First Field Guide to Mushrooms of Southern Africa

These little guides are an invaluable resource for beginners
Branch, Margo
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First Field Guide to Mushrooms of Southern Africa

Author: Margo Branch
Struik Publishers
Cape Town, 2001
ISBN: 9781868726059
Paperback, 11x17 cm, 56 pages, throughout colour photos


These natural history guides have been developed in the hope that young people and anyone with a Full-colour photographs and easy-to-read text will help the beginner and budding naturalist to identify the more common mushroom species that occur in southern Africa, discover where they are found, and learn about their unusual features.

These little guides are an invaluable resource for the beginner, providing information at a glance through superb photographs, maps and easy-to-read text.

• handy pocket size
• easy-to-read text
• suitable for the beginner naturalist
• each species is photographed

About the Author:

Margo Branch, a biologist, has been involved as an illustrator or author in eight natural history books, including Levines A Field Guide to Mushrooms of South Africa and the award-winning Living Shores of Southern Africa.

Her contribution to science and education have been recognised with the Steven Hamilton Award of the Zoological Society of South Africa and a Lifetime Award from the Marine and Coastal Educators Network.


Types of fungal fruit-bodies
Saprophytic and parasitic fungi
Symbiotic fungi
Mycorrhizal fungi
Features of mushrooms
Spores and spore prints
Collecting mushrooms
Poisonous or edible mushrooms
Mushroom descriptions
Bracket descriptions
Other fungi descriptions
Further reading
Index to common names


In Africa, mushrooms were once celebrated as a feast given by the rains before the crops matured, but in medieval Europe they were shrouded in mystery. This is not surprising: mushrooms pop up in dank, dark places as though from nothing. Some can cause death or hallucination, others glow in the dark.

Some were named after toads, witches or fairies. The mysteriously sudden appearance of mushrooms was explained when scientists discovered that microscopic spores grow into a network of fine hairs to produce fruit-bodies; and that, after rain, these fruit-bodies absorb water, swell, burst to the surface and rapidly expand into mush-rooms. A new cycle of spores is then shed, perpetuating the process.

Mushrooms are a type of fungus. The Fungi Kingdom includes mushrooms, brackets, yeasts, rusts and moulds. Unlike green plants, fungi cannot make their own food by photosynthesis. Instead, they obtain their nourishment from plant or animal material, which is dissolved by enzymes and ingested.

While many fungi are small and simple in structure, mushrooms are the fruit-bodies of complex fungi. This guide introduces some larger fungi: mushrooms, brackets, puff-balls and stinkhorns. Fungal activity has a great impact on our lives, both positively and negatively. Many fungi play important roles as decomposers, and return nutrients to the soil.

Others, such as yeast, are useful for the production of bread, beer, cheese or yoghurt. Penicillin is a fungus that attacks bacterial diseases and is thus a commonly used medicine. Some fungi, how-ever, are destructive and cause disease, like black spot on roses and athletes foot in humans.


Birds Nest Fungus 55
Blusher 15
Cow 43
Granular-stalk 43
Pine 43
Poplar 42
Sticky 43
Chanterelle 39
Chicken of the Woods 44
Cone Cap, Brown 37
Copper Trumpet 31
Death Cap 13
Dye-ball 51
Earth Balls 51
Earth stars 50
Field Mushroom 20
Fly Agaric 12
Grisette, Rose-gilled 19
Ikowe 26
Ink Cap
Common 23
False 52
Glistening 23
Shaggy 24
Jews Ear 54
Noble Mushroom 21
Orange Polypore 45
Orange Tuft 32
Oyster Mushroom 28
Panther Cap 14
Smooth 18
White 17
Pine Cap, Small 33
Pine Ring 30
Poison Pie 34
Puff-ball, Common 50
Red Stinkhorn 53
Ridged Bracket 47
Purple-stemmed 29
Splitgill 48
Stinker 16
Sulphur Tuft 36
Soapy 27
Umbo 35
Truffle, Kalahari 49
Turkey Tail 46
Umbrella, Japanese 23
Wax Cap, Blackening 25
Woodcap, Funnel 38
Mushroom 22