Mushrooms of the Redwood Coast is a beautifully photographed and designed reference work for the fungi fanatics. Anyone who loves mushrooms will enjoy it, though it is most suited for those whose passion includes mushroom hunting and collecting.
However, this is no field guid to mushrooms. With six hundred pages, it is far too large and heavy for that. Paul Bunyan could carry it in his pocket, but the rest of us would leave it at home, safe and dry, and use it upon return to confirm the identifications made out it the woods.
Mushrooms of the Redwood Coast begins with a comprehensive introduction to mushrooms including a taxonomy of terms describing their appearance or morphology. Memorizing those terms and what parts of the mushroom they describe is essential to using the book to classify and identify the mushrooms. The descriptions and illustrations are clear, so it is made as easy as possible for users. They include directions on finding, collecting, identifying and even photographing mushrooms.
There is also further information on the life cycle of mushrooms and the environment of the Redwood Coast. There’s a section identifying the trees with which the mushrooms live in symbiosis. Here in Oregon, we have several of the same trees, though not all of them. It seems likely that many of the mushrooms will be found here, near those trees that extend this far north like the Western Hemlock, Grand Fir, Coastal Live Oak, and Douglas Fir. Only a few of the trees on their list are not found in Oregon.
This is a reference book, a book for browsing, for looking up, not for reading. Nonetheless, the authors bring a beautiful descriptive elegance to their work. For each mushroom, there is a description of its morphology to help classify the mushroom, then a description of its ecology (where you will find it) and its taste. The descriptions seem terse at first, details of shape, color, texture and odor and yet, there are moments of poetry such as describing how one mushroom is hard to find because it’s hidden in that layer of rotting leaves and humus that covers the forest floor but that its golden color seems to glow against the darkness of the duff.
There are also moments that made me smile, like coming across a description of the taste of a mushroom as the Sullus Umbonatus. “Nontoxic, but so are banana slugs.” How often do reference book writers show their human face? I loved that so much, I actually hugged my copy of the book
Because natural history, biology and mycology are the passions of the ever-curious, ever-questioning, the authors also provide a short description of future research needs in the field. I like this kind of mindset, the one that says this is what we know, and because we know this, now we have so much more we don’t know and so much more to learn.
This is a beautiful book with gorgeous photos of mushrooms. The colors are stunning. There are ghostly whites, fiery oranges, gentle peaches, and ethereal lavenders shot against the dark leaves and grasses. Some are so breathtakingly beautiful and some are just, well, just gross as gross can be like the Pungent Slippery Jack. Ugh, the cap on that thing!!! And then there are the ones that are just magical like the Honey mushrooms that look like a cluster of bells. The whimsical Red Pinwheels make me think of the layers of underskirts in old ball gowns. Then there are seriously wacky Long Branch Dendro that look like men at work, building a structure, but the structure is them. Just the pictures alone are reason enough to get this book.
If there is one thing that would improve the book, it would be a pictorial symbol for edibility, like a check mark if it’s edible, a grimacing smiley if it’s non toxic but icky and a skull for toxic ones. I want to see the emoji that says, “Nontoxic, but so are banana slugs.”
Mushrooms of the Redwood Coast will be released in just a few days, on August 9th. I was provided a review copy by Blogging For Books.