Book Review

Microstructures of Vegetative Mycelium of Macromycetes in Pure Cultures

By Asya Buchalo, Oksana Mykchaylova, Margarita Lomberg, & Solomon P. Wasser
2009; Alterpress, Kiev, Ukraine
ISBN-13: 978-966-542-408-6 (cloth); 224 pp.

Traditionally, mycologists who work with macrofungi such as agarics and the larger ascomycetes have relied on characteristics of the sporocarps for classification and identification, the general feeling being that the vegetative mycelia had few characters available for such purposes. Is there reason to change that way of thinking? Perhaps.

This is an atlas of mostly SEM images of the cultured vegetative mycelia of 100 species of edible and/or medicinal macrofungi, accompanied by written descriptions of the mycelia and sporocarps. Nearly half of the species illustrated come from the six (as the authors assign the species) genera Agaricus (19), Coriolus-Trametes (3), Leucoagaricus (3), Morchella (7), Oudemansiella-Xerula (3), and Pleurotus (9). The strains are maintained at the Culture Collection of Mushrooms at Kiev, Ukraine, and the authors have dual associations with the M.G. Kholodny Institute of Botany, National Academy of Sciences of the Ukraine and the Institute of Evolution, University of Haifa, Israel.

The front matter includes short introductions from the editors and the authors and a brief list of abbreviations/acronyms. Chapter I describes the importance of the work and the methods used. It then introduces the features that the authors have found to be useful in characterizing the vegetative mycelia of different species such as type of branching, cell-wall thickness, surface features of hyphae (e.g., crystals, bristles, swellings, and bulbs), coiling of hyphae, nature of mycelial cords, clamp connections (e.g., presence, abundance, size, and shape), and presence and form of conidia.

Chapter II comprises the descriptions. They are arranged alphabetically and each one includes the name of the fungus, with authority, and an indication of its family and phylum. In some cases, a commonly recognized synonym is provided, but generally synonyms are not listed. A brief description of the vegetative mycelium as it occurs in pure culture is next, followed by a longer description of sporocarp macro- and micro-features and ecological occurrence. The descriptions end with an indication of the species’s practical use, such as being of culinary or medicinal value.

Chapter III includes the illustrations, printed four-per-page on heavy glossy stock (the rest of the book is printed on lighter-weight non-glossy stock). Altogether there are 414 images, so roughly 4 per species. Most are good-quality SEM’s of hyphae, showing morphology, surface features, or clamp connections. Also included are several drawings of hyphae and Petri-dish photographs of cultures. The reference list and species index appear between Chapters II and III, presumably to facilitate printing on two different stocks.

Because the authors observed a great deal of diversity in mycelial characteristics, they feel that some of the features could be taxonomically useful. My perusal of the images indicates that they could be correct. However, the situation here reminds me of that of identifying fungi on the basis of the morphology and anatomy of ectomycorrhizas they form. It takes a lot of work and experience to do the latter, and not all species are sufficiently distinctive for it to work in every case. Thus, most workers probably would opt for molecular approaches to classification and identification of cultures. In a way this disappoints me, as I have great admiration for those who have developed the personal skill necessary to use a morphological/anatomical approach and, in doing so, acquire, as Nobel-laureate Barbara McClintock would say, “a feeling for the organism.”

Although it is obvious the book was not written by native English-speakers, I didn’t encounter any instances where this created a problem in understanding. It contains many typographical errors but, again, this did not impede understanding - it was merely an annoyance. The binding, paper quality, and so forth all are good.

The publisher did not provide cost and ordering information with the book and I was unable to track Alterpress down on the internet, I did find that, as of early April 2010, it could be ordered from Koeltz Scientific Books for €96 / $139.20 . At this price, I suspect most workers will rely on their institutional libraries to acquire it.

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