This remarkable compendium, the first (and perhaps last) of its kind, gathers current knowledge on the North American continent's store of lichens--those hard-to-classify, symbiotic composites of fungi and other organisms such as algae and cyanobacteria.
Lichens are, admittedly, easy enough to overlook. They stand out in most people's minds only as the orange, green, or grayish patches that festoon rocks and trees in mountain regions. But they are far more widespread than that, writes research scientist Irwin Brodo. Nearly every bioregion has a complement, and the continent as a whole boasts nearly 3,600 species (of about 14,000 worldwide). The first part of this book offers a near-encyclopedic survey of these lichens' form, structure, reproductive patterns, physiology, and ecological role. The second is a keyed guide to the continent's genera and major groups, including descriptions, range maps, and photographs, the last by the noted nature photographers Sylvia and Stephen Sharnoff.
Though far too hefty to serve easily in the field, this fine book deserves a place in the collections of natural historians and plant biologists doing work just about anywhere in North America. --Gregory McNamee [via]