Book Review: Steve Trudell, Mushrooms of the Pacific Northwest, Revised Edition

Timber Press, 2022

The revised edition of Mushrooms of the Pacific Northwest is a beautiful work that I recommend to everyone from serious beginners to seasoned mushroom hunters. The two editions are the same physical size, but the revised edition is 415 pages versus 349 pages in the first edition. Increasing the page numbers allowed for over 100 image sizes and enabled an increase in species count from more than 450 to 493 species. There are at least 16 more species included because research has shown that what we thought was one European or Eastern North American species is really two or more distinct species. Several new Tricholoma species, Cortinarius species, Hebeloma species, Ascomycota, and others are the result of new discoveries. I counted over 90 straight name updates, and over two dozen cases where European names were retained for the moment but where pending changes are explained. There are over two dozen other changes. The one-page table of contents in the first edition is now a colorful two-page picture key. The keys to each section are concise and well done, though only take the reader to genus, not species. I liked the fact that virtually all the images accompanying mushroom descriptions have a voucher number, often with an herbarium number as well.

In the 14 years since the first edition, mushroom names have been changing rapidly as DNA has revolutionized our understanding of fungal taxonomy. Steve has done an excellent job of updating species’ names and commenting on where more changes are coming. In about 20 cases, he has used an old, recognized European name, like Amanita muscaria, but then has gone on to explain that our species (plural) are different but that the taxonomy is complex and unsettled. Where new research has been published, as in our western Polyozellus multiplex group, he has illustrated and named the three species we do have (or at least have found so far). A useful 11-page appendix at the end of the revised edition details, page by page, the changes from the first edition. If you already have a copy of the original Mushrooms of the Pacific Northwest by Steve Trudell and Joe Ammirati and want to just update you existing copy, having a copy of this appendix would be useful. Howevermy strong recommendation would be to simply purchase the new edition.

The drawback to this book is that, like typical field guides (books small enough to carry into the field), the species’ descriptions lack detail. Microscopic information is largely absent, odor is rarely mentioned, taste only sometimes mentioned, and habitat is sometimes unclear. The keys stop at the genus level. The descriptions are interesting narratives, but it can be hard to pick out which features are the critical features distinguishing two similar species. This book is a great if you want to decide whether your mushroom is likely to be edible versus poisonous or distinctive versus tricky to identify. However, if you want to name your less distinctive fungi to species, you will need supplemental resources. This is not a stand-alone book.

There are now five excellent field guides to our northwest fungi. This is one of them. Each one covers a substantial number of species not found in any of the other books. I found fungi in Steve’s new edition that were of species I have found and puzzled over; others were of fungi I had never imagined and now will be out trying to find. I expect to make effective use of this book as a starting point in identifying new species.

Michael W. Beug