Ethnomycology is the study of the historical uses and sociological impact of fungi and can be considered a subfield of ethnobotany or ethnobiology. The number of fungi known and used by people around the world is notable. As reported by Boa (2004, cited by Turner et al., 2011), ‘a conservative estimate shows that 1069 species of fungi are being used for food alone’. People also use fungi for medicine, handcraft, ritual practice, and other applications such as insecticides or soil fertilizers (Turner et al., 2011).
About 1000 species of macro-fungi are recorded in Georgia (Nakhutsrishvili, 2007). Among them is a great number of useful mushrooms, some of which are abundant.
The present web-resource is a result of a tree-years study conducted by a team of Georgian myco- and lichenologists in 2014-2017 within the framework of the project Ethnobiology of Georgia’s Fungi and Lichens supported by Shota Rustaveli National Science Foundation, Georgia, and is based on extensive literature and field survey.
A large number of Georgian linguistic sources (see references under each species) were revised, which resulted in a rich collection of local names and folk descriptions of fungi. Field work carried out in various regions of Georgia: forested regions where diversity of mushrooms is higher compared to areas devoid of forest cover were the major focus of the field studies. After obtaining prior informed consent for interviews, semi-structured interviews were conducted with participants in local villages. Information on uses learned by some respondents from modern literature was not considered during data processing.
Data on local uses (as food, medicine, tinder, oracle) of about a hundred species of mushrooms were collected. The total number of interviewees was about 800. The number of mushroom species used in montane forest zone of both West and East Georgia was the highest in Imereti, Racha-Lechkhumi and Kakheti (around 30 in each of these regions); it is noteworthy that in some cases a group of closely related species were collectively defined by the same local names, which is an example of difference between scientific and folk taxonomy of this group of organisms.
Lichens did not have wide use in Georgia and they were only recognized by craftswomen engaged in carpet-making in alpine regions of East Georgia (Khevsureti, Tusheti) (Jorjadze et al., 2016), where limited number of lichen species where used as dye sources; a single case of childhood uses of lichens as a source of paints was reported in an interview from alpine region of Adjara, the western Lesser Caucasus.
The revised literature contained more local names than interviews collected during the field surveys, e.g. remarkable was “a much higher number of local names in literature, in a number of cases accompanied by mushroom descriptions, than found in the current interviews” collected in Svaneti (Kupradze et al., 2015), the western Greater Caucasus; a number of local names mentioned in the investigated linguistic sources still remain unrelated any taxon yet.
In some cases uses were documented in the regions were the species herbarium records yet do not exist.
The present web-source is a synthesis of the data collected during the above ethnomycological studies and contains profiles of 88 species of mushrooms and 6 species of lichens. It provides local names in Georgian, its dialects, other Kartvelian languages (if applicable); description of the species morphology, habitat / substrate, distribution in Georgia (according to Nakhutsrishvili (1986) and unpublished records from the Cryptogam Herbarium of the Institute of Botany, Ilia State University, Tbilisi, Georgia) given by floristic regions of the country (Flora of Georgia, 1971-2011); traditional uses from literature and field surveys conducted by the authors. Quotations from original interviews on typical or the most remarkable uses are provided with citations of respective personal communications. Species profiles contain the species photo (A. Jorjadze is the author of the photos, if another author is not mentioned), distribution map showing the regions of Georgia where the species herbarium records exist, and a list of information sources.