Puff-balls, more than a foot in diameter; mouls in jam-pots; dry rot; truffles; these are examples of the wide range of the Group, comprising over 100,000 species.
Many are of economic importance – for example, the rusts that attack wheat and other crops, and the yeasts which ferment beer – and there are others of great biological interest, such as the mycorrhizal fungi which live in association with the roots of forest trees, orchids and other plants, and help them to absorb food from the soil. Penicillin, of course, has become a household word, and this book’s final chapter on the industry is one of the best short accounts of the subject yet writtern.
Dr. Ramsbottom was for many years Keeper of Botany at the Natural History Museum, and has devoted his life to the study of fungi in all their aspects. He is equally at home in the field, the laboratory and the library. One of the special features of Mushrooms and Toadstools is the wealth of historical allusion to fungi extracted from old books.
Set out in a style reminiscent of Robert Burton, this volume can truly be described as a 20th century Anatomy of Toadstool. Indeed, in fairy rings, science and superstition have gone hand in hand to produce a lively story of alternating surmise and research – and even today a full and final explanation of these mysterious rings has not yet been made.
Many of the larger toadstools are brightly coloured and lend themselves admirably to colour photography, as shown by the 80 remarkable illustrations by Mr Paul de Laszlo.
‘In this book Dr. Ramsbottom entertains the reader with an erudite and richly factual yet comfortably humorous history of most of the exciting and interesting things discovered about fungi in ancient and modern times. The colour photographs are superbly reproduced, and the black-and-white illustrations have been selected from the collections of Britain’s most eminent nature photographers.’ Listener
‘Will become a classic. Dr. Ramsbottom combines style and humour with his learning. The mycologist and the toadstool-hunting amateur cannot do without this book.’ Spectator
‘He writes delightfully, and is obviously in love with his subject – he is anxious that others should share both his love and his knowledge. A discursive, scholarly book, enlivened always by a friendly personality. I think that there is just about everything that anyone can want to know about fungi in this book.’
Brian Vesey Fitzgerald, The Field
‘A fungus handbook for everyone. It is a perfect example of the kind of book the New Naturalist series was designed to produce. This is a five-star effort and cannot be over-praised.’
‘Not only a masterly and authoritative review and catalogue of our fungi, but a treasure chest of information and a delight to read.’ Scotsman