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Book Review

Poroid Fungi of Africa

By L. Ryvarden, C. Decock, D. Mossebo, & A. Masuka
2022, Fungiflora
Synopsis Fungorum Series 45
271 pages, hardback
ISBN: 9788290724639
NOK 700 (about US $68)

The authors of Poroid Fungi of Africa combine 150 years of field research documenting polypores on the African continent. This may or may not be a Guinness record, but it does show their devotion to a part of the globe somewhat off the mycological map. Not surprisingly, their field work has resulted in a field guide rather than a taxonomic treatise littered with cladograms.  

The book begins with an all important essay entitled “Physiography and Vegetation of Africa.” It goes on to provide keys and descriptions of 490 poroid species, 135 of which are accompanied by photographs and/ or microscopic illustrations. The descriptions (“Basidiocarps, Hyphal system, Setae, Basidiospores, Substrate, Distribution, and Remarks”) are like those in “the Bible,” by which I mean co-author Leif Ryvarden’s North American Polypores, a pair of tomes I worship. Leif himself described a large percentage of Poroid Fungi of Africa’s species, including the splendidly named Fomitopsis zuluensis.  

This book will be a genuine terra incognita for most mycologists. It includes 18 Amauroderma species, 16 Diplomitoporus species, 35(!) Trametes species, and 12 Hexagonia species. Given that Lentinus is now in the Polyporaceae, it also has 20 Lentinus species, including L. cirrhosus. Contrary to what you might think, this last species does not result in chronic liver damage if eaten. Rather, its name is derived from the Greek word kirrhos, which means tawny. Its distinguishing feature is a radicating stipe that arises from a sclerotium.  

Before I encountered Poroid Fungi of Africa, the only African polypore I knew was Ganodermites libycus, which isn’t a mite-sized Ganoderma species but a fossil from the Miocene found in the Sahara Desert. But now I can brandish my knowledge and tell my mycological acquaintances about, for instance, Fomitopsis zuluensis. I can also tell them to purchase this book if they’re at all interested in exotic polypores.

— Review by Lawrence Millman
— Originally published in Fungi