Book Review: Larger Fungi in Eastern Tropical Africa. A Field Guide

Authors: Tuomo Niemelä, Marja Härkönen, Graham Piearce

I once went to teach a one-week short course at the University of Benin on how to identify mushrooms. It was an eye-opening experience for many reasons, not least of which was the fact that the only books on mushrooms available in the entire university were a volume of Meinhard Moser’s outstanding keys to European mushrooms and an old field guide, also from Europe. Needless to say, these did not begin to do justice to the overwhelming diversity and uniqueness of the funga in Africa. The present volume fills a very real need for a regional field guide, long overdue, for eastern tropical Africa and one that should be essential for students throughout the African tropics. For sheer beauty alone it should also have a place on the shelf of any temperate agaricologist.

Larger Fungi in Eastern Tropical Africa is a beautifully produced volume, comprehensive but still portable with full-color photographs of more than 250 macrofungi. In addition to photos, each species is accompanied with a full macro-description, spore descriptions, diagnostic notes, and notes regarding edibility or traditional use. Coverage includes all the major groups of fleshy basidiomycetes (gilled, boletes, polypores, aphyllophoroid, jellies, gastroid) as well as a brief section on myxomycetes. Other chapters cover habitats for fungi including discussion of the different vegetation types in the region and the value of fungi to people and the ecosystem, including researched information on local knowledge and use of fungi. An illustrated glossary to terminology used in the book and some traditional recipes such as Busefwe (Lactifluus xerampelinus) with meat, round out the volume.

The authors have spent more than 40 years traveling and studying fungi in the region, primarily in Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and Mozambique and have gathered meticulous notes, not just on the funga, but on traditional uses of mushrooms from everywhere they went. We are all fortunate to now have the results of those travels in a single, comprehensive volume.

Cathie Aime
Purdue University
Dept. Botany & Plant Pathology
West Lafayette IN 47907