Mushroom Foraging

DSC_0148

Craterellus Cornucopioides, the Black Trumpet

Australian Edible Mushrooms and Fungi

This Page will be a record of the edible, interesting and poisonous fungi I find within about 100km of Coffs Harbour, NSW Australia. The coast has a subtropical climate with high rainfall while in the hinterland we have a plateau with mountains that reach up to 1500m with the odd snow fall in winter. the range of climate zones and micro climates along with the multitude of vegetation types makes this area a fascinating place for mushroom hunting. To date I have found over thirty varieties of edible fungi in the area. To see my list click here.

In Australia the eating of foraged mushrooms is regarded by many as dangerous. This is the result of a lack of a foraging culture, some would call it full-blown Anglo mycophobia (I find this a bit strong). The loss of indigenous knowledge of fungi, fear based on misinformation and an exaggeration of the risks largely because the media loves to report on mushroom poisonings. Poisonings are rare and deaths are very rare, almost all deaths come back to one mushroom species, amanita phalloides, the death cap. The majority of non lethal poisonings are from a handful of easily identifiable species. To see my list of local poisonous mushrooms click here.

Identifying mushrooms is a learned skill, anyone who is prepared to spend the time can become competent. Without the required skills and knowledge mushroom foraging is risky and can result in misadventure, or worse. There is one rule that applies to all mushroom species and almost guarantees my safety: If I cant ID the mushroom I don’t eat it. Fortunately most mushrooms are benign and some are delicious. There is no standard test for mycotoxins, and many of the other ‘rules’ only apply to certain genus. Identifying a new fungi is often an interesting and exciting process. Its well worth while to take the time to learn the basics.

I will provide details and photos of the different mushrooms I have eaten, however the onus is on the individual to always do your own due diligence before consuming any wild food. The first question should always be “what species is it?” and not “is it edible?”  Most mushrooms are not edible and many that are have look alikes that can be poisonous or with unknown edibility. I never eat a new mushroom species unless I am one hundred percent sure I know what it is and I have double checked, generally it will be the second or third time I have found this species that I try it, then its only a very small taste of cooked mushroom. Its never safe to assume a mushroom is edible and its not reliable to have someone else ID the mushroom for you, on a facebook page for example.

Unfortunately researching edibility of Australian mushrooms is likely to leave you with more questions then answers. We have to use a variety of different sources. A Field Guide to Australian Fungi by Bruce Fuhrer is our best field guide. There are some other blogs with information about edibility the two best are Tall Trees and Mushrooms and Mushroaming. The Queensland Mycological Society has an excellent online field guide. Fungi map also has one. The Australian Wild Mushroom Hunters Facebook page is good. Mushroomexpert is a North american website that is helpful.  wikipeadia and a google image search once you have a name are also useful. I also like using the Atlas of living Australia to search for records of fungi.  In short, we have a great tool at our disposal, its called the interweb, use it but don’t expect to always get a clear cut answer on edibility.

That’s enough for now, Happy Foraging!

Jonas

Cordyceps gunnii

Australian cordyceps gunnii

Australian cordyceps gunnii

Fungi are weird, cordyceps are weird even for fungi. This Australian cordyceps gunnii was found in late autumn at about 1400m next to a grassy track running thru Antarctic beech forest. Cordyceps fruit from dead caterpillers. The cordycep fungus is eaten by or infects the grub when it is underground, they exist together for a while then eventually the fungus ‘takes control’ of the pupae. Things take a turn for the worse as the fungi kills the pupae with its head facing towards the soil surface, it then eats the pupae from the inside out using the food source to create its large club like fruit body. In this case its formed a double fruit body with a total length of 260mm. The pupae is about 90mm long and probably belonged to a species of rain moth. The club like fruit then produces copious amounts of white fluffy spores and the cycle continues. While this seems pretty weird, in the tropics things get even stranger with cordyceps species that fully zombify and control ants, forcing them to leave the nest, climb to a high vantage point, then bite into a leaf with their posteriors pointing up before they die and the fungi fruits.

Australian cordyceps gunnii

Australian cordyceps gunnii

According to this paper there are 10 species of cordyceps in Australia, locally in NE NSW  gunnii and hawkesii occur and I would not be surprised to see more species. I rarely find them and I have only found gunnii a couple of times tho its is relatively common on the east coast of Australia. Gunnii is the only aussie cordycep that is this colour so it is easy to recognize. In other parts of the world cordyceps are highly regarded for their medicinal properties. Some species have been cultivated and are made into extracts used for a number of different conditions. C. gunnii has had some studies done which show promising results. It may be that all the active compounds from c.sinensis are also present in c.gunnii. Keep an eye out for these weird yet fascinating fungi.

Fire Fungi

DSC_0395

Maybe Neolentinus dactyloides

The Australian bush has a long relationship with fire so it no surprise that we have a number of fungi that fruit after fire. I have been thinking about doing this post for a while but the truth is I’m still a bit raw about the 2019/20 fire season. In my area it went from August 2019 until it rained in February. Months of watching some of my favorite places burn and seeing my friends and family affected was not easy. Visiting some of the fires really gave me a new perspective and seeing the aftermath as the bush recovers is really interesting tho it will be years in recovery for some spots. One thing that came from all this is the photos I will share of the post fire fungi I encountered during my time in the fire grounds.

pyronema species probably p. omphalodes

pyronema species probably p. omphalodes

Pyronema is one of the first to fruit after the fire and seems to thrive in hot ash beds. it can blanket the ground and plays an important roll holding the soil together after the fire. How it survives the heat then fruits so soon after is a mystery to me. apparently its a type of cup fungi but i only really saw the fluffy purple or orange stuff like in the above photo.

