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Close Encounters of the Fungal Kind : In Pursuit of Remarkable Mushrooms by Richard Fortey (PRE-ORDER)

Close Encounters of the Fungal Kind : In Pursuit of Remarkable Mushrooms by Richard Fortey (PRE-ORDER)

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The secret world of fungi is another kingdom. They do things differently there. Diverse beyond our wildest imaginations, fungi don’t obey rules.

They pop up unbidden and often dressed in curious reds and greens. They do not seem of this world, yet fungi underpin all the life around us: the ‘wood wide web’ links the trees by a subterranean telegraph; fungi eat the fallen trunks and leaves to recycle the nutrients that keep the wood alive; they feed a host of beetles and flies, which in turn feed birds and bats. Fungi produce the most expensive foods in the world but also offer the prospect of cheap protein for all; they cure disease, and they both cause disease and kill; they are the specialists to surpass all others; their diversity thrills and bewilders.

Professor Richard Fortey has been a devoted field mycologist all his life. He has rejoiced in the exuberant variety and profusion of mushrooms since reading as a boy of nuns driven mad by ergot (a fungus). Drawing on decades of experience doing science in the woods and fields, Fortey starts with the perfect ‘fungus day’ – eating ceps in Piedmont.

He introduces brown rotters and the white, earthstars and death caps; fungal annuals and perennials, dung lovers and parasites, even fungi that move through the trees like mycelial monkeys. We learn that the giant puffball produces more spores than there are known stars in the universe and fetid stinkhorns begin looking like arrivals from the planet Tharg. He tells of the fungus that turns flies into zombies, the ones that clean up metallic waste the delicious subterranean fungi truffe de Perigord, the delight of gourmets.

Amongst these and many other ‘close encounters’ of a fungal kind, the book attempts to answer the questions: what are fungi? Why did their means of reproduction escape discovery for so long? What role do they play in the development of life? The vast kingdom of fungi is more diverse and species rich than plants or animals. Their glorious profusion has the starring role in this magical, deeply informed book which takes us from familiar places into strange worlds.


Publication: 12 Sept 2024, Harper Collins
ISBN: 9780008639686

Extent: 336 pages

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