Book Review

Macrolichens of the Pacific Northwest, 2nd Edition

By Bruce McCune and Linda Geiser
2009; Oregon State University Press
ISBN 978-0-87071-565-5; $30

In my review of the first edition (available here), I stated that, “if this new book by Oregon State University professor Bruce McCune and US Forest Service scientist Linda Geiser is any indication, perhaps the lichens will begin to receive more of the attention usually reserved for their showier fungal cousins (mushrooms).” And, indeed, that seems to have happened. Several fine books dealing with North American lichens have come out since then, including Lichens of North America (Brodo et al.; review available at, The Macrolichens of New England (Hinds & Hinds; reviewed in FUNGI, Spring 2009), and the 3-volume Lichen Flora of the Greater Sonoran Desert Region (Nash et al.). Taken together, these volumes now allow identification of a significant portion of the macrolichens of North America but, for now, we’ll focus on the Pacific Northwest.

For those of you familiar with the first edition of the McCune/Geiser guide, a nutshell comparison follows. For those who aren’t, a fuller review is then provided, closely tracking that of the first edition.


As its title indicates, Macrolichens of the Pacific Northwest is a color field guide to the foliose (leafy) and fruticose (shrubby) lichens (taken together, the “macrolichens”) of Oregon and Washington; it does not deal with the much less well known, and hence more difficult, crustose lichens (“microlichens”). Given the similarity of habitats in the surrounding states and provinces, the book will certainly be quite useful in northern California, Idaho, western Montana, southeast Alaska, British Columbia, and beyond.

The introductory section explains what lichens are, why they are important, and how they work, then describes the various growth forms, morphological features, and reproductive strategies; how to collect and identify lichens; and the use of lichens in assessing air quality. I liked the fact that, in the first edition, the latter two sections, which contain useful, but accessory, information, were placed in appendixes rather than in the front of the book. I can see that many users might prefer having the collecting and identification material up front, but I think the air quality material really belongs in an appendix. The main part of the book starts with a set of keys to the 113 genera included in the guide (up from 92, largely a result of taxonomic revisions, but also to discoveries of new lichens such as Acroscyphus and Moelleropsis). Descriptions of genera follow alphabetically, along with keys to species and the species accounts (arranged alphabetically within each genus). Most species are treated in one page, which includes a brief description of important morphological and chemical features, an indication of air pollution sensitivity, the geographic range, substrate, habitat, additional notes, and an excellent quality color photograph (many of them slightly smaller than in the first edition, although still fairly generous by North American field guide standards) and/or line drawing. In a number of cases, small accessory photos have been added, showing details of morphology or spores. Many of these would be more effective if they were larger.

All 586 (up from 458) species of macrolichens reported or expected to occur in Oregon and Washington are keyed, and 246 of them (up from 210) are described and illustrated, focusing on those that occur in forests, are regionally common, or are of special concern because of their rarity. The keys are clear, easy to understand, and work. Some quick spot-checks suggest that my first-edition comment about the species accounts needing to include more extensive comparisons with similar species was not heeded.

Following the species accounts, an appendix provides additional detail about nomenclature, but no longer includes the species acronyms or codes that often are used as short-hand in field surveys, species lists, and so forth. There is also an extensive reference list (312 citations, up from 199) and a nicely illustrated glossary.

Overall, there still is little not to like about this attractive, authoritative, and very usable field guide. Perhaps by the time OSU Press is ready to publish its third edition, there will be enough budget and material to include descriptions and illustrations of a substantial number of the 340 (up from 248) species that are included only in keys in this edition. Even with the increase to $30 (from $25.95) this is an excellent guide at a reasonable price. All licheneers will want a copy and anyone who lives in the western US and has even a passing interest in lichens should consider it as well.

— Review by Steve Trudell
— Originally published in Fungi

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