Book Review: Mushrooms for Trees and People

Summertime in Yunnan is when thousands of foraging entrepreneurs and amateur enthusiasts venture into the province's forests in search of valuable mushrooms. For most, this exercise is a way to augment incomes, enliven dinner tables, or enhance medical treatment — traditions likely as old as civilization itself in Yunnan. Across much of the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS), people undertake similar forays into the woods for the duration of the monsoon season.

Identifying and gathering wild mushrooms in this part of the world is the focus of Mushrooms for Trees and People, a guidebook published earlier this year by the World Agroforestry Centre(WAC) in Kunming. Although not a comprehensive list of the hundreds of mushrooms known to grow in the GMS, the guide does catalogue 110 fungus species in a well-organized and accessible manner.

The book grew out of a 2011 conversation between Dr Xu Jianchu (许建初) and Peter Mortimer on how they could simultaneously help educate the general public and also promote their mycological research in GMS countries. Xu is based in Kunming, where he wears three hats — senior scientist at WAC, professor at the Kunming Institute of Botany under the Chinese Academy of Sciences, and director of the Center for Mountain Ecosystem Studies, an organization he helped found. Mortimer is a research scientist for WAC and an associate professor at the Kunming Institute of Botany.

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