Book Reviews

A Field Guide to the Fungi of Australia

A Field Guide to the Fungi of Australia

by A.M. Young

Illustrated by Kay Smith

 Reviewed by Barry Jahnke

Dr. Tony Young's book on fungi was first published in 1982 and it can be frequently seen on the book shelves of many naturalists.

Fungi are not plants, but their beauty and strange behaviour attracts the attention of many plant enthusiasts.

This book should also help to encourage other people to take up an interest in mycology, as did that earlier book which sparked an interest in Tony’s mind at the enquiring age of 11. Since then he has spent over 30 years formally studying Australian fungi.

“A Field Guide to the Fungi of Australia”, like similar books currently available, deals only with the macrofungi which are probably fewer in number than our microfungi, but, because of their small size, usually go unnoticed.

In the Preface Dr. Young throws out an appeal to all, but especially the controllers of fundings, to increase the resources necessary to gain better knowledge of our probably over 20,000 species of fungi. It is estimated that only one quarter of our macrofungi have been documented. “The work on Australian macrofungi has hardly begun; ten full-time mycologists working for 20 years would be hard pressed to complete the task.” (Preface x).

The author’s chatty yet informative writing style continues through following chapters on “The Kingdom of the Fungi”, “Some Fungal Facts”, “Fungi on the Move” and “Classification and Scientific Names of Fungi”. Where needed, these chapters are illustrated with clear line illustrations by Kay Smith.

Kay has also provided 23 delicate watercolours and more than 260 line drawings which illustrate important features of the described species. In addition, there are 36 colour photos of common species.

The “Keys to the Species” is an artificial grouping of Myxomycetes, Basidiomycetes and Ascomycetes. Because the basidiomycetes are so much more diverse, they are subdivided into further artificial groups like ‘jelly’ fungi, ‘polyporoid’ fungi, ‘leathery’ fungi and ‘coral’ fungi.

In the “Species Descriptions” the sections for the groups starts with an overview as well as a listing of Orders and representative Genera.

It must have been difficult to select what species to include, but Dr. Young’s years of field experience probably equipped him to know what would be the most likely encountered species in the field.

Excellent information is provided on each of the over 170 species in the book. After the scientific name and the taxonomist recognition, each species is described, where appropriate, under headings-Common Name, Fruiting Body (which includes size, shape, colour, smell and references to special structures), Spores, Habitat and Notes and Distribution (to current State knowledge).

The Glossary contains 52 terms and is followed by References which contains titles of books, ABRS Series (Australian Biological Resources Study), colour charts, papers, posters and CD-ROMs. There are two indices, one for common names, followed by a species index.

This book, hopefully, will stimulate more people to take up an interest in these ecologically important organisms. It not only provides a sound introduction to the beginner, but has sufficient depth of information to be very useful to the already active mycologist.

Published by University of New South Wales Press

Soft cover, colour and line illustrations, 240 pages

Price $29.95. + postage $8.00

Available from Florilegium
PO Box 1137
Glebe NSW 2037

Phone: 02 9571 8222
Fax: 02 8202 9938

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