CA Mushrooms
CA Mushrooms

Book Review

Mycorrhizal Symbiosis

By S.E. Smith and D.J. Read
Academic Press, 1997 (Second Edition)
ISBN 0-12-652840-3 (Cloth)
Price: $74.95


Perhaps more than any other single individual, Jack Harley was responsible for bringing the importance of mycorrhizas to the attention of a wide audience and for making the study of them a legitimate undertaking. Through his research, personality, and especially his books (beginning with The Biology of Mycorrhiza in 1959), he paved the way for, and sparked the interest of, many subsequent researchers. When I began to be seriously interested in mycorrhizas a few years ago, it quickly became obvious that I needed to read Mycorrhizal Symbiosis written by Harley and Sally Smith, as it was acknowledged to be the bible for students of mycorrhizas. The fact that this book, published in 1983, was still in print in 1996 testified to its impact and lasting importance. Despite this, by the early 1990’s the rapid pace of mycorrhiza research made it necessary to update and expand the bible. Unfortunately, Dr. Harley passed away in 1990 and a new co-author had to be found. Fortunately, David Read agreed to undertake the new edition with Dr. Smith and it was released last fall shortly after the first International Conference on Mycorrhizae. More attractive and less expensive than the previous edition, there is no doubt that it will carry on as the bible.

The book is divided into five sections -- Vesicular-arbuscular Mycorrhizas, Ectomycorrhizas, Mycorrhizas in the Ericales, Orchid Mycorrhizas, and General Themes. The 17 individual chapters deal with nearly all aspects of mycorrhizas, including such things as the structure of the various types and the groups of plants and fungi that form them; genetic, molecular, and cellular interactions in the establishment of mycorrhizas; growth and carbon economy of the partners; nutrient relations between the partners, especially with respect to nitrogen and phosphorus; roles of mycorrhizas in ecosystems; and uses of mycorrhizas in agriculture, horticulture, and forestry. Nearly 100 pages of references follow the text and provide excellent coverage of the technical literature through 1996.

Anyone serious about understanding these vital and fascinating symbioses must read this book. It is authoritative, informative, and as up-to-date as a book can be. Although intended primarily for mycorrhiza researchers and other practicing scientists, it deserves to be read by a wider audience. Basic familiarity with college-level plant biology, mycology, and biochemistry will help the reader get the most out of this excellent book.

— Review by Steve Trudell, Seattle, WA
— Originally published in The Mycophile 40:4, 1999