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04 Aug 2022 < Back

How much do you know about fungus? - New Book Review by PCA's James Berry

We are just a few years short of the Associations’ centenary. An Association that was founded on the requirement to prolong the service life of in-situ timber, principally stop it being eaten by other organisms. Whilst protecting timber from insect attack is one aspect, within the UK, fungal decay (rot) is without question the most common and far-reaching cause of timber failure.

But how much do we really know about the fungi that our industry has such a rich heritage with…or any fungus for that matter? From those that feed on timber to those that we feed on ourselves, do we truly understand the role it plays in our natural ecosystems; do we know why it acts the way it does, and do we take these amazing organisms for granted?

A Sunday Times best seller!

To find out more and broaden your horizons, then Entangled Life by Merlin Sheldrake provides an incredible insight into the fungal world. Whilst I am a little at risk of being well behind the curve here, after all the book has been out for almost a year and already been a Sunday Time best seller, I finally managed to pick up a copy at the airport and dedicated some time to reading on my long-awaited holiday….

An incredible insight into the fungal world

Whilst the book is not solely focused on the wood munching fungus that have been the interest of our industry for so long, it does give a much broader look into the world of fungi - from truffles and magic mushrooms, to living eco packaging for flat-pack furniture and laptops. Nonetheless, the book draws you in to a place where you start to see how pivotal fungi are to the world we live in.

Some of the aspects which observe wood rotting fungi, do start to look at how fungus evolved and how they behave in their search for food and what it does when it finds it. Does the fungus randomly search off in all directions? And continue to keep searching once it does?

Well researched and easy to read

The book is incredibly well researched – the near 100 pages of notes and bibliography are testament to that. However, do not be put off by this as it does not read like an academic journal, is very easy reading and really does hold your focus.

Having read the book, you will know a little bit more about fungi but will soon realise there is an awful lot more you don’t know! The study of animals and plants is quite extensive but the study of fungi, despite it being so fundamental to life on our planet, is poorly understood in comparison.

My appreciation for fungus has increased immeasurably

This is a pretty strange review to write, as I’m keen to encourage you all to read the book rather than providing a degree of deconstructing and explanation. However, I can say my understanding and appreciation for fungus as a result of reading this book has increased immeasurably - a bit like the first time you see an extensive outbreak of dry rot.

Unfortunately, like most fungi, my copy of the book didn’t fair too well in the sun…

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