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Mushrooms Paperback – Unabridged, 18 Aug 2006
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Roger Phillips has written the best mushroom book I know: the sublime taxonomic accuracy of his descriptions and photographs, combined with an evangelical and infectious passion for the subject, will make an instant mycophile of anyone who picks it up. (Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall)
A masterpiece of identification. (David Bellamy)
A beautiful and comprehensive guide to mushroom identification with over 1,250 detailed photographs of mushrooms and other fungi.See all Product description
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The book is a bit too large and heavy for a field guide but its perfect for home reference. The book gives great detail of size, appearance, texture, gills, habitat, rarity and edibility. The photos give good detail of the cap, gills and stem. There's a visual index at the front to get you started with any identification.
Even with this book I still find it tricky to identify some of the fungi I've photographed. Proof of how complex they are.
Phillips has studied fungi for 30 years, as well as producing excellent guides to other areas of natural history, such as grasses, trees, herbs, and wild food. There can be no doubt, though, that fungi are more of a challenge, and his skill and experience are visible in this book.
One choice is immediately obvious: most of the colour plates are wonderful photographs - almost as clear as traditional field-guide paintings - with fresh specimens young and mature, whole and sectioned, cap and stem, carefully arranged on coloured paper. This is an interesting and intelligent choice, a deliberate compromise between the analytic clarity of paintings and the desire to show the inevitable colour variation and imperfection of real specimens - while stopping short of trying to show the environment of every species. Actually, Phillips sometimes also includes an image taken in the wild, or else includes a fern-frond, pine-cone or sprig of moss to show where you may find the species.
The page design is clean and inviting; the text is quite small but legible, and the style quite discursive for a guidebook. However, the descriptions are detailed and systematic.
Attributes listed are cap, stem, flesh, gills, spores, habitat, and edibility, on which last Phillips is very detailed. Dimensions are indicated by saying the illustration is 40% life size, etc, which is not quite as handy as giving an actual size but good enough.
I found this an excellent book for actual identification. If you are going to take photographs to help in identifying your finds, you could do well to copy Phillips' style here and arrange specimens on card with sections, caps etc, with perhaps a small coin or ruler for scale. Then when you want to know whether the gills are free or adnate, you will be able to find out.
Phillips and his publisher have made a really serious effort to make identifying fungi easier and more fun. They have found English names for the groups - Coral Fungi, Jelly Fungi, Morels, Finger & Disc Fungi, and so on. Admittedly the largest group of Basidiomycetes is simply "Mushrooms with Gills", and this occupies 250 pages of the book (out of 382). So there is no real alternative to Latin names for the genera.
But Phillips has another trick up his sleeve here: a wonderful Visual Index over 3 pages to the 35 main genera - the richly coloured Russula, the shiny Hygrocybe (Waxcaps), the fragile Mycena (Bonnets) and so on. Each index entry has a fine thumbnail photograph and a matching square of about 50 words summarising the nature of the genus. It is ingenious, beautiful, and genuinely helpful - I think you will find you get to the right genus in under a minute for many specimens.
The glossary, by contrast, is a bit heavy and traditional - why ever did he choose to say Infundibuliform when Funnel-shaped would have done better? And it is not illustrated.
If this book fitted into a pocket, it would be almost perfect. As it is, it is a delight in the study - or in the kitchen for after a mushroom-hunt: Phillips offers careful advice on choosing safe and edible mushrooms. If you are looking for just one mushroom book, this is an excellent choice, unless you want a field-guide.
The illustrations are superb which enabled my avid fungi-foraging wife to avoid poisoning herself after bringing home bags full of various weird and wonderful mushtools (or are they toadrooms?).
Joking apart mushroom foaging has now become a lot more interesting.
Truly an excellent publication.
The Roger Phillips website is also a great resource that you can check while out and about if you have a Smartphone.
Only once was I led astray by a picture that i swore was an edible Russula, if I remember correctly, the Charcoal Burner.
Nibbled on a bit as a test and my mouth was on fire for the rest of the night!
Lesson was learned: Mushrooms can sometimes be very difficult to tell apart even
with the good pictures of the Phillips.
Needless to say, this is the book to take when foraging.
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Most recent customer reviews
It is my bible for shrooms, end off.