Book Review

Mushrooms and other Fungi of the Midcontinental United States
2nd Edition

By D.M. Huffman, L.H. Tiffany, G. Knaphus, R.A. Healy
2008, ISBN-10: 1-58729-627-6 / ISBN-13: 978-1-58729-627-7
University of Iowa Press, Iowa City, IA 52242
$39.95 (paper)

For many years, mushroom field guides written for North America attempted to cover all, or nearly all, of the continent. This led to much duplication in species coverage and frustration on the part of users who frequently could find only a small percentage of their local mushrooms in these guides. Beginning in the late 1980s, however, a number of all-color regionally oriented guides began to appear. Mushrooms and other Fungi of the Midcontinental United States was one of the first of these more focused treatments. Amazingly, nearly 20 years have passed since the publication of the hard-to-find first edition and, happily, a new enlarged edition is now available. As is true for most regional publications, precisely delineating the region where the book will be useful is not easy—however, it generally corresponds to the area encompassed by Iowa and the surrounding Midwestern prairie states, a region formerly covered in large part by tall grass prairies and woodlands of the eastern deciduous forest and lake states forest.

Many NAMA members will recall that lead author Don Huffman is one of our past presidents and emeritus professor of biology at Central College of Iowa. Lois Tiffany and the late George Knaphus were professors of botany at Iowa State University. New to this edition is Rosanne Healy, last seen glued to her microscope in the identification room at the 2007 Pipestem foray, and now pursuing a graduate degree in mycology at the University of Minnesota.

The content and structure of the book are typical for a field guide. The first 30 pages comprise an introduction to basic mushroom biology and morphology, general descriptions of major morphological groups, names and classification, edibility and toxicity, and mushroom habitats, followed by keys to the major morphological groups. This material is supported by attractive line illustrations. The mushroom descriptions, photographs, and detailed keys cover over 300 pages, and the book winds up with a glossary, lists of general and technical references, and index. At 370 pages, the book is nearly 50 pages longer than the first edition, and the page size is about 10% larger.

Keys are provided to nearly all of the species covered. They are fairly simple, based on macro characters, and worked well when I tested some of them. The species descriptions cover the essentials in a concise, readable fashion. Over 250 species are featured, including a number of truffles and false truffles, a welcome addition. Comments for most species are brief, but many provide good updates on current classification issues and recent name changes. This portion of the book is attractive and well-produced; however, it includes an over-abundance of white space. Many pages are half blank and I would have liked to see this space used for lengthier comments or, better yet, additional species. The species photos are of good size and most illustrate the critical features of the mushrooms clearly. Many of them are also quite attractive and, overall, the photos are noticeably improved compared to those in the first edition.

In summary, this is a fine reliable field guide for an area not often visited by NAMA forays and mycologists in general, and it should prove indispensable for mushroom-hunters in the mid-section of our continent.

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