Magical Mushrooms, Mischievous Molds

Front Cover
Princeton University Press, 2000 - Nature - 248 pages

Mushrooms magically spew forth from the earth in the hours that follow a summer rain. Fuzzy brown molds mischievously turn forgotten peaches to slime in the kitchen fruit bowl. And in thousands of other ways, members of the kingdom Fungi do their part to make life on Earth the miracle that it is. In this lively book, George Hudler leads us on a tour of an often-overlooked group of organisms, which differ radically from both animals and plants. Along the way the author stops to ponder the marvels of nature and the impact of mere microbes on the evolution of civilization. Nature's ultimate recyclers not only save us from drowning in a sea of organic waste, but also provide us with food, drink, and a wide array of valuable medicines and industrial chemicals.

Some fungi make deadly poisons and psychedelic drugs that have interesting histories in and of themselves, and Hudler weaves tales of those into his scientific account of the nature of the fungi. The role of fungi in the Irish potato famine, in the Salem Witch Trials, in the philosophical writings of Greek scholars, and in the creation of ginger snaps are just a few of the many great moments in history to grace these pages.

Hudler moves so easily from discussing human history to exploring scientific knowledge, all with a sense of humor and enthusiasm, that one can well understand why he is an award-winning teacher both at Cornell University as well as nationally. Few, for instance, who read his invitation to "get out of your chair and take a short walk" will ever again look without curiosity and admiration at the "rotten" part of the world around them. Magical Mushrooms, Mischievous Molds is full of information that will satisfy history buffs, science enthusiasts, and anyone interested in nature's miracles. Everyone in Hudler's audience will develop a new appreciation of the debt they owe to the molds for such common products as penicillin, wine, and bread.


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User Review  - jhawn - LibraryThing

I read and enjoyed this. Members of the often overlooked kingdom of fungi recycle organic waste; play a crucial role in providing food (bread), drink (wine), and medicines (penicillin); and help shape human history (the Irish potato famine and perhaps even the Salem witch trials. Read full review

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Just finished reading the book over the Christmas (2009) holiday. Very good read, good information, especially from a historical and cultural/ethnologic background. Could have used more photos, especially color photos. The B&W photos were virtually useless. Good background info on Timothy Leary & Harvard Univ. For a semi-scholarly book, I would have chosen a different title; one which didn't raise eyebrows quite so much.
Would definitely recommend this book to anyone who wants a brief overview of mycology.


Classification and Naming
What Fungi Do and How They Do It
Fungi as Pathogens of Food Crops
Fungi as Agents of Catastrophic Tree Diseases
Ergot of Grain Crops
Mycotoxins Toxic ByProducts of Fungal Growth
Mycoses Fungus Diseases of Humans
Medicinal Molds
Edible and Poisonous Mushrooms
Hallucinogenic Mushrooms
Wood Decay
Interactions of Fungi and Insects
Symbiotic Relationships of Fungi with Plants

Yeasts for Baking and Brewing

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Fungal Genomics

Limited preview - 2003
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About the author (2000)

George W. Hudler is Professor of Plant Pathology at Cornell University. In addition to teaching courses on plant disease diagnosis and management, he offers a course that has the same name as this book. It is one of the most popular undergraduate courses at Cornell, consistently attracting over three hundred students. Since 1992, he has been editor of Branching Out, a biweekly newsletter to guide tree care professionals in the northeastern United States in choosing the best times and least hazardous means for managing insect and disease pests in residential landscapes.

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