This isn’t some crappy list of SD foraging guides that I lazily picked off Amazon with copy-pasted reviews. Nope. I’ve used every single book on this list and two of the books stay in my daypack permanently. So, if you are looking for the best field guide for South Dakota plants and mushrooms you have come to the right place!!!
BEST MUSHROOM HUNTING BOOK FOR BEGINNERS
Mushrooms of the Upper Midwest by Teresa Marrone
This tiny field guide is jam packed with amazing photos and awesome descriptions of the most common edible and non-edible mushrooms in South Dakota, Minnesota, and surrounding states. It is small enough that I always keep it in my day pack for quick reference. It is organized by mushroom shape which makes it easy for beginners to ID their fungal finds and it highlights the super poisonous varieties.
BEST MYCOLOGY GUIDE FOR THE ADDICTED MUSHROOM HUNTER
Mushrooms of the Midwest by Michael Kuo
This is my all time favorite mushroom book. Awesome photos, well organized, intuitive mushroom key (helps you ID a mushroom), and the author also runs MushroomExpert.com which is a great resource alongside this book. If you don’t live in the Midwest I would first recommend you pick up “Mushrooms Demystified”
A MUST HAVE FOR ANY MYCOLOGIST (expensive!)
Mushrooms Demystified by David Arora
This is probably the most well-known mycology guide that exists. The author is funny and the book is absolutely PACKED with first hand experience. I have a hard time using this author’s keys but I frequently use it as a reference for mushrooms that I have already identified. Worth the money!
BEST MYCOLOGY PHOTOS
Mushrooms – How to Identify and Gather Wild Mushrooms and Other Fungi by Thomas Læssøe
I do not personally own this book but when I was flipping through it I was totally blown away. This would be a fantastic mushroom hunting book for beginners. I didn’t purchase this book mainly because it focuses on very common mushrooms that I am already familiar with.
OUTDATED MUSHROOM GUIDE
Simon and Schuster’s Guide to Mushrooms by Gary H. Lincoff
This was the first mushroom field guide that I bought. It had pictures and it had other… stuff. Unfortunately it is quite dated and it seems to cover mushrooms found across the world which makes it terrible for states like South Dakota and Minnesota. Don’t waste your money.
BEST GUIDE FOR LITTLE BORING MUSHROOMS
Psilocybin Mushrooms of the World by Paul Stamets
Most of my other field guides seem to ignore LBM’s (little boring mushrooms). But Paul’s key is very short and efficient for quickly identifying the genus of most small mushrooms. Aside from that, there aren’t many species listed that grow in South Dakota or Minnesota so it won’t help much if that is your goal.
BEST LICHEN FIELD GUIDE
Lichens of the North Woods by Joe Walewski
I must be honest: this is the ONLY guide that I have been able to find that can be used by newbie lichen hunters like myself. I have explored this book very little but hope to dig deeper into it next winter. I am, however, skeptical about one’s ability to teach themselves about lichens as I have taught myself about mushrooms.
WORST MUSHROOM GUIDE EVER
Magic Mushrooms of the Upper Midwest by Eric Hensley
The author got a book to market. Good job. But I can’t imagine embarrassing myself by publishing such a poorly written book to a community of science nerds. I’m sure Eric is a pretty cool guy and his book introduced me to some cool information about the Gymnopilus genus but I don’t think there is a single page that does NOT have a run-on sentence or spelling error. (Damn, now I have to check my writing so that I don’t become a hypocrite!) Eric, if you are reading this, I’d love to help you edit your next version of this book.
Plant Foraging Books
THE FIRST FORAGING BOOK YOU SHOULD BUY
Edible Wild Plants by John Kallas
Skim through this book then repeat that five more times. You will surely begin finding plants in your yard or the park that you had never noticed before. Then, when you do find a plant in this book go back and read the chapter for that specific plant. The best part about this book is the author did an incredible job of choosing the most common and easily identified plants. The second best thing about this book is how detailed (and loving!) the author is in the explanation of each plant. This includes many photos covering the full life cycle of each plant. It took me just two summers in South Dakota before I had found almost every plant in this book. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
A GREAT REFERENCE FOR SEASONED FORAGERS
Edible Wild Plants by Houghton Mifflin
This was actually the very first foraging guide that I bought. Unfortunately books like this can overwhelm beginners which is why I do NOT recommend this as your first field guide. With that said, I have yet to find any other reference that has a bigger list of plants. It also continually blows me away with small edibility tips for plants that I would have never imagined trying (jack in the pulpit IS edible if thoroughly dried but is terribly painful if eaten any other way). Most of the plant photos are hand drawn but there are a few pages of random plants that have colored photos. Great reference for the bookshelf but not something I carry into the field with me.
