Book Review: Polypores of the Mediterranean Region

Book Review: Polypores of the Mediterranean Region

Bernicchia, A., S.P. Gorjón. 2020. Polypores of the Mediterranean Region. Romar. 904 pages.

This book is a well-produced volume, full of photographs (both macro and micro), replete with accurate and instructive drawings, and descriptive of this non-natural group of basidiomycetes. The work lies between a flora and a monograph. While the authors acknowledge the primacy of DNA sequencing in much current research, the emphasis here is on the ecology and morphology of 116 included genera (435 accepted species; 6 new combinations), which they describe in detail. Keys are provided for all genera and species.

An initial chapter presents the macro- and micromorphological characteristics that one needs to observe, including drawings that illustrate them, followed by some ecological characteristics. Most polypores are lignicolous, several are terricolous, and some may be mycorrhizal. Some are pathogens while others are exclusively saprobic. The lignicolous species can decompose cellulose, hemicellulose and lignin (white rots) or only cellulose and hemicellulose (brown rots). They can be generalists or may have a restricted host range. They are phylogenetically diverse: the successful strategies that define the group have evolved independently several times. The Mediterranean biogeographic zone is divided into a generally warmer thermomediterranean region and a somewhat cooler mesomediterranean one. Even though it is mostly a cultivated tree, the distribution of the olive (Olea europaea) closely follows the thermomediterranean region.

Polypores are a polyphyletic group. Recent studies through 2017 indicate that fungi referred to as polypores are to be found among 11 orders. Several simple keys resolve much of the morass, although nine further keys are needed to differentiate the polyporoid species. The bulk of the 850 remaining pages is an alphabetical list by genus. If there is more than one species within the genus, a key is supplied that differentiates the species. Species descriptions, taxonomic record including nomenclatural history and etymology, notes on habit, variability, distribution followed by good quality photographs and drawings. While the authors strive towards completeness, through no fault of their own, coverage for North Africa and Asia Minor is not as good as for the European Mediterranean.

My impression is that producing and collating all the information presented in this volume was a labor of love. Strange, then, to read in the acknowledgments that A. Bernicchia regarded it as an onerous task. Although the authors are not native speakers of English, their few linguistic quirks in no way interfere with the reader’s comprehension. This is a fine flora with most of the recent sequence-informed nomenclatural revisions expanding the area further south of that covered by Ryvarden & Melo (Poroid Fungi of Europe. 2nd ed. Synopsis Fung. 37:1–431. 2017).

David Yohalem
Hoyas del Tozo
Burgos, Spain