by Bruce Fuhrer
Reviewed by Barry Jahnke
Here is a field guide with a visual wow factor.
Bruce Fuhrer has been producing publications on Australian fungi, as well as Australian flora, for nearly thirty years. His interest in fungi however goes back over fifty years.
The first impression of this book is the quality of the colour photographs, taken in the field by the author. Generally, photographs are not as good as line drawings for identification purposes, but the photographs in this book are so well illuminated and sufficiently large enough to ensure that they are useful aids in identification.
Because the photographs occupy the most space on the page, there is less room for printed information. However, the captions are very efficient in words and the information is sufficient to provide the user with a satisfactory identification of the specimen, if it is one of the over five hundred species described in the book.
The caption usually describes the size and appearance of the fruiting body, its usual habitat, the size, shape and colour of the spores and, in some cases, the spore print colour.
Like most field guides, this book deals only with some of the Australian macrofungi. The treatment is of over four hundred and fifty basidiomycetes, seventy-five species of ascomycetes - arranged alphabetically - and twelve species of myxomycetes, which, of course, are not true fungi, but are being noticed more by gardeners using woody material as mulch.
The endpapers have illustrations of spore types and the shapes of some cystidea and basidia.
The concise Introduction touches briefly on biology, ecological roles, food issues, distribution and classification of macrofungi. The author stresses that this book is not a guide to edible species and so does not encourage the use of common names as they can be so misleading. Distribution is also avoided as this is not well known in Australia. Also, some fungi included in the book are of yet undescribed species, as for example in the genera Aleurodiscus and Pisolithus.
There is an excellent example of what and how to record field notes. This important technique is something that many of us need to put into better practice irrespective of whether we are dealing with fungi or plants.
The Pictorial Guide to Groups puts the basidiomycetes into sixteen artificial groups with brief comments about the fertile surfaces and textures. The ascomycetes and myxomycetes are put into one group each with similar brief notes for the ascomycetes as for the basidiomycetes.
Probably because the colour photographs need better grade paper for reproduction, the book is a bit heavy for a field guide. However, this slight problem is well and truly offset by the quality of the photographs and the large number of species covered.
“A Field Guide to Australian Fungi” is an excellent book for amateurs who are developing an interest in these fascinating organisms. Its beautiful presentation should encourage younger - as well as anybody - to take up their study as it is an excellent layman's guide.
Published by Blooming Books
37 Burwood Road, Hawthorn, Victoria. 3122
Soft cover, full colour, 360 pages
Price $39.95. + postage $8.00.
PO Box 1137
Glebe NSW 2037
Phone: 02 9571 8222
Fax: 02 8202 9938