A GUIDE THAT SHOULD NEVER LEAVE YOUR DAYPACK
Wild Berries & Fruits by Teresa Marrone
I carry this guide with me everywhere. The small size, great photos, and easy identifiers mean that I have identified almost every berry that I have found from Minnesota to Colorado. It wasn’t until I wrote this list of the best foraging books that I realized the two books I always carry in my daypack were both written by Marrone. Berries are very seasonal and can quickly disappear so if you want to jump on the opportunity to eat a yummy trailside snack you should buy this book!
A RARE SUBJECT BUT QUITE IMPORTANT FOR SD FORAGING
Edible Wild Plants of the Prairie by Kelly Kindscher
Will you think this book is as beautiful as I do? The author has a clear passion for Native history and wild foods. She did some hefty historical digging when writing this book and I hope that she receives the recognition she deserves. Unfortunately, this will always be outshined by modern guides filled with colorful photos. I implore you to explore this book and learn about past foraging skills of the native prairie people that will likely disappear if we don’t keep them alive!
A GUIDE THAT MAKES YOU SAY “Meh”
Midwest Foraging by Lisa M. Rose
I thought I would learn a lot from this book. Unfortunately, the lack of meaningful photos and the organization (alphabetical order by common name) means I rarely use this guide. The only benifit to this book is the seasonal list of edible plants that is quite specific to South Dakota and Minnesota. Save your money.
AWESOME POCKET GUIDE TO HELP LEARN HABITATS
Trees of Minnesota Field Guide by Tekiela
Do NOT underestimate the importance of trees to your foraging outings! If you know your trees (and prairies) you can take an educated guess at what plants and mushrooms you might find. I purchased this book way too late in the game and now I am playing catch-up on my ecologies. The ironic part is that I’ve climbed and slept in hundreds of tree canopies and yet I can barely identify more than a few. Don’t be like me. Learn your trees!
THE NOT-AS-GOOD TREE GUIDE
Simon & Schuster’s Guide To Trees by Stanley Schuler
I found this guide at Goodwill for $1.50 so I couldn’t pass it up. It is old and there is likely an updated version but I highly prefer the guide above by Tekiela.
INCREDIBLE GUIDE THAT FEW WILL NEED
Grasses, Sedges, Rushes by Lauren Brown & Ted Elliman
I bought this guide hoping to learn about edible wild grains in South Dakota. Soon after, I learned that the local Native Americans didn’t have any grains that they processed for food. Either way, we live in South Dakota where the majority (I’m guessing here) of our land is covered in prairie grasses. So learn up!
EAT MORE BUGS…
Survival Guide to Edible Insects by Fred Demara
Don’t waste your money. Not because insects are gross, but because this book just sucks (and it was super expensive!). I’ve read books in kindergarten that had more depth of knowledge than this book. Unfortunately, it is the ONLY bug-eating field guide that I have ever found. I recommend you visit some entomophagy blogs instead. Seriously, don’t waste your money.
A MUST READ FOR THE OVER-CONFIDENT FORAGER
Dandelion Hunter by Rebecca Lerner
This book taught me an incredibly important lesson. You can’t just go out into the woods, forage for a few hours, and find enough calories to survive on. Ok ok. You CAN do this but only in the correct season (cattail season?) or with a lifetime of knowledge that you don’t have if you grew up getting most of your calories from a supermarket. This is a short book with a fun story and I totally recommend it!
A POETIC BOOK DISCUSSING THE WORLD OF FUNGI
Entangled Life by Merlin Sheldrake
This book will make you fall in love with mycology. The author is a beautiful person with eloquent writing and truly unique ideas. His ability to make art with non-fiction literature is masterful!
AN EXPERTLY WRITTEN MYCOLOGY DISCUSSION
The Hidden Kingdom of Fungi by Keith Seifert
Keith and Merlin’s (above) book complement each other quite well. There is very little overlap between the two and I enjoyed the many fungal stories that Keith shared. I especially enjoyed the discussion about the history of fungal parasites and how they wreak havoc on modern growing styles (monocrops!).
A SHORT BOOK FOR PEOPLE INTERESTED IN LEARNING ABOUT MUSHROOMS
Fungarium by Ester Gaya
This book is short but physically enormous! If you have read any mycology book in the past then this book has nothing new to offer. But! If you know absolutely nothing about mushrooms this is a great place to start.
A DISCUSSION OF FLAVOR VS NUTRIENTS
The Dorito Effect by Mark Schatzker
This book was truly enthralling and makes a great argument for foraging wild foods even though this has nothing to do with the thesis of the book. The author discusses “nutritional wisdom” (a scientifically proven occurrence) for the majority of the book and it made me completely rethink how I eat food.
Learn Your Land – YouTube
TREEfool – YouTube