Book Review

Röhrlinge und Blätterpilze in Europa
(Tubed and Gilled Fungi in Europe)

By Egon Horak
Elsevier Spektrum Academischer Verlag, 2005
ISBN 3-8274-1478-4 (cloth)
555 pp; € 40.00

While Manfred Enderle’s book (reviewed above) is difficult to categorize, this one is easy. For years, students of European macrofungi have relied on two comprehensive sets of keys to help them identify their collections—Flore Analytique des Champignons Supérieurs by Robert Kühner and Henri Romagnesi and Die Röhrlinge und Blätterpilze by Meinhard Moser. The latter volume, originally published in 1953, was most recently revised in 1983, the same year in which an English translation of the 4th (1978) edition appeared (Moser 1983). Thus, at the time of his unexpected and unfortunate death in 2002, a revision was due and Moser was contemplating a 6th edition.

With Dr. Moser’s passing, the task of the 6th edition fell to one of his former students, Dr. Egon Horak. Like Moser, Dr. Horak has a broad knowledge of the macrofungi, both taxonomically and geographically, and is well known and highly regarded throughout the world. Although Dr. Horak used the 5th edition as a starting point, this volume is not simply an updating and minor revision of the previous edition. It is, in many respects, a new work reflecting the new author’s taxonomic viewpoints and, thus was given a new (albeit similar) title.

As mentioned above, this book is easy to categorize—it’s a large set of keys to the Polyporaceae p.p., Boletales, Agaricales, and Russulales of Europe. It’s not, and wasn’t intended to be, exhaustive in its coverage in part because of page limitations. However, it still covers over 2900 species. The focus is on central Europe; most arctic/alpine and mediterranean species are not included. The contents include the Foreword; a systematic outline of the included genera; advice on how to use the book; glossary; lists of abbreviations and symbols used in the text, sources of illustrations and specialist literature, and authors names; references; keys to orders and genera; keys to species; a list of the new genera, species, and combinations in the book; six plates (including 60 line-drawing figures of spores, basidia, cystidia, and pileipellis elements); and the index.

The bulk of the text (486 of the 555 pages) is devoted to the keys. Their organization and numbering scheme (hierarchical, with from one to five digits, for example 3.7.6.4.1 for a portion of Psathyrella, which is genus 3.7.6) will be familiar to those who have used the earlier editions, including the English version of the 4th edition. As in the earlier editions, all of the descriptive information is contained in the key leads, there are no separate descriptions. In most cases, the final lead contains abbreviated references for illustrations and more detailed descriptions. Some also include one or a few synonyms, but these aren’t extensive lists and there are few comments reflecting taxonomic opinions and philosophy.

The included species mostly are ones that are familiar to Dr. Horak, and he examined many type collections during preparation of the manuscript. He endeavored to incorporate the large advances that have been made in European macrofungus systematics during the past 2 decades, but tempered this with a fairly conservative approach to genus names, not including many recently proposed ones that are based primarily on molecular data. His feeling is that most users of the book will be using traditional macro- and micromorphologic characters and that it makes sense to use familiar genus concepts based on those features.

The book is attractive and well put together. However, it contains a large number of minor errors such as missing headings, missing bits of text, incorrect page references, and so forth that can make for annoying distractions when using the keys. Apparently most of these crept in during the production phase when it was too late for Horak to catch them.

How useful will this book be for those of us in North America? If you are identifying macrofungi and have a good command of German, then this will be a useful tool to help fill the void until we have comprehensive keys of our own. If your German isn’t all that good, then you might be better off sticking with the English 4th edition and the Nordic Macromycetes series, at least until an English version of this book is available. Although there apparently is some discussion of a translation, we might have to wait until the next edition for it to happen.

References:

Moser, M. 1983. Keys to Agarics and Boleti (Polyporales, Boletales, Agaricales, Russulales). Roger Phillips, London, UK.

— Review by Steve Trudell, Seattle, WA
— Originally published in Inoculum 57(2), 2006