Book Review

Fungi Down Under:
The Fungimap Guide to Australian Fungi

By Pat and Ed Grey
Fungimap, 2005
ISBN 0-646-44674-6

Fungimap is an Australia-wide community group dedicated to advancing the knowledge of fungi and promoting their conservation. The main activity of Fungimap is a mapping project for macrofungi, focusing on 100 readily identifiable target species. This compact volume is a guide to those 100 species and, because those species cover a wide range of morphotypes (gilled mushrooms, boletes, polypores, corals, etc.), it can serve as a general introduction to macrofungi for those new to the field.

After the Foreword, Preface, and extensive Acknowledgments, the book consists of three main parts – the first part is an introductory section providing background information on fungi and how they are classified, as well as how-to information on observing and identifying them. The second is the meat of the book, comprising the 100 species descriptions. The third part consists of six appendices, including a glossary, list of synonyms, pronunciation guide, meanings of scientific names, a list of references, and background information about Fungimap.

Cover

The species treatments are arranged one species per page. They include common and scientific names, a capsule description that includes habitat information, a more detailed description, brief discussion of look-alikes, good to excellent quality color photos (typically two photos per species, one of which includes callouts of the key identification features), and a map of Australia showing the recorded distribution of the species. The layout is attractive and functional, but I have two complaints about the photographs. First, the main photo is done as a vignette, so the environment of the fungus (which I consider of great importance for identification) is usually not apparent. Second, the other photo, which usually does show the environment, is in many cases too small to be effective. Despite those quibbles, the treatments should allow for ready identification of the little ping-pong bat, velvet parachute, small dung button, and the other 97 interesting fungi covered by the project.

An innovative addition is a color chart provided inside the back cover for those interested in preparing accurate descriptions of the fungi they find. The chips are arranged by hue (in eight groups, from brown-yellow to green) and are denoted by numbers from 1 to 190. Perhaps when someone has time, (s)he can compile a correspondence chart with the Ridgway, Methuen, and Munsell color guides to make the chart more widely useful.

This is a fine little book and would serve as a good, albeit brief, introduction to Australian fungi for those planning a trip down under. If you aren’t planning a trip, a skim through these 100 fungi might make you consider one. The idea of a mapping project also provides a model for NAMA and might help us increase our role in conserving fungi and their habitats nationwide.

— Review by Steve Trudell, Seattle, WA
— Originally published in The Mycophile 49:1, 2008