Thursday, 15 September 2016

REVIEW: "Mushrooms of the Redwood Coast: A Comprehensive Guide to the Fungi of Coastal Northern California" by Noah Siegel, Christian Schwarz

Book Review by Sapphire Ng

Mushrooms of the Redwood Coast: A Comprehensive Guide to the Fungi of Coastal Northern California
by Noah Siegel, Christian Schwarz
Ten Speed Press
ISBN: 978-1607748175
Copyright August 2016
Paperback, 608 Pages

This is a decisively extraordinary and authoritative reference to mushroom identification in the region of the Redwood Coast. Unparalleled in quality, and coupled with exceptional comprehensiveness and arresting visual appeal, this book is an absolute treasure—the lovechild and physical embodiment of the authors' expertise, passion, and heart and soul.

The stunning book cover is only a precursor to the myriad of gorgeous and illustrative photographs found throughout the book. A sure strength, the book is richly descriptive and amazingly detailed, with material concisely written and splendidly presented.

This is a highly recommended book for mushroom and fungi lovers, an indispensable and valuable resource for students of mycology and taxonomy, and certainly, a perfect starting point for readers venturing to spice up their lives by pursuing a new, intellectually-gratifying, and enriching hobby.

This book is a great resource for the reader craving to satisfy their curiosities about the intriguing world of exotic and mind-boggling species of mushrooms and fungi. Absolutely unforgettable is the Red Basket Stinkhorn, or Clathrus ruber, which surface of its fruitbody has a pattern of “hexagonal depressions;” rather fascinating would be the “plush, fuzzy blob” or “powdery mass” of the fruitbody of the Powdery Pom Pom Polypore; and curiously alien-looking is the Golden-Gilled Waxy Cap with its opaque or slightly translucent porcelain white stipe. The alluring peculiarities of these constituents of nature seemed limitless. The rather eccentric “baseball-bat shape” of the Pale Candy Coral was certainly eye-catching, or the Horsehair Mushroom with “thick, tough, thin, [and] wiry” stipe.

This book is an excellent resource for the reader to learn and assimilate to the synchronously technical and artistic descriptive terminology for the mushroom species. The book employs such vivid and effective descriptions—for example, mushroom gills characterized as “deeply decurrent, shallow, blunt, and veinlike often forking and with many cross veins;” the partial veil portrayed as “a hanging, membranous, white skirt,” or as “white felty-cobwebby tissue covering gills;” and mushroom caps described respectively as “funnel to vase shaped, often with a ruffled margin,” or one with a surface “smooth, viscid, covered with glutinous slime.”

Catering to culinary and food lovers, the book also aptly contains a brief edibility assessment for each mushroom species. Some ominous species the mushroom hunter is warned never to eat include for example, the Death Cap—Amanita phalloides —and the Deadly Parasol—Lepiota subincarnata; both of which contain amatoxins and are deadly toxic. In line with the rather scientific approach undertaken by the book, the reader will appreciate a supplementary and neatly highlighted column where amatoxins are further elucidated.

For those with a penchant for colors, the book decently delivers on a delectable range of species. There are the eye-catching green to teal colors of the Green Earth Tongue, the vibrant purple colors of the Western Amethyst Laccaria, the “striking golden yellow” of the Flaming Pholiota, and the beautiful scarlet red cap of Rosy Russula. It goes on; the fabulous bluish lilac gills of Phaeocollybia fallax, the distinctive and richly colored Blue-Green Wood Cup, and the burgundy color of the Maroon Madrone Tubaria.

Along with unmistakably interesting and useful pieces of information furnished as well in each of the “comments” section for each species—an example would be further details provided on the Fly Agaric on the presence of “coarse, discrete off-white to yellowish universal veil warts” covering the surface of the mushroom cap—the dedicated and tenacious learner will bound to grow and mature in this field of knowledge to become a pundit of mushrooms and fungi.

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Blogging for Books for this review. 

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