Friday, September 8, 2023

Staff Picks: Mushrooms of the Southeast by Todd F. Elliott and Steven L. Stephenson


Often when I’m going for a hike, one of my top concerns is the weight of my pack. Water is the heaviest thing I carry, and I have to make sure to take more than I need because I invariably end up needing more than I expect. Georgia’s heat and humidity are no joke. Typically, a book is the last thing you want to take on a hike. They’re heavy and can’t get wet, and when you’ve gone twelve miles without pulling the thing out, you regret packing it in the first place (I know because I’ve been that person). But isn’t there a way you can still learn about what you see along your hike?

Using an app, such as Seek by iNaturalist, is usually the best way to identify species you may encounter on your hike. That said, finding the species of a fungi on an app like Seek is very difficult! Fungi tend to be less distinctive between species by looking with the naked eye or with a camera. Instead I’ve found success with guide books on my fungus focused forays. 

I highly recommend Mushrooms of the Southeast by Todd F. Elliott and Steven L. Stephenson. This book has a great sorting tool (called a dichotomous key), detailed descriptions, full-color images, a glossary and index, a very helpful introduction, and drawings to illustrate the parts of a mushroom. Another thing I love about this book is the ruler on the back cover! If you’re looking for a guide book on fungi, plants, or even insects, a ruler is an excellent built-in tool. Any time I am looking to invest in a guide book, I like to see what is available first. Checking out a book before you pick the guide you want is always a good call, so run to your local library and see what they have.   

If you’d like to learn more about fungi and why they’re amazing, check out Entangled Life: How Fungi Make Our Worlds, Change Our Minds & Shape Our Futures by Merlin Sheldrake. This book covers aspects of fungi you may never have thought about before and shows just how connected and widespread these microscopic organisms are! 

This book is also the focus for the Bookish Trailblazers book club meeting on September 12th. Please register to attend Bookish Trailblazers and connect with nature and nature readers!

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