Mushrooms and Other Fungi of North America
Mushrooms and Other Fungi of North America
Mushrooms and Other Fungi of North America Mushrooms and Other Fungi of North America Mushrooms and Other Fungi of North America

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Publisher: Firefly Books

Author Statement: by Roger Phillips
Audience: Trade
Specs: 1000 color photographs, glossary, index
Pages: 384
Trim Size: 6" X 9"
Language code 1: eng
Publication Date: 20100923
Copyright Year: 2010
Price: Select Below

Mushrooms and Other Fungi of North America

Praise for the hardcover edition:

"The quality of the photographs, along with the detailed descriptions, makes the volume an excellent identification guide."
-- American Reference Books Annual

"If you have even the slightest interest in identifying North American mushrooms, this is -- quite simply -- the book on the topic, bar none."
-- January Magazine

For amateur collectors or professional mycologists working in the field, this guidebook is quite simply the best North American mushroom reference ever published. Each of the 1,000 specimens is shown in full color on a neutral background to eliminate distractions, and specimens are arranged to show the cap, stem, gills, spines and a cross section, usually in various stages of growth.

Roger Phillips identifies all regional varieties of Basidiomycetes, which include chanterelles, puffballs and fungi, and Ascomycetes, which include morels and cup fungi. Detailed descriptive information on each mushroom variety includes:

  • Dimensions of cap, gills and stem
  • Color and texture of flesh
  • Odor and taste
  • Habitat and growing season
  • Distribution and appearance of spores
  • Edibility and poison warnings

There is also helpful advice on collecting specimens plus an illustrated beginner identification key and a generic key for the more advanced collector.

Mushrooms and Other Fungi of North America is at once the ideal introduction to mycology and an essential reference for the experienced collector -- the definitive book in its category.


Roger Phillips pioneered the use of color photography for the reliable identification of natural history specimens. He is the author of 30 books that have sold a total of 3.5 million copies worldwide.


excerpt from the Introduction

In August 1983, I set off to North America with my wife, Nicky, and our daughter, Phoebe, then only seven months old. Our first American outing was the Eighth Annual Northeastern Mycological Foray, to which we'd been invited by Dick Homola. For us, it was a culture shock. Things are very different across the water; in Britain, our annual mycological society foray is much more of an academic affair, with Latin rather than English serving as the official language. However, we soon changed gear and adapted to the lively and entertaining style of a weekend on an American campus, including Phoebe, who quickly learned to crawl in the woods along a county road near Bangor, Maine.

The study of mushrooms in North America is both ahead and behind the European science of mycology. There are many excellent American monographs of genera, almost all of them co-authored by Alexander H. Smith, whose truly herculean volume of work demonstrates the enormous energy he invested in his lifetime's study. Indeed, there are a greater number of modern American monographs available than there are monographs of European genera. In Europe, on the other hand, there are three exceedingly good books that deal with the larger subject of the Agaric Flora in its entirety: Flore Analytique des Champignons Supérieurs by Kühner and Romagnesi; Keys to Agarics and Boleti by Meinhard Moser; and The Check List of British and Irish Basidiomycota by N.W. Legion and A. Henrici et al.

After traveling all over North America and seeing firsthand the great diversity of its tree species and the sheer range of its climate and habitat, from swamps, forests and deserts to the high Rockies, I realized that the flora would prove to be far larger than that found in Europe. In his lifetime, Smith himself speculated that no more than two-thirds of North American species had been described. Despite the work of the many excellent mycologists in the post-Smith era, I suspect his statement is probably still true. This makes mycology in North America a most exciting subject; there is so much important and original work to be done in pushing forward the boundaries of science. To take just one group, the underground agarics that can be found in the dry western climate: in Europe, such things are almost unknown, yet in America, there are dozens of species, making it a most fascinating area of study. American mycologists are now also working on the underground flora of the Australian deserts.

What is a mushroom?

Fungi are a very large class of organisms and have a structure that can be compared to plants, but they lack chlorophyll and are thus unable to build the carbon compounds essential to life. Instead, in the same way that animals do, they draw their sustenance ready-made from living or dead plants, or even animals. A mushroom is the reproductive part (known as the fruit body) of the fungus organism, and it develops to form and distribute the spores.

A fungus begins as minute, hair-like filaments called hyphae. The hyphae develop into a fine, cobweb-like net that spreads through the material from which the fungus obtains its nutrition. This net is known as the mycelium. Mycelium is extremely fine and in most cases cannot be seen without the use of a microscope. In other cases, the hyphae bind together to make a thicker mat (tomentum) that can readily be observed. To produce a fruiting body, two mycelia of the same species band together in the equivalent of a sexual stage. Then, if the conditions of nutrition, humidity, temperature and light are met, a fruit body will be formed.

The larger fungi are divided into two distinct groups: The spore droppers, Basidiomycetes (pp. 16- 359). In this group, the spores are developed on the outside of a series of specialized, club-shaped cells (basidia), which form on the gills, spines, tubes, or other spore-bearing surfaces. As they mature, they fall from the basidia and are normally distributed by wind. Most of the fungi in this book are of this kind, including the gilled agarics, the boletes, the polypores, and the jelly fungi.

The spore shooters, Ascomycetes, (pp. 360- 379). The spores in this group are formed within flask-shaped sacs (asci). When the spores have matured, they are shot out through the tips of the asci. The morels, cup fungi, and truffles are in this group.

How to use this book

Mushrooms and fungi are a large and very diverse group of organisms, and although this book only deals with the larger forms, there is nevertheless a bewildering selection from which to choose. If you are just beginning to learn about mushrooms, leaf through these pages to get a general feel for the diversity of species that are illustrated. The next step in making an identification is to refer to the pictures for beginners (pp. 10-12). These will introduce you to the general features of the most common genera. The generic keys (p. 13) may be too difficult for a beginner.

Positively identifying a collection of mushrooms is a very tricky business, even for an expert, and if you plan to eat some of the specimens you collect, you must be absolutely positive about your identification before doing so. With this book, you can check the illustrations against your samples, but no book will ever be able to give you the experience you need to be certain. If you want to learn about mushrooms, the only sensible strategy is to go out collecting with experts, listen to what they have to tell you, question them about everything that you can think of, and use a book to cross-check.


Beginners key
Generic keys


  • White- and Cream-spored Agarics
  • Pink-spored Agarics
  • Brown-spored Agarics
  • Black
  • or Purple-Brown-spored Agarics
  • Lateral-stemmed Agarics
  • Gomphidiaceae
  • Chanterelles
  • Boleti
  • Polypores, Steriums, etc.
  • Toothed Fungi
  • Puffballs
  • Club and Coral Fungi
  • Jelly Fungi


  • Morels
  • Cup Fungi and Others


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