking a mushroom against various characters in the wheel, identification can be narrowed down quickly and often clinched in a short time - and with confidence. Throughout the two volumes, fungi are assembled in form groups, so that morphologically similar fungi are arranged together. In a commendably pragmatic way the wheels have been structured so that if you are looking at the wheel that covers one group you will find cross references to other groups, so that you do not have to be an expert in systematics to make the linkage. I have practiced using the wheel and in a very short time it becomes intuitive.




     The breakdown of various groups of fungi is comprehensive indeed. Take for example Agarics, familiar to most no doubt; they are initially categorized as pale-spored agaric groups and dark-spored agaric groups. And the subsets continue - first pleurotids, devolving into small white-spored pleurotids, with aberrant or reduced gills, then small white-spored pleurotids, gelatinous white-spored pleurotids, large white-spored pleurotids,  and finally brown-spored pleurotids. Clearly, with mushroom at hand, it is possible to zero in on correct identification quickly and efficiently, or at the very least get to the family directly and with a good measure of certainty.



     Poisonous and edible mushrooms are identified throughout the books.
     Every single page of this work is illustrated, beautifully and comprehensively. It is a tour de force from start to finish. You will appreciate its completeness, its scholarship page by page. Whether you are an expert mycologist or a rank amateur interested in learning more, you will benefit from a close study of its contents. 
     I cannot recommend it too highly.

Fungi of Temperate Europe
Thomas Læssøe and Jens H. Petersen
Hardcover, two volumes - US$110.00 - 9780691180373
1,708 pages - 7,000 colour illustrations, 7½ in. x 11½ in.
Publication date: 17 September 2019     
     

50 comments:

  1. What a fascinating book - and exceptional review. Thank you.

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  2. Sounds like a fascinating and very comprehensive guide. Hope 2020 will be a great year for you and yours! Valerie

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  3. Svamparnas värld och deras enorma betydelse för våra ekosystem är okänt för de flesta, inklusive mig själv. Svampar är så mycket mera än en trevlig utflykt med svampkorgen på hösten. Just dessa samband i vår natur, där allt hänger ihop är något av det mest fascinerande i vår natur, tyvärr är vår kunskap alldeles för begränsad för att vi skall värdera dessa organismer till deras verkliga värde för livet på planeten.
    Det finns inget så levande som ett dött träd där svamparna deltar i nedbrytningen tillsammans med alla småkryp. Vi skulle drunkna i avfall om inte svampar och lavar agerar som renhållningsarbetare, tanken svindlar hur evolutionen byggt upp denna apparat som vi kallar natur. Och våra skogar som inte kan existera utan den symbios som förekommer mellan trädens rötter och svamp, mykorrhiza.

    Om boken finns översatt till svenska ska jag definitivt köpa den, ämnet ingår i allmänbildningen.

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    1. It would be wonderful if it were translated into Swedish, Gunilla. Happy New Year.

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  4. Very beautiful quote with nature that is difficult to understand.

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  5. The colour key sounds very useful. Happy New Year David.

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  6. Hello David,

    Mushrooms have never been my cup of tea ;)
    Every autumn people gets very sick or near death because they have picked the wrong muchrooms, so I agree with you that the books must be very helpful. The books looks very lovely. I guess that the authors are Danish?
    I stick to my garden plants. I live very near the wood, but the mushrooms have never interested me. I'm a little afraid of them I guess ;)

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    1. Hi Marit: It does not specifically state that the authors are Danish but I am guessing that they are. One is a senior researcher at the Natural History Museum of Denmark and the other taught mycology at Aarhus University for more than twenty years.

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    2. Hi again Marit: I checked their bios and they are both Danish.

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    3. Hj afain David,
      I guessed it because of their surname. It sounded Danish in my ears :)

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  7. Muy buenos libros y muy interesantes para mí ¿ no sé si están traducidos al español ? En Extremadura, tenemos muchísimas variedades. Abrazos y buen día amigo David.

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    1. Perhaps it will be translated into Spanish, Teresa, but I have no way of knowing that.

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  8. Hello, I have always enjoyed finding mushrooms. This book would be great for the fungi identifications. Thanks for sharing. Happy birding in 2020. I wish you and your family a very happy and healthy New Year!

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  9. What a beautiful book! Mushrooms are fascinating - I enjoy photographing them in the wild and eating them in restaurants. But I would never trust myself to know the good ones from the bad!
    Happy New Year!

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  10. I so very much enjoy reading your book reviews, David, even if (as in this case) I decide that I'll probably not purchase the subject of the review. This one is a subject that I dare not immerse myself in as the opportunities (even in our own garden) are too numerous! However, There are several books that I have purchased on your advice, and been delighted thast I did so - thank you!

    My very best wishes to you and Miriam for 2020 - although I'm sure I've said that already!

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    1. There will be a number of reviews over the next several months, Richard.

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  11. I am dropping by to wish you and Miriam a happy New Year of birding, David. What we see here is an amazingly rich study of fungi, some of which are as colourful as flowers. The diverse creation of these works of nature provides a witch’s brew of forest magic.

