The Fifth Kingdom
This 3rd/edition is a compact but comprehensive encyclopedia of all things mycological. Every aspect of the fungi, from aflatoxin to zppspores, with an accessible blend of verve and wit. The 24 chapters are filled with up-to-date information of classification, yeast, lichens, spore dispersal, allergies, ecology, genetics, plant pathology, predatory fungi, biological control, mutualistic symbioses with animals and plants, fungi as food, food spoilage and mycotoxins.
About the Author(s)
Excerpt from Customer Reviews
Know Your Fungi, June 20, 2004
A lot of this book is about fungi reproduction, and therefore, fungi sex — although a lot of reproduction is anamorphic (asexual). Currently, there are over 100,000 fungi described scientifically (over 10,000 species of mushrooms), but Dr. Kendrik estimates that this is less than one tenth of the Earth’s mycota (fungi). This book, of course, does not discuss all 100,000 fungi. It discusses fungi classifications, and some of the most important fungi.
Fungi is omnipresent and includes mushrooms, yeasts, lichens (a combination of fungus and alga) – but it does not include slime moulds, which are basically amoeboid (without a cell wall) and do not produce hyphae. Some fungi can grow almost any place, withstanding great temperature extremes. Other fungi is so specialized it grows parasitically on the exoskeletons of certain insects. The first half of this book talks about where fungi live; what they eat; what they look like to the naked eye, and microscopically; their genetic make-up, down to DNA and RNA sequencing, and how those genes are passed on – from sex to airborne sporulation.
The second half of the book is much easier to understand, but as Dr. Kendrick points out, it helps to read the first part to understand the second part. There is a section on fungi that attack plants and fugicides used in agriculture. Don’t think all fungi are bad – there is also a section on how fungi can be used as a biocontrol against insects and weeds. The last chapter talks about the commercial use of fungi, with the obvious important nod to Penicillium notatum. Cyclosporine is another important drug developed from fungi. Aspergillus niger is used to manufacture citric acid.
The sections on how fungi exploit plants and animals – – and how plants and animals exploit fungi – is fascinating. Did you know that some leaf-cutting ants and termites actually grow fungi? Some of those huge termite nests have mushroom rooms. Some plants cannot live without fungi that manufacture important nutrients for the plants.
The relationship between man and fungi is sometimes deadly, and sometimes life saving. One thing I took away from this book is to never, ever eat mushrooms from the wild unless I am absolutely certain what those are. Some deadly mushrooms look almost identical to very delicious mushrooms. Dr. Kendrick sets forth treatments for several types of mushroom poisoning. It’s important to note that most of the time, mushroom poisoning doesn’t show up for some time – 24 hours or more.
Dr. Kendrick also discusses an issue that I was confused about after reading the Institute of Medicine’s "Damp Indoor Spaces and Mold" (May 25, 2004). The IOM did not find a correlation between mold exposure and cancer, but I was having trouble reconciling that with what I knew – that certain molds produce aflatoxins that are toxinogenic, mutagenic, and carcinogenic. It turns out that these are not conflicting views at all, since Dr. Kendrick describes these effects from eating molds that produce aflatoxins. For example, in the 1930’s in the Ukraine, horses developed deadly stachybotryotoxicosis from eating contaminated hay. Of course, why would people eat contaminated food? Sometimes, it has been unwittingly, such as medieval peasants eating rye contaminated with the ergot fungus, causing St. Anthony’s Fire. Other times, food shortages left people with no other choice. In some cases, such as happened with the people in Lin Xian, China, moldy bread tasted good (not so odd when you think about eating Roquefort cheese).