Book Review

The Genus Inocybe in Bavaria

By Johann Stangl
2011 / ISBN 978-0-9569321-0-5 / 344 pp.
₤30.00 (paper)

This fine book on Bavarian inocybes was originally published as Die Gattung Inocybe in Bayern in the journal, Hoppea, by the Regensburg (Germany) University Botany Department in 1989, shortly after Johann Stangl’s sudden and untimely death in 1988 at the age of 64. Despite the limited geographic coverage, it has been of much use to European mycologists and even to some in North America where, unfortunately, no similar compilation for the genus exists. Given the lack of German language skills among many mycologists (such as I, for one), a group of dedicated British amateurs endeavored to make an English translation available following discussions at a 2009 British Mycological Society Inocybe workshop and their efforts culminated in its release last year.

Stangl’s work covers 138 taxa (species, varieties, and forms) and resulted from over 25 years of studying the inocybes from Augsburg and surrounding areas in Bavaria, southern Germany. With no fiddling around, Stangl got right to the point. The foreword by Andreas Bresinsky, dedication, introduction, and acknowledgments occupied a mere six pages in the original. In the English version, an additional introduction has been added, and Stangl’s obituary, written by Bresinsky, has been moved to the front of the book. Following a short description of the genus, Inocybe, and a key to the species treated, the bulk of the book is given to the descriptions and illustrations.

The descriptions are comprehensive, yet not so long as to be cumbersome. Each includes the scientific name with author; selected synonyms with literature references; list of sources of additional illustrations; a brief key-points characterization of the species; macroscopic characters of the cap, gills, stipe, and flesh; microscopic characters; habitat and season of occurrence; list of collections and localities in Bavaria; and notes. The text for each species is accompanied by a plate of clearly rendered line drawings of basidia, cystidia, spores, and the hyphae of the cap cuticle and stipe surface. The species are also beautifully illustrated in 38 plates of Stangl’s excellent watercolor paintings, grouped together following the descriptions section. References sections (direct reproductions of the original versions), a glossary, and index complete the book. To reflect the many changes in names and so forth that have taken place since 1989, the editors revised and expanded the index. It includes not only indications of where the species appears in the keys and where its description, line drawings, and color illustration can be found, but also its apparent frequency in Britain and, by means of different fonts, the status of names and whether or not a species is treated fully in the book or merely mentioned in keys or text.

Comparing the translated with the original version, page size is roughly 15-20% larger and pagination differs a bit because of the size difference and addition of editorial notes. The line drawings are not as crisp as in the original, but are of more than adequate quality. The same is true of the color plates—they are not as crisp and the color is not quite the same, with most being a bit more reddish-hued than in the original. However, because the reproductions in the new version were prepared from Stangl’s original paintings, it is possible that they more accurately represent the mushrooms’ colors. To increase the usefulness of the book in Britain, comments were added, in a different font to make clear that they are not part of the original text, regarding the species’ British occurrence. Mostly the remarks concern commonness, based on the number of records in the Fungal Records Database for Britain and Ireland, recent name changes, and taxonomic details.

The translation seems to have been done accurately and reads well although there are passages here and there that betray the fact that this is a translation. Stangl’s mycological work was done very carefully and, justifiably, has been praised highly. All in all, this is an excellent volume and it is clear why the British team felt it deserved broader exposure among non-German speakers.

Of course, a regional European book such as this must be used with caution in North America, as it is not yet clear just how many species actually are shared between our continent and the Bavarian region, similar-looking though they may be. Nonetheless, many species described from North America are included and, when used with appropriate qualification, this book should be of great help for those who would try to attach names to these macroscopically rather bland, but microscopically quite attractive, little brown mushrooms that are important mycorrhizal partners of many of our major forest and park trees. Cullington, McAdam, and the rest are to be commended for making this version available and at a fairly reasonable price.

— Review by Steve Trudell, Seattle, WA
— Originally published in Fungi