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  12. ...a subject of interest to me, but I don't know a lot about. Happy 2020 David.

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    1. I suspect that most of us have gaps in our knowledge when it comes to fungi, Tom.

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  13. Ideal review of a monumental work in just a few paragraphs! Enough to elicit interest in the book and its subject.
    Happy New Calendaric year!

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    1. Thanks, Duta. I always try to keep my reviews succinct. The last thing you want is a review as lengthy as the book itself! And Happy New Calendaric year to you too!

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  14. People, me included . tend to skip over fungi. However, there is much to discover.

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  15. Hola David, libros muy muy interesantes y veo que muy completos. Todos tendríamos que leer sobre los hongos para saber que no está, ahí para maltratarlos, si no que tienen una función muy importante en los bosques, un enorme abrazo.

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  16. Hi David - Happy New Year. Gosh what an amazing work of two volumes on Fungi - the way you've described it and shown us some of the relevant pages ... does seem to make absolute sense ... I'd love to have a look at them. This is an excellent review - they do do these books so well - and make them 'easy' for us to get to grips with ... enjoy using them over the coming years - cheers Hilary

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  17. Hello David,
    it's great that there is a book where you can learn from you about the schummels and mushrooms. A book like this is a real must because there are really a lot of mushrooms and mushrooms. Great that you have written a nice review again.
    A hug
    Helma

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  18. Ils ont l'air très complet ces livres!
    Bonne Année 2020!

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  19. This is such a complicated subjectbut interesting. The more I learn in nature the more I realisethat I know absolutley nothing!!! Cheers Diane

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  20. Count me among the rank amateurs, but fungi fascinate me. They are so much more a part of our world than we even realize and our interdependence may be little appreciated.

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  21. Great review. I read it with great interest. I love walking in the woods and when I see edible mushrooms I collect them with pleasure and joy.
    Happy New Year to you and to Miriam:)

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  22. Nicely done. I so love books for ID purposes. I love the colour wheel.
    Happy new year!

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  23. Fungi are so fascinating, and these two volumes look to be a brilliant reference publication for any library. I especially love the identification methods - we used to use a similar process when I studied botany (many many years ago LOL).

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    1. I did undergraduate plant biology many year ago too, maybe when cycads were the dominant vegetation and dinosaurs roamed the earth!

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  24. The two volumes look very interesting and your review is excellent. Happy 2020!

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  25. Doskonała książka! Brakuje mi takiej w polskim wydaniu. Często fotografuje grzyby. Dużo ciekawych jest w Puszczy Białowieskiej, a ja nadal nie wiem, jakie grzyby sfotografowałam. Może kiedyś się doczekam polskiej edycji, a może będę musiała kupic po angielsku.

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  26. I think it's very useful book with many pictures, David because people sometimes don't know edible and poisonous fungi. Hope it will be translated into Russian.
    Happy new 2020 year! It's a wonderful digit, I hope it brings you much
    happiness and your dreams come true.
    Hugs!

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  27. It seems a most wonderful book to me reading your review David. And indeed the world of fungi is a great mistery and essential for nature this book can be a great help for the people interested in fungi.
    Regards,
    Roos

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  28. Unos libros sumamente interesantes amigo David para cualquier aficionado o micólogo, no cabe duda que por tu reseña aportan muy buena documentación y conocimientos sobre un mundo tan complejo como son los hongos.
    Un fuerte abrazo amigo y compadre David.

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  29. Ik wens u 'n heel goed Nieuwjaar.
    Groet Kees.

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  30. Wow. The illustrations in this book look gorgeous. I need that come September at the lake!

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  31. Nice book David, I have also a lot of nature books. Happy New Year from the Netherlands. Greetings Caroline

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  32. What a great review and reference books. The (many) color illustrations make it so helpful and less intimidating to learn about these wonders of nature.

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  33. I hope the New Year is going to be filled with lots of fun!

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  34. This looks like a fantastic reference book, I struggle with Fungi on a regular basis, this is on my to buy list!

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  35. Hi David,
    This certainly is an impressive book for everyone who is addicted to mushrooms. It looks like you can find all the important information about every kind in it.
    Greetings, Kees

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  36. Veldig spennende bok!Sopper kan være gode å spise.Viktig å vite forskjellen på dem mangen er giftige.
    Alt som er i naturen er til nytte..Fint at du viser dette
    Godt Nyttår til deg og dine :)

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  37. Gorgeous photos of the owl. About a month ago, I heard what I thought was a baby crying. I opened my back too see what it was and there sitting on my deck was an eastern screetch owl.

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  38. Needless to say, this looks much more interesting to me than it would have even a week ago! The color chart is fabulous, and that wheel is an interesting variation on a traditional key. I read the back cover as well as your comments, and was very much impressed. Unfortunately, the cost is beyond me, but I'm going to see if I can at least get the books through interlibrary loan.

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