Roy Watling

This book is a wonderful resource for botanists and all those interested in fungi, and is suitable for both the general reader or student looking for background reading.

978 0 565 09182 8
October 2003
235 x 210 mm
96 pp
Colour throughout
Natural History Museum


This book sheds light on these intriguing organisms in a clear, accessible text illustrated with superb colour photographs.

In a world without fungi, all the fallen trees, dead leaves, animal remains and other detritus would accumulate until the surface of the planet resembled a vast refuse tip, with little room for living things to exist. The job of breaking down organic materials and recycling the component molecules back into the environment is just one of the essential roles of fungi. Once regarded as simple plants, they are now thought of as a separate kingdom, having diverged from common ancestors up to 500 million years ago.

Whether growing by the side of a forest path or served on toast, the classic 'mushroom' fruiting bodies are only the most visible signs of some of the large fungi, which may exist for all or most of the time as long, hidden filaments known as hyphae. Trees, some of the world's largest plants, depend on fungi for help in obtaining nutrition from the soil. 

Fungi are present in almost every habitat on earth, and single specimens can occupy several hectares of land. They occupy a key place at the base of the food chain and are of great economic and biological importance, but it is only recently that scientists have begun to realize the ecological significance of fungi.

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Roy Watling MBE is a respected botanist and mycologist. He is an experienced writer on the subject of fungi, and is a former president of the British Mycological Society, Botanical Society of Scotland and the Yorkshire Naturalist's Union.


Find out what others think of this book.

"Roy Watling is a highly respected and widely published professional mycologist… In this little book he has set out to provide an introduction for the general reader to the world of fungi. Printed on glossy paper with striking colour photographs or illustrations on every page with a clear text and conversational style it certainly is both attractive and informative. Thoroughly recommended to anyone setting out to explore the fifth kingdom or to anyone who wants to widen their appreciation of the natural world. It would make a very suitable gift to a young naturalist"

The London Naturalist

"The perfect next step from first noticing fungi to being better informed, while providing enough information and illustration to notice even more. It covers a range of subjects; describing what is a fungus and where to find them, and covering collecting, studying, conservation and the relationship between humans and fungi including culture, myth and legend. A nice book to own and a welcome gift for anyone who appreciates the countryside and nature, or for the more focused biologist."

British Mycological Society

"Fungi is a timely reminder of what mushrooms are like on top form ... If you have missed the fungi in this colourful but mycologically barren autumn, this book is a good substitute. By going beyond identification or the recipe book, Watling brings us closer to a barely imaginary world, populated by little-known dainty or grotesque forms."

Daily Telegraph

"A unique resource for all those interested in fungi, with clear, readable text and a wealth of superb photographs. It is a detailed introduction to the world of the large fungi - those which have an obvious fruiting body - exploring the reasons for their multitude of shapes and colours, their diversity and importance in the lives of many other plants and animals. Fungi is ideal for anyone interested in mushrooms both for culinary or scientific reasons. The author is a respected mycologist who has written widely on the subject."

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