Mushrooms are important forest resources, mostly as food, despite the serious health threat posed by toxic species. In the Highlands of Chiapas, numerous wild mushroom intoxications have been registered. While Chiapas has been vastly studied from an ethnomycological perspective, no certainty exists as to how nomenclature systems differentiate edible and toxic species, which species are most culturally significant, and whether sociodemographic factors relate to how well-known they are in the Highlands of Chiapas. This paper evaluates which are the most culturally significant edible and toxic wild mushroom species in seven Tsotsil communities from this region and whether differences exist in their knowledge relating to different sociodemographic subsets (gender, schooling, and occupation). The hypothesis that there is a difference in the number of species that people mention, as well as the number of times each ethno-taxon is mentioned, between people from different social groups was tested.
With consent, 133 Tsotsil people from seven communities were interviewed. Interviews focused on local systematics and free listings of edible and toxic mushrooms. Qualitative and quantitative analyses were performed, including multivariate methods and non-parametric statistics.
Twenty-five edible and 15 toxic taxa were mentioned. Some directly correspond to Linneanean species, while others are subdifferentiated or supradifferentiated. Only 62% of the interviewees named toxic mushrooms. The most frequently mentioned edible taxa were Amanita hayalyuy and A. jacksoniii, Agaricus spp., and Armillaria mellea. The most frequently mentioned toxic species were Amanita muscaria, Suillellus luridus, and Russula emetica. Significant differences in the number of mentioned edible ethnotaxa were found only among different occupations and schooling. The models including schooling interacting with either gender or occupation are better supported. Significant differences in the number of times toxic ethnotaxa are mentioned were found only between men and women.
The Tsotsil region of the Highlands of Chiapas is where the most average mushroom species are recognized state-wide. Schooling and occupation seem most determinant for people to know more or less species of mushrooms, while gender appears irrelevant. People with no studies and field-related occupations name more species. Identification criteria to distinguish edible from toxic species seem to rest not on detailed recognition of the second set but precise knowledge of the first.