The Families of Mushrooms and Toadstools Represented in the British Isles


L. Watson and M. J. Dallwitz


This embryonic interactive package is generated from a developing DELTA database (Dallwitz 1980; Dallwitz, Paine, and Zurcher 1993). It comprises brief family descriptions, with relatively up-to-date assignments to phyla, classes, subclasses and orders; a file of source references; numerous illustrations; some original poems by Giles Watson; and hints on using the program INTKEY for interactive identification and information retrieval.

The list of families and their generic representation in Britain conform with the checklist (Cooper, 2004 onwards) maintained for the British Mycological Society, and the nomenclature, including legends accompanying the illustrations, has been updated from the same source. The classification employed here is mainly from the Hawksworth et al. (1995) edition of ‘Ainsworth & Bisby’s Dictionary of the Fungi’. The rather sparse descriptive information has been compiled from the group descriptions and keys provided in the same edition of ‘Ainsworth and Bisby’, necessitating much undesirable extrapolation from higher group descriptions to family level; supplemented from the few other sources listed in the References, the principal of these being Lange and Hora (1967 edition) and Læssøe and Petersen’s ‘MycoKey’.

The data have been cross referenced to some extent with the most recent edition of ‘Ainsworth and Bisby’ (Kirk et al. 2001), but numerous classificatory changes it embraces cannot be implemented in practice in the absence of adequate group descriptions. In recent times, mycological taxonomists have fallen into the deplorable habit of revising classifications derived from phytochemistry, nucleic acid sequencing and cladistics, without bothering to provide workable descriptions of taxa involved; and where morphological distinctions involving newer groupings are said not to exist, it questionable whether any serious effort has been made to find them.

Our illustrations mostly represent scans from Berkeley (1860) and Lange and Hora (1967), with the addition of some photographs by Thomas Læssøe and Jens H. Petersens from their ‘MycoKey’. Sarah Price’s attractive ‘Illustrations of Fungi’ (1864–5) listed respected scientists of the day among the subscribers, but some of the identifications are unreliable, and only a few scans have been incorporated from that source. The original nineteenth-century plates have of necessity been extensively re-organized to account for taxonomic re-alignments and nomenclatural changes, with updated legends provided via the ‘Notes’ accompanying the Intkey image displays. A cross-referenced list with updated names provided here may at least encourage modern enthusiasts to explore Berkeley’s minor classic, copies of which are still fairly easily obtainable from antiquarian booksellers; and the corresponding list for ‘Lange and Hora’ (with Jakob E. Lange’s lovely illustrations from Flora Agaricina Danica, supplemented for cup fungi by E. Sunesen and P. Dahlstrøm) may facilitate continued use of their excellent, later equivalent when identifying products of 21st century fungus forays. Our ‘Updated plant names for John Curtis’s British Entomology (1824-1840)’ lists the illustrations of fungi we have utilized from that splendid work. All our JPEG illustrations were designed for convenience of distribution and screen display, and are less sharp than the high resolution TIF scans from which they were generated. The latter have been retained, and can be made available for worthwhile applications.

This package currently incorporates no new observations on fungi, and no original taxonomic research has been brought to bear in preparing it. Constructive comments and expert, specialist input would of course be welcomed and appropriately acknowledged: the DELTA data are easily accessible for making corrections and improvements. The package could readily be extended to generic and species levels, and it could be donated to any person or organization seriously interested in developing it further.