CA Mushrooms
CA Mushrooms

Book Review

Mushrooms of the Northeast

By Teresa Marrone and Walter Sturgeon
2016, Adventure Publications
ISBN: 978-1-59193-591-9
288 pages; paperback; $16.95

Hot on the heels of 2014’s Mushrooms of the Midwest by Marrone & Co. comes the brand new Mushrooms of the Northeast. And it’s another homerun! Briefly, there are hundreds of full-color photos to accompany easy to understand text and that makes this a great visual guide to learning about many (more than 400 in all) species of common wild mushrooms found primarily in the Northeast (but most of this book would work throughout the East). The species (from morels to shelf mushrooms) are organized by shape, then by color, so you can identify them by their visual characteristics. The information is accessible to beginners but useful for even experienced mushroom seekers. Mushrooms of the Northeast is a book for everyone, from the casual mushroompicker to the serious forager.

I was very impressed in 2014 when Mushrooms of the Upper Midwest by Marrone and Yerich was released. Teresa Marrone is a forager and has written a number of field guides as well as cookbooks featuring wild foods. Marrone has partnered with renowned field mycologist Walt Sturgeon for this new book. This book is their first collaboration. Walt Sturgeon is a household name to most mycophiles, especially in the Midwest (he lives in Ohio) and the Northeast where he does a great deal of collecting, lecturing, and serving as expert mycologist for many annual forays.

Mushrooms of the Northeast is pocket-sized and very affordably priced. 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,” “Atypical Caps,” “Shelf with Gills,” “Coral and Club Fungi,” etc.), then each of these groups proceeds (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 Northeast 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. This was the same formula used in Mushrooms of the Upper Midwest and it works well in a book of this nature. The photographs are of very good quality in general; some photos are full page-size, others are half- to quarterpage sized, or smaller for inset photos of lookalikes, etc. Where scientific names are used, the authors have them correct (Sturgeon is a stickler on names!) 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 persisted from the previous Midwest book (a few revisions had fixed a couple) but not really enough to amount to a deal breaker. 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. On page 88 the authors caution against eating common Laccarias due to the potential of “confusing with toxic Cortinarius,” which seems unlikely. On page 94 the mica cap (Coprinellus micaceus) is listed as toxic if consumed with alcohol, as is Coprinopsis variegata (page 116); as far as I know this is true only of the tippler’s bane, Coprinus atramentarius. Indeed as the two mushrooms are not particularly close relatives of the alcohol inky (though they look similar), there’s no reason they should have similar chemistry. Host trees for the chaga fungus include “poplar and elm” (page 219) but should be birch and on rare occasion hop hornbeam. Some common slime molds, while not truly fungi are often included in mushroom guidebooks and were featured in the Midwest book; they are not mentioned in the Northeastern book. One final small quibble: in the “Miscellaneous Mushrooms” section, we find a wellknown parasitized fungus, the lobster mushroom. On the very next page are the “Parasitic Fungi,” which does not include lobster mushroom, but does include several species that are without a doubt not even parasitic (though they may have been considered such at one time). The two Asterophoras are saprobes and found on rotting mushrooms (invariably big Russulas) and the “parasitic” bolete is now thought to be mycorrhizal (as are most other boletes) and somehow partnering with Sclerodermas. In any case the section “Parasitic Fungi” would likely better be called “Fungi Parasitic on other Fungi” as that seems to be the point; the list of parasitic fungi (mostly on plants) is of course extremely long and may even include the majority of all fungi.

For a book with descriptions of so many species, such great photos, and so packed with information (and in a very portable package), these small criticisms are not too big of a deal. 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, and have it from the source that Ms. Marrone has another region of North America in her sights.

— Review by Britt Bunyard
— Originally published in Fungi