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CA Mushrooms

Book Review

Mycorrhizal Symbiosis, 3rd Edition

By S.E. Smith and D.J. Read
2008; Academic Press; $120
ISBN 978-0-12-370526-6 (Cloth)

Although this is the third edition of this essential work, it is only the second by the team of Sally Smith and David Read (now “Sir David Read” as, amazingly enough, a mycorrhiza scientist has been knighted!). The original edition was authored by the late Jack Harley and Smith (Harley’s daughter). For those who have delved into the second edition (review available at, this new version will seem familiar, as the topics covered and the organization have not changed much. However, this edition, as you might expect, is thicker (1-5/8 vs. 1-1/8”; 800 vs. 605 pages) and pricier (the second edition was $74.95 when first released).


The book is divided into four sections—Arbuscular mycorrhizas; Ectomycorrhizas; Ericoid, orchid, and mycoheterotrophic mycorrhizas (the orchid mycorrhizas were in a section of their own in the second edition); and Functioning of mycorrhizas in broader contexts. 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. Over 130 pages of references follow the text and provide excellent coverage of the technical literature through at least early 2007.

The sections on arbuscular mycorrhizas and broad-context functions are of similar length to those in the second edition. The sections on ectomycorrhizas and ericoid-orchid-mycoheterotrophic mycorrhizas, and the reference section, are considerably longer than they were previously. In particular, the material on the fungus associations formed by orchids and non-green plants has been greatly expanded, reflecting the large amount of work that has been done in that field over the past decade, as well as Read’s personal interest in those groups. Interestingly, many of these associations do not fit the classical concept of a mycorrhiza (a fungus providing soil nutrients and water to a plant in return for sugars produced in photosynthesis), apparently involving parasitism of the fungi by their plant “partners.”

To parrot my review of the first edition, anyone serious about understanding the vital and fascinating symbioses that are mycorrhizas 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; however, the rather steep price likely will exclude many readers who aren’t fortunate enough to have access to a university library. 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
— Originally published in Fungi

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