Toxic Fungi of Western North America

by Thomas J. Duffy, MD

Addendum 1: Scientific names and the conventions used in the text

[After this section, there is an addendum by Dr. Rodham Tulloss, it being felt that my original material on this complicated issue needed further clarification and expansion. This section by Dr. Tulloss is labeled “Addendum 2”. The tenor of that section is clarification of the relationship between fungal taxonomy and fungal names, using specific examples in the genus, Amanita.] Errors, if any, are those of TJ Duffy since that material has been modified to follow this addendum.

Genus names and species names (epithets) are italicized, the genus name being capitalized with the following species name being in lower case.

Terms, which follow the italicized species epithet, identify the person or persons responsible for that name according to the specifications of The International Congresses of Botanical Nomenclature. The study of these specifications for a particular species epithet constitutes taxonomy in the strict sense. The word taxonomy is also employed in the less strict sense of correctly determining what names should be applied to particular fungi. This is the sense in which Dr. Rolf Singer uses the term in his The Agaricales in Modern Taxonomy.

The “type” collection is the defining one for that species or any subspecies, variety or form. Without a note to the contrary this is the holotype or original collection on which the author based the name. If the original material has been lost, heavily depleted or damaged, another type may be used or designated eg. an isotype (a duplicate or part of the type collection other than the holotype) or e.g. a neotype (a new collection carefully made to duplicate the original material and newly designated as that on which the name is to be based).

Few fungi have common names. The same common name may be used for different species and more than one common name may apply to the same species. Thus there was a need for a more rigid designation following the concepts of Linnaeus, the father of systematic botany. In his Latin binomial or two-name system, each species is designated by both a genus name and a species name, the latter referred to as a species “epithet”. The genus name is Greek or Latin in derivation or form; the species epithet is usually Latin (or a latinized name, e.g. species named after various botanists).

The International Congresses of Botanical Nomenclature regulate scientific naming for living, but non-animal species. The capitalized genus name comes first followed by the uncapitalized species epithet. The citation Chroogomphus vinicolor (Peck.) O.K.Mill., for example, recognizes the fact that Charles Peck, the father of American mycology, named the species "vinicolor" in the genus Gomphus and that Orson K. Miller later transferred it to his new genus Chroogomphus. Mushroom names have been much more unstable than green plant names, primarily because fungi have many characteristics that are not macroscopic in nature, but still need to be considered in defining a species.

Two names within a parenthesis denote earlier authors of name and validation of that name for species later accepted by the definitive author of that genus. For most of the higher fungi, the validating author is Elias Fries--the founder of modern mycology. Names assigned by authors prior to official validation in the botanical code are followed by “ex” or “per”, which expressions are used in the sense of “was validated by”. Thus Amanita muscaria (L. ex Fr.) Pers. is an example of a species named by Linnaeus, that name validated by Fries and the species then moved from the genus Agaricus to the genus Amanita by Persoon. Names for species that have been validated by publication in Elias Fries’ “Systema Mycologicum” may use a colon instead of ex or per. This more concise notation for Fries’ validations will be used in the text below e.g.--Amanita muscaria (L.:Fr.) Pers. or Gyromitra infula Schaeff.:Fr.) Quél.

Names frequently used, especially earlier authors or those with longer names are often abbreviated, such as Fr. for Elias Fries and Quél. for Lucien Quélet. A standard list is that of Kirk and Ansell. (215)

Citations are left out of the text, except where there are new names or possible ambiguity. In such a case (and for all amanitas), at least the first mention of the species will include the citation. "Sensu" means in the sense of a particular mycologist and "sensu auct. amer." in the sense of American authors. The term “comb. nov.” refers to a new combination made by joining the names of two species in a different way. The example in this text is Clitocybe dealbata (Fries) Kummer ssp. sudorifica (Peck) Bigelow, comb. nov. Howard Bigelow in his North American Species of Clitocybe notes that the North American species studied by Peck and Murrill is so closely related to the European interpretations of Clitocybe dealbata, that it is best described at the subspecies level, hence the new combination. "Sp. affin." refers to a closely related species and "nom. prov." refers to a proposed species name not yet validly published. In addition to “sp.” for species, the abbreviation “ssp” is used to represent a subspecies. A species’ name in parentheses denotes, in this text, a former (and often, a more familiar) name that may be found in some texts.

A “-----“ around a species epithet in the text indicates that the species may not be identical to the species generally assumed to be correctly named (often an eastern or European name) or that the “species” may really be a complex of closely related ones. When a word in parenthesis begins with a capital letter and occurs in the middle of a scientific name, such as Hygrophoropsis (Clitocybe) aurantiaca, the genus in parentheses is not the name considered correct in the taxonomic sources used by the author. The “(calyptroderma)” in “Amanita (calyptroderma) lanei” begins with a lower case letter and refers to a former species epithet not considered correct in the author’s current taxonomic sources.

Citations for Amanita species are those used by Dr. Rodham Tulloss. Other citations are those used in standard reference works on toxic fungi. A number of these citations are incorrect (especially among the older taxa), partly because of persistent tinkering by the ICBN in recent decades and partly because many mycologists were more interested in taxonomy specifically as the naming of described species rather than untangling the needed nomenclature as dictated by the ICBN.

Historical reasons have given rise to peculiar citation problems. The citation for the highly toxic Amanita phalloides is a good example. Dr. Singer gives this species the scientific name of Amanita phalloides (Vaill. ex Fr.) Secretan. However, Vaillant himself did not use a Latin name, but instead used the French descriptive phrase “Amanite phalloïde”. The result was that when Fries re-described the species as a binomial on the basis of Vaillant’s work, the re-described species name became the earliest legitimate one and also, under the code, its formal validation. Link was the first author to transfer this species to the genus Amanita (from Venenarius), so that the correct latinized name is Amanita phalloides (Fr.:Fr.) Link.

The most difficult problems are with the oldest names. In the case of Amanita verna (Bull.:Fr.) Lam. (the European springtime “Destroying Angel”), the holotype no longer exists. Dr. Tulloss notes that in the recent informal study by Francis Massart, his colleagues and correspondents, all specimens collected in Europe as Amanita verna gave a yellow-orange stain with KOH despite that taxon’s original designation as a species negative to KOH. The suggestion has been made that the original holotype may have contained at least some Amanita phalloides var. alba Britzlem. Sidestepping the issue of whether there exists a correctly named Amanita verna in Europe, the species with a yellow-orange stain on KOH testing has been designated Amanita decipiens (Trimbach) Andary & Bon.