Laccocephalum species. probably l. tumulosum

Laccocephalum species. probably l. tumulosum

I’ve been on the hunt for Laccocephalum mylittae known as native bread or stone maker fungi that has an edible underground sclerotia, a big thing like a tuber that is triggered to fruit after fire. The sclerotia holds all the moisture and nutrients needed for the fungi to fruit so no rain is needed. So far I’ve had no luck finding native bread and instead I have been finding other Laccocephalum species that have a pseudosclerotium. A pseudosclerotium is a ball of mycelium mixed with soil and stones there is a photo of one below. The Laccocephalum species I find can be about the size of a dinner plate, have a light coloured cap and a spongy pores. I’ve dug a few up and found a dense mass of mycelium laced soil a few inches underground where the stem base ends. its not very photogenic but probably has a skin and could be removed intact in the right location. I think they are Laccocephalum tumulosum tho l. hartmannii is a possibility. However hartmannii are generally more red then cream. Still l. mylittae is the goal and the only edible species that I’m aware of but no luck yet.

Laccocephalum species. probably l. tumulosum

Laccocephalum species. probably l. tumulosum

DSC_0391

maybe Neolentinus dactyloides

I’m not a hundred percent sure these are Neolentinus dactyloides because there is a wide variation of photos and descriptions of them on the net. I did did not dig them up to inspect the weird finger like sclerotium found in that species. Here are the two conflicting sources. The WA ID seems about right for mine but the Fungimap link is totally different. Who is correct? either way I found these on the edge of a partially burnt patch of rain forest at about 600m. There was a number of these clumps that were almost certainly fruiting from the sclerotia under ground tho it had rained at the time I found them.

a pseudosclerotium unearthed by a dozer building a fire break

a pseudosclerotium unearthed by a dozer building a fire break

The pseudosclerotium above was a fascinating find, I’m not sure what species it belongs to but it was in the same general area as the Laccocephalum above. It was about the size of a tennis ball and was very solid. I had to cut it open with a knife. You can see the pebbles embedded in the skin and the mass inside seemed like clay and mycelium. With so much country burnt I will be keeping a close eye on the rainfall this winter and spring because there is one last post fire fungi that I would really like to find, that is the aussie fire morels, Morchella eximia and others. I have a number of potential spots ready to check when the time comes. Stay tuned.

 

Australian Smooth Chanterelle

Australian Smooth Chanterelle

Australian Smooth Chanterelle

These Australian smooth chanterelles are found in NENSW and SEQLD at least tho may be more widespread, they are not common but can fruit heavily where they do grow. They seem to like intact eucalypt forest or the euc rain forest cross overs that we get in this area. I find them in April and May after good rain. They seem to fruit in the same spots year after year. As far as I can tell its an undescribed species or group that is either in the Cantharellus or Gloeocantharellus genus. A couple of people have had dna done and the results did not find a match, here is a voucher number for the sample lodged by the Victoria hebarium KP311393. No one that I have asked in the Aussie mushroom community has much info on them. QMS has got a couple tentative IDs Cantharellus ochraceoravus based on this paper on Australian chants which is just a review of the literature. QMS also calls them Gloeocantharellus ‘soloris’ I’m not sure what they base this on.

Australian Smooth Chanterelle

Australian Smooth Chanterelle

Their folds become more evident as they mature but never become the false gills of a regular chant, they are also massive in comparison to the other chant species I have seen, the largest one I found weighed about 130g. Their flesh is solid and firm. They often branch as you can see in the photo above. I have eaten them a couple times, they have great texture but not much in the way of flavor. Dry frying them over medium heat is a good technique to maximize flavour. I have also pickled them after dry frying, I found them very tasty done this way. I would love to share more about this species but this is about all I have, maybe just one more photo! If you want to read more about our Aussie chants please take a look at my other articles that can be found via this list of edibles.

Australian Smooth Chanterelle

Australian Smooth Chanterelle

 

Psilocybe subaeruginosa

Psilocybe subaeruginosa from about 1300m above sea level found not far from Ebor.

Psilocybe aff. subaeruginosa from about 1300m above sea level found not far from Ebor. The blue spots on the caps are from light rain.

Psilocybe subaeruginosa are a psychoactive mushroom found in Australia’s temperate regions. Until last winter I was unaware that they grow in the mountains around here. I will share some photos and notes on habitat here but I will not be talking about eating this mushroom and it should be noted that possession of these mushrooms is illegal in Australia. I first found these mushrooms mid winter up in the mountains near Ebor. They were growing in dry alpine eucalypt woodlands. I have since found them in a number of locations at higher elevations down to about 600m during the colder months. Some people I know find them occasionally at lower elevations even in the rain forest. I have never found them in that habitat tho so this may be unusual. Something I have noticed with this mushroom is there is plenty of variation in their appearance. Perhaps they don’t really do ‘usual’.

Psilocybe subaeruginosa found at about 600m

Psilocybe subaeruginosa found at about 600m

The other day I was up in the mountains about to go for a walk when I saw a little grassy gully in a power line corridor, it made me think of Psilocybe subaeruginosa and when I walked down into the little dell there they were in a little patch of grass under the wild tobacco trees. When ever I find these mushrooms its in a habitat close to or created by humans. An old grassy log dump or the edge of a camping area, roadsides are a good bet but I’ve been told they also fruit on rotten logs. Further south they are common on wood chips. They are a wood lover but its not always obvious that they