Best Field Guide for Positive I.D.???

BrianMc brianmc at
Thu Mar 14 23:32:05 EST 1996

I'm personally quite fond of David Arora's "Mushrooms Demystified".  
Although Arora has a west coast bias (all field guides have a regional
bias.  The Audubon book has an east coast bias, for example), it is still
useful in general context.  It's a big book (960 pages), covering over
2000 species of mushroom (enough to keep you busy for a while).  Arora's
publisher (Ten Speed Press, Berkeley) is prodding him for a third edition
(field guides should be updated regularly, and Arora's last edition was
published in 1986). Price is $24.95, and well worth it.

Having said that, there are certain caveats one should keep in mind when
using a field guide:

Accuracy:  Mycology is ever-changing.  No single book will ever capture
more than the current state of affairs as of the publication date (or
earlier).  No author can be aware of everything.  Also, some attempts at
correction of previous errors lead themselves to more errors.  It's best
to cross reference when using a field guide.

Edibility:  Best to regard the authors comments on edibility as a matter
of opinion, with the error on the conservative side (when in doubt, don't
eat it!).

Taxonomy and Nomenclature:  Field guides are generally not good sources
for the scientific names of fungi.  The better ones let you know who's
species concept their using for each mushroom (as in the Audubon book). 
This isn't always the most current, or the most widely accepted name, but
will do in a pinch (you can always cross-reference).

In short, no one single guide will do.  For North America, one should
avoid guides based on European material.  Other than that  you can't go
too far wrong.

--Brian McNett

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