Taking a foray into fungi

November 24, 2000

Field Mycology is a new quarterly magazine aimed at individuals who have an interest in collecting, identifying and the conservation of wild fungi. It is published in A5 format and contains copious illustrations, many in colour.

Although a professional mycologist, I consider myself an informed amateur when it comes to the larger fungi and I have taught extramural courses on toad stools and run local forays most autumns. I therefore read the first three issues of this magazine with keen interest. Sadly, I was slightly disappointed. I t is unclear precisely who it is primarily targeted at: the general naturalist or the dedicated enthusiast.

The articles aimed at beginners or written from a general perspective are the poorest. As someone with an interest in microscopy as well as fungi, my attention was naturally drawn to the articles on photo-micrography and on choosing one’s first microscope. Both a re seriously flawed and contained little really hard information to help a complete novice. Some of the introductions to the specialist groups and keys, such as the Corticoid Fungi and the genus Leccinum, are also marred by a chatty style that I find patronising. The eccentric way in which the literature is cited in the former article also raise s my hackles. The field key to " British non-resupinate hydnoid fungi" could have done with more introduction. Simply to have explained that they are fungi with toothed spore - bearing surfaces, would have at least set the scene for the non-specialist.

However, there a re some very good articles, many of which have clearly benefited from the inclusion of high - quality colour illustrations. The article on Hebeloma is excellent, as is the thoughtful article on Panellus stipticus and the nicely illustrated account of exotic boletes. The articles on fungus recording in Ireland a re also informative and highlight some of the problems associated with the recording wild fungi. Each issue also ha s a number of regular features including a series of "Fungal portraits", and a "Notes and records" item which summarises highlights of local forays, as well as useful reviews of mycological books.

After the first year, British Mycological Society members and associates who wish to receive this magazine will have to subscribe to it separately. From my experience running mushroom classes, I would guess two thirds of those who come along are primarily interested in wild fungi as a source of food. This aspect seems to have been deliberately excluded from the remit of the new magazine and, as a result, perhaps the largest potential market among those interested in wild fungi has been missed. I myself will subscribe, but I think the magazine may be too specialised and expensive to attract the broader subscription base it needs to make it an economic success. Certainly editorial standards need to be tightened. Perhaps a quarterly, updated, web - based magazine might be a better means of catering for this group of specialist enthusiasts. 
 
Gordon Beakes is reader in developmental mycology, University of Newcastle upon Tyne.      

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