CA Mushrooms
CA Mushrooms

Book Review

Mushrooms of the Upper Midwest

By Teresa Marrone & Kathy Yerich
2014, Adventure Publications
ISBN: 978-1-59193-417-2
288 pages; paperback;

The “field” of mushroom field guides continues to grow more crowded and that can make it more daunting to pick the best book for you. But at the same time, more choices means there’s a good chance that one or more of the books out there will suit your needs and level of expertise. If you are a beginner mushroom hunter, or even advanced beginner, Mushrooms of the Upper Midwest by Marrone and Yerich should be on your list. (Full disclosure, I’m the author of a beginner’s guide to Midwest mushrooms—and I still highly endorse this book by Marrone and Yerich!)

In 2014, two very different guides to Midwest mushrooms came out; Kuo and Methven’s Mushrooms of the Midwest, which was reviewed previously in FUNGI (also see ad in this issue), and the current title by Marrone and Yerich. I’ve now had the better part of a year to evaluate both books and find them both to be very useful for my purposes. The very large Kuo book is more of a desk reference guide; it’s too large to carry in your basket or knapsack. A beginner would be unable to use the book as it’s laid out alphabetically (say, you’re holding a bolete in your hand, you would have to know to check several places in the book to decide what you have—Boletus, Tylopilus, Xerocomus, etc.). But if you’re fairly well-versed in field mycology and already have an idea of what your mushroom is, looking it up is a snap. For the advanced mycophile (and despite the ghastly photographs and several curious entries that no one’s ever heard of) the Midwestern guide by Kuo and Methven is for you. Beginners would not know where to start. That’s where Mushrooms of the Upper Midwest by Marrone and Yerich comes in.

Both authors hail from Minnesota and are pretty well-known in the Upper Midwest. Teresa Marrone is a forager and has written a number of field guides as well as cookbooks featuring wild foods. Kathy Yerich describes herself as “an avid mushroom hunter for more than 10 years” and is a member of both the Minnesota Mycological Society and the North American Mycological Associations. This book is their first collaboration. Their publisher, Adventure Publications has been around for a quarter century and has hundreds of well-priced titles on regional outdoor and nature-themed books (www.

Mushrooms of the Upper Midwest is pocket-sized and affordably priced. There are described (or at least mentioned) around 400 of the most common mushrooms to the Upper Midwest (and actually most of the mushrooms in this book would be expected to occur throughout the East). The book is laid out very well from a beginner’s stand point; mushrooms are grouped by the most obvious characteristics (“Cap & Stem with Gills,” “Cap & Stem with Pores,” “Shelf with Pores,” “Shelf with Gills,” “Coral and Club Fungi,” etc.), then each of these groups proceed (more or less) from light to dark color of the fruit bodies. This is pretty logical from a beginner’s standpoint (but may frustrate a field mycologist as it splits up many genera, e.g. Laccarias, Russulas, Lactarius, etc. species will be spread out within any one group). There are small sections at the front of the book devoted to “Top Toxics” and “Top Edibles” (a quibble about this is below). Another logical feature with Mushrooms of the Upper Midwest is the authors’ de-emphasis of scientific names. For many, if not most, entries in this book, a group of several closely-related species is covered (e.g. “scaber stalks,” “orange to red waxcaps,” “black footed polypores,” “purple gilled laccarias,” etc.) with their common characteristics described, and differences noted. On the facing page, photographs of the discussed species are shown with their scientific name. The photographs are of very good quality in general; some photos are full page-size, others are half- to quarter-page sized, or smaller for inset photos of lookalikes, etc. Where scientific names are used, mostly the authors have them correct and I am happy to see that often times they show older names as well—helpful when comparing to descriptions in older books (we all know how quickly the names have been changing of late!).

A quibble I have with the grouping of species in this book is that until you become familiar enough with the mushrooms in the front sections on “Top Edibles” and “Top Toxics” you will have to check those two sections along with one of the other sections that follow (e.g. “Cap & Stem with Gills”) to be reasonably certain of your pick.

I noticed a few inaccuracies but not really enough to amount to a deal breaker. “The ‘gray form’ of morels is often found at the start of the season” (page 25). No, this is an old myth; gray morels are simply immature—they will mature to yellow morels. On page 40 the jack o’ lantern mushroom is listed as a “deadly” look alike for chanterelles; again on page 70 the authors state that on occasion the jack o’lanterns have caused death. I’ve never seen any previous claim that this mushroom is deadly. In the toxic Amanitas section, a Caesar’s Amanita (Amanita jacksonii) is shown (page 62); “some Amanitas have a partial veil” (page 63), actually the vast majority do; the “gemmed Amanita” (page 65) appears to be the blusher, Amanita rubescens. On page 88 the authors caution against eating common laccarias due to the potential of “confusing with toxic Cortinarius,” which seems unlikely. (More likely, is confusion with Tubarias that are brown and with fringe on their caps … and appear to be in the photo of “Laccarias” on page 89.) Lactarius deceptivus (page 104) is listed as having a bitter taste; in the Midwest this species is actually acrid hot and terribly so. On page 112 the mica cap (Coprinellus micaceus) is listed as toxic if consumed with alcohol, as is Coprinopsis variagata (page 118); as far as I know this is true only of the tippler’s bane, Coprinus atramentaria. I’m not certain of the images for orange to red wax caps on page 127 (H. persistens should be H. acutoconica; the photo of H. conica shows no blackening whatsoever). Host trees for the chaga fungus include “poplar and elm” (page 215) but should be birch and on rare occasion hop hornbeam. The pig’s ear gomphus (Gomphus clavatus), is noted as a look alike for chanterelles (and listed by the authors as a close relative of chanterelles, curiously) on page 264, with only a passing mention of “scaly chanterelles;” while Turbinellus (formerly Gomphus) floccosus is much more common in the Midwest in my experience. One final small quibble: in the “Miscellaneous Mushrooms” section, slime molds are included, which I think is fine, but there are two groups of common slime molds shown, but separated by several pages of other true mushrooms including bird’s nests; I think it would have been better to keep all the slime molds grouped together.

For a book with descriptions of so many species, these small criticisms are not worrisome. Overall the book is very well done and as stated at the outset, I recommend it for any beginner. Furthermore, I look forward to the next book of its kind, should the authors decide to take on another region of North America.

— Review by Britt Bunyard
— Originally published in Fungi