Book Review

Xerocomus s.l.

By Heidi Ladurner and Giampaolo Simonini
Fungi Europaei, Vol 8. Slassio SV. Italia: Edizioni Candusso, 2003
ISBN 88-901057-2-056; 527 pp.

Overall, this is a beautiful hardbound book about an inch and a half thick and very heavy. It's reminiscent of an old college textbook with top-quality construction throughout including a ribbon for marking the pages. Each page is made from extra heavy, semi-slick paper and has the look and feel of quality. The text is set in a large size with plenty of leading between the lines so that the eye can follow the row, and the type is easy to read. The text is in English followed by Italian; however, the preface is in French followed by Italian.

Xerocomus

An important feature of any taxonomic book is the keys. Do they work? Are they easy to follow, and do you end up with the correct species? The keys seem to work, but they are not easy to use. A microscope is required; and spore striations, truncation, and average spore quotient appear throughout the key. Be prepared to section the pileipellis and look for a trichoderm, a palisadoderm, or epithelioid as well as the perplexing trichoderm tending toward a cutis verses a trichoderm tending toward a physalo-palisadoderm.

The book has nice microphotos of the pileipellis structure, but they are not referenced in the key, so it is difficult to turn to the page and see the photo for comparison. Couplet numbers 7, 8, and 12 use the phrase "taches congophiles" with no explanation of the meaning. Couplet 12 also uses "exsiccata" (does it mean dry?) when referring to colors. Couplet 13 uses the phrase "habitus sometimes Boletus-like" and from the other text in the couplet, this author assumes it means the apex of the stalk is occasionally reticulated. As with many European works, "nitrogen-rich habitats" and "associated with thermophilic species" may leave American readers puzzled.

The descriptions of the 24 taxa are excellent! Prior to the mushroom descriptions there is a section on the meaning behind the specific epithet, a timeline of the synonyms, a list of illustrations in other works and a Latin diagnosis from the first publication of the species. The list of illustrations is particularly weak and does not include a single North American book except for the four excluded American species. Also missing from the list are the inexpensive and common European works of Cetto and Dahncke.

Each description is detailed and lengthy in describing the macrofeatures and the microfeatures of the fungus. They are outstanding descriptions! Beginners and intermediate mycologists will need a mycological dictionary to assist them as technical terminology is consistently used and never explained. Unfortunately, the book does not contain a glossary. Each species has information on locations, habitats, elevation, and look-alikes. An oddity of the bilingual format has the scientific references and the list of material examined following the English text and the line drawings of spores and the pileipellis following the Italian text. If you don't look for it, you could miss either one. In the references, an error appears for the online version of The Boletes of California, by Harry D. Thiers. It should read "www.mykoweb.com/boletes," not "mycoweb." The Materials Examined section is a treasure trove of information that often includes very exact locations, collection dates, and mycorrhizal host near the growing site as well as the country, collector, accession number, and the person determining the identity of the bolete.

The 290 color photographs make this book worth owning. Each photo covers half a page and shows the whole bolete, or a feature of the bolete, in crisp detail. The photos are outstanding. Also included are 343 line drawings of the pileipellis and spores, but one of the hidden treasures in the book is the collection of 21 watercolor plates that show the entire range of European ecotypes. It's as if the artist had gathered them for years and then painted all of the variations on one sheet. Each plate has about a dozen paintings, and they're outstanding in quality and detail.

Sample pages

Included in the outstanding descriptions, but missing from the keys, are four more species not found in Europe. All four are American species that have a similar counter part in Europe, so the descriptions are included for a comparison. None of the four species is represented with photographs or watercolors.

American European
X. truncatus X. porosporus
X. zelleri X. pruinatus
X. fraternus X. ripariellus
X. intermedius X. fennicus

In summary: the keys are disappointing, the descriptions are outstanding, the color photographs cover the entire range of micro and macrocharacters with excellent detail, and the watercolors are phenomenal in their range of subtle variations.

— Review by Darvin DeShazer, Sebastapol, CA
— Originally published in The Mycophile 45:4, 2004