• Marieka Gryzenhout

Vast Agaricus

There are about 6000 names previously published in the genus Agaricus. However, it does not mean there are so many real species since many of these names were discovered to be other genera, or are the same as other Agaricus species. Still, wow...

Everyone of you most likely came across some Agaricus and it just did not look like any of the species mentioned in even the best field guides, or something was tantalizingly off. This is especially true in Africa, including South Africa. The species ending up in the field guides are the really obvious ones that are similar to species encountered elsewhere, and most likely could have been introduced since they occur in planted pasture or places where there are people. Very few of the vast numbers of our truly native Agaricus spp. have been described, and basically no one are looking at them as well. So we are trying to fit the descriptions of other names on them. Agaricus is also a rather specialized genus to work on, with often very subtle differences distinguishing species, and a number of methods to look at specimens. (As would anyone can attest to who tried, so many of them just look like other ones!)

So, I ordered what most likely is the ultimate current work published for Agaricus, a book published for North American species by an Agaricus expert, Richard Kerrigan. It costs very much on the wrong side a thousand rand, which was why I requested it for loan through our university. It finally came (due to an unfortunate and long hold up), all 570 pages of it! And wow, is it impressive, representing 45 years of research on more than 180 species. Most importantly it helped me understand HOW to work with this genus and summarizing all the taxonomic thingies that was previously found in numerous different publications, sequencing, and name changes...

So I am ready for Agaricus now....well...we will give it a try. But do not ask me something within the next year or many while I am still practicing! Because I am still mostly lost with the amazing diversity we have, including further north in Africa where some species actually HAVE been described. In a way it was comforting to know that even after 45 years there were still some species shown in the book that does not yet have a name....and that is for North America!!

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