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Book Review

Nordic Macromycetes Vol. 3—Heterobasidioid, Aphyllophoroid, & Gastromycetoid Basidiomycetes

Edited by Lise Hansen and Henning Knudsen
Nordsvamp, Copenhagen 1997
ISBN 87-983961-1-0; 444 pp, Softcover

At the Nordic Mycological Congress in 1976, the participants decided to produce a macromycete flora for the Nordic countries. An editorial committee was established with two representatives each from Denmark, Finland, Norway, and Sweden, together with one consultant from Iceland. Lise Hansen (unfortunately now deceased) and Henning Knudsen, both from Denmark, were selected as editors. The flora initially was intended to include just the more obvious species, but as work proceeded the editors chose to make it more comprehensive, although not necessarily exhaustive. Twenty-two authors, all of them recognized specialists in their respective groups, contributed to this, the third volume.

Volumes 2 and 3 of the flora have appeared in advance of Volume 1 which will cover the larger Ascomycetes (primarily Pezizales and Helotiales) and include detailed introductory chapters on terminology, distribution, ecology, and edibility. Volume 2, published in 1992, treated four orders of Basidiomycetes—Agaricales, Russulales, Boletales, and Polyporales (ss). The present volume covers the groups traditionally referred to as the Heterobasidiomycetes, the Aphyllophorales, and the Gastromycetes. It originally was planned to be part of Volume 1, however, the move to a more comprehensive work necessitated adding a third volume.

The bulk of the book comprises a collection of annotated keys. Front matter includes preface, list of authors, instructions on how to use the flora, descriptions and maps of the major vegetation zones in the region, biogeographic provinces (an inappropriate term in my opinion as they are based primarily on political boundaries), abbreviations of sources of colored illustrations, a glossary, and an introduction to the Basidiomycetes. A list of references, the figures, and six indexes (one devoted to the Latin binomials, and the others to the vernacular names in Danish, Finnish, Icelandic, Norwegian, and Swedish) complete the work.

Entry keys are provided both to the 38 orders recognized by the authors and to major macromorphological groups (mostly corresponding to families). There are no order or family descriptions. The 307 genus descriptions include information on macrocharacters, microcharacters, ecology, biology, and phenology. They are concise and based only on the included species. Many include a list of species reported to occur in the region, but not included in the key. The keys to species are based to a large extent on macroscopic features, with microscopic characters being provided for support or used where significant macrocharacters are limited. There are no separate species descriptions; instead, the ultimate key leads are lengthy, with each running to six or more lines, giving reasonably comprehensive descriptions for the 1222 species included. A system of abbreviations is used to convey information on habit, habitat, abundance, distribution (unfortunately only that within the Nordic countries) and available literature and sources of sporocarp illustrations. Important synonyms and misapplications are cited, as are distinguishing features of “lookalikes.” Illustrations are limited to 775 figures (all line-drawings) that follow the keys. These comprise microcharacters, particularly hyphal types, basidia, basidiospores, and hymenial cystidia.

The editors recognize that use of formal names for these classical groups seems hardly justifiable now, and instead treat them merely as practical groups. Although it is evident that the traditional Friesian taxonomy based on the shape of the hymenophore must be modified, much work remains before the full scope of the necessary modifications will be clear. Thus, the taxonomic scheme used in this volume reflects several differences from the traditional system, and the editors caution that further changes are inevitable as additional information accumulates.

Like Volume 2, this volume should become a standard reference source for field mycologists throughout the Northern hemisphere. In North America, its usefulness will be greatest at higher latitudes and elevations, especially in conifer forests and tundra communities. The biggest limitation to its use lies in the lack of illustrations of sporocarps. At most, three cross-references to colored illustrations are provided per species. The sources referred to are nearly all European and cover a broad range from classical icones collections to recent monographs and field guides. Many are out-of-print classics or will otherwise be hard to find in North America. Thus, workers with wide experience and large libraries close at hand will get the most out of this flora. Most amateurs and early career professionals employed by smaller institutions will have to work harder to find illustrations to assist in identifying collections. However, overall this is a well produced and authoritative flora that will be of use to many workers outside the Nordic countries. The collaborative effort by workers from five countries sets an example for other mycologists and countries to follow.

— Review by Steve Trudell, Seattle, WA