CA Mushrooms
CA Mushrooms

Book Review

Illustrated Genera of Smut Fungi
Third Edition

By Kálmán Vánky
2013; American Phytopathological Society
8.5” x 11” spiral bound; 288 pages;
116 black and white illustrations;
ISBN 978-0-89054-428-0;
$159.00 at the APS website

Smut Fungi of the World

By Kálmán Vánky
2012; American Phytopathological Society
Hardcover; 1480 pages
650 figs., 2800 microphotos
ISBN: 978-0-89054-398-6;
Out of Print

You would be hard pressed to read a scientific research paper on smut fungi (formerly, the Ustilaginales but now termed the Ustilaginomycotina and allied fungi) without seeing the name Kálmán Vánky somewhere in the text or list of references. He is a world authority with the group, having studied them for more than a half century. Vánky was born in 1930 in Transylvania (Romania) and originally trained and practiced as a physician, but developed an interest in smuts as an amateur mycologist in his home country of Romania. He later obtained a Ph.D. at Uppsala University in Sweden in 1985 (working on Carpathian Ustilaginales)—while still working as a physician. Upon moving to the University of Tübingen (Germany) in 1986, he devoted himself fully to the study of smuts. Although retired, he is still cranking out books and papers on the subject. Speaking of which, his website lists more than 230 scientific publications to his credit; he has authored an amazing 42 genera and described more than 400 species. The largest collection of smut fungi in the world is still kept in his home (Herbarium Ustilaginales Vánky). So, it’s no wonder he has authored the two definitive works on this diverse group of fungi in Illustrated Genera of Smut Fungi and Smut Fungi of the World.

Illustrated Genera of Smut Fungi is essential to all students of plant pathology but would be equally useful to beginners as well as academic mycologists. The Contents include: Introduction; The classification of smut fungi; The number of smut fungi; Results and problems of the classification of smut fungi; Host plants of the smut fungi; Septal pore and host-parasite interaction types of smut fungi; Classification of smut fungi and allied taxa; Synonyms, excluded genera, anamorphs, ascomycetous smuts; Key to the genera of smut fungi based on host plant families; Glossary; the bulk of the book is comprised of Descriptions and illustrations of genera. This main section of the book consists of a key to the genera of smut fungi (including the Microbotryales—historically classified as smuts that were parasitic of dicot plants but which seem to be more closely related to rusts) and descriptions and illustrations of genera. Users of this text will benefit from the glossary which explains the sometimes vexing terminology of smut taxonomists. For each genus, nomenclature, description, and illustrations of the type species are given, including development of the sori and their morphology, microscopic features of the spores as seen by light microscopy (LM) and scanning electron microscopy (SEM), germination of the spores, hosts, distribution, and the main literature sources. The drawings and LM and SEM photographs are of high quality and nicely complement the descriptions of the type species.

Smut Fungi of the World is everything that Illustrated Genera of Smut Fungi isn’t: first off it’s a monograph and not a brief overview, it’s not cheap at $500 (ok, neither of these two APS books is cheap… but that’s APS Press for you), and it’s not portable (in case you didn’t notice, it weighs in at 10 pounds making it a few ounces heavier than the tome, The Genera of Hyphomycetes by Seifert et al. [2011]). In a word, it’s massive. Nearly 1,500 pages massive. Smut Fungi of the World includes some 1,700 from 93 genera of teliospore-forming basidiomycete (and a few ascomycete) fungi. A key to the genera, keys to the species within each genus, a host-fungus index, 650 line drawings of infected plants, and nearly 2800 LM and SEM pictures of the spores will help to identify the species. Each species entry has full bibliographic details of both accepted names and synonyms, along with information on the name-bearing types and an “!” indicating collections studied personally by the author. Host plants are listed by family and genus, followed by a brief note on distribution— in most cases only indicating the continents in which a species is known or using words such as “cosmopolitan.” No doubt many users of this text would be dismayed at so little information on plant hosts. But the author points out, in his introductory notes, that host plant information is still very much a work in progress and that detailed statements made today, would surely be full of errors. Countless more host plants await discovery, as well as undiscovered smut species (the author feels no more than one third of the planet’s smuts are currently known); that there are many new taxa to be discovered is substantiated by 37 additional species being described after Smut Fungi of the World was completed (these taxa are treated more briefly in an Addendum at the end). The monograph is the lifework of Kálmán Vánky and clearly a landmark effort. Having said that, Smut Fungi of the World is probably not going to make it onto too many bookshelves outside of those researching smut fungi. However, if you are included in this group, clearly this book is essential at any price.

— Review by Britt Bunyard
— Originally published in Fungi