CA Mushrooms
CA Mushrooms

Book Review

Mushrooms of the Rocky Mountain Region

By Vera Stucky Evenson
2015, Timber Press, Portland, OR
Flexibind; 298 pages; 265 color photos, 9 b/w illustrations, 1 map,
ISBN-10: 1604695765; ISBN-13: 9781604695762
Price: $27.95

The forecast looks good for this summer in Colorado: as long as the rains hit on time in August, there should be abundant mushrooms! And just ahead of those rains, an excellent guide to the mushrooms of the Rocky Mountain region has hit the bookshelves: the Timber Press Guide to the Mushrooms of the Rocky Mountain Region by Vera Evenson.

Billed as a “new field guide” by the publisher, Mushrooms of the Rocky Mountain Region is actually an update (much needed, thank you!) of Evenson’s 1997 Mushrooms of Colorado and the Southern Rocky Mountains published by the Denver Botanic Gardens (where the author has been Curator for many years). The previous guide was an excellent go-to for mushrooms of that region, and really the only book for the region that most people used. So, how does this new edition by Timber Press stack up?

Overall, Mushrooms of the Rocky Mountain Region is the same book but with updated names for the mushrooms described (but don’t worry, older synonyms that you may be more familiar with are included too). The same large dimension photos are used—a strongpoint of the previous edition—but with a big improvement this go-round. The newer edition has corrected the colors and lighting in the images; many of the photos of the earlier edition had a yellow hue about them that I never cared for. (The cover of Mushrooms of Colorado and the Southern Rocky Mountains has a good example.) The new edition features those mushrooms much more accurately colored. I always felt the previous book by Evenson could have described more species and this new edition does up the number a bit (170 mushrooms are described)… still I would have liked to have seen more species included. For example, the genus Amanita got an increase of one from three to four species. (Probably the four most common, but my personal list of Amanitas from Colorado is much longer.) In contrast, the Timber Press Guide to the Mushrooms of the Pacific Northwest (by Trudell and Ammirati, and from the same series as this new offering) features 460 species.

Evenson’s previous book reflected an eastern (North America) bias on names of some of the mushrooms described that I think has been resolved in this new book (e.g. previously the “velvet foot” described was Flammulina velutipes, common in the East; now that species as well as F. populiphila, which I personally see much more often in the Rocky Mountains, is also shown). But inexplicably, some fairly common mushrooms have been dropped from mention (e.g. Tricholoma caligatum).

Author Vera Stucky Evenson is Curator of the Sam Mitchel Herbarium of Fungi at Denver Botanic Gardens. She collects and studies thousands of specimens and photographs of native mushrooms in many ecosystems, including those that grow in city environments. She is a past president of the Colorado Mycological Society. In 2008, Vera received the North American Mycological Association’s Award for Contributions to Amateur Mycology in honor of her three decades of dedication and expertise in the field. She holds a bachelor’s degree in botany and bacteriology, and a master’s degree in microbiology. Evenson is a really good writer and a warm and enthusiastic educator about all things fungal!

Mushrooms of the Rocky Mountain Region features all the great descriptions of how the mushrooms got their names, some fun side-stories and anecdotes, and where else will you read about the life history of the “upside down” puffball, Disciseda subterranea, elucidated by Sam Mitchel & Co. of the Denver Botanic Gardens.

Disciseda species began life as underground puffballs. As the fruiting body weathers out of the loose prairie soil, it is eventually flipped over, its previously sand-covered top becoming its base. Like a weighted harbor buoy, it is then able to disperse its spores from the pore that develops on its top as it is wobbled about by the ever-present prairie wind. Sometimes dozens of fruiting bodies may be winnowed out of their locations, winding up on the powder-dry soil between clumps of grass.”

Overall, I would call Mushrooms of the Rocky Mountain Region a home run. There are many improvements over the first iteration; and all the best aspects of that earlier book remain intact.

— Review by Britt Bunyard
— Originally published in Fungi