Book Review

Poroid Fungi of Europe

By Leif Ryvarden and Ireneia Melo
2014, Synopsis Fungorum 31,
Fungiflora
ISBN: 978-82-90724-46-2 (455 pages, hardcover, NOK700)

Nearly everyone who has even a passing interest in polypores will recognize the Norwegian Leif Ryvarden as one of the most knowledgeable persons in the world when it comes to this ecologically important group of fungi. He has collected in nearly every corner of the planet and authored such important works as North American Polypores and The Polyporaceae of Northern Europe (both with the late Bob Gilbertson) and The Corticiaceae of Northern Europe (with several co-authors). Users of those works know that, although they contain wonderful line drawings of microscopic features, photographs of the actual fungi are almost completely absent, thus limiting the usefulness of the books, especially for those without access to a microscope or who, like me, lack the ability to make clear thin-sections of these tough fungi. So it is wonderful news that this new book, co-authored with Portuguese polypore expert Ireneia Melo, contains lots of good quality color photographs of brackets, shelves, and crusts!

The large-format (roughly 8 × 11 inches) book opens with about 25 pages of introductory material that explains what a polypore is, describes and illustrates the more important macroscopic and microscopic features of the fruitbodies, points out that the authors used broad taxonomic concepts to make the book more accessible (and includes a list of segregate genus names not applied), discusses the decay characteristics and pathological importance of the group, provides a forest-region framework for Europe, lists sources used to compile distributions, and gives brief advice for collecting and studying polypores. This is followed by a series of keys to families and genera (and species in some cases). The book closes with a lengthy list of reference works and the index.

In between the opening and closing are 403 pages of genus and species descriptions and illustrations, encompassing, by my unofficial count, 79 genera and 391 species. Following each genus description is a key to the included species. Each species description text includes the authority, plus basionym and key synonyms where applicable; basidiocarp macroscopic features; microscopic features including hyphal system, cystidia, basidia, and basidiospores; substrate(s); distribution; and comments. Many of the species (I didn’t count them) are illustrated with a color photograph and/or detailed line drawings of microscopic features. The photos are mostly very good, although a number exhibit too-green tones or exaggerated color. In many cases, it would have been nice to have close-up inset photos of the pores to augment the aspect photo. The line drawings, especially those by Tuomo Niemelä (who also provided many of the photographs), are excellent.

The keys are fairly simple and seem likely to work well, although in many genera, the species concepts are quite narrowly drawn, which will make identification difficult in many instances. Both macroscopic and microscopic features are utilized throughout the keys. The production quality is good, although the book would have benefited from a careful proof-reading. There are many typos, small errors in English usage, and a few technical mistakes that could easily have been weeded out. Overall, however, this is an excellent authoritative contribution that, along with Annarosa Bernicchia’s 2005 volume in the Fungi Europaei series, will prove valuable for use in North America when combined with Gilbertson and Ryvarden’s photo-free North American Polypores until such time as we have a comparably illustrated treatment for our continent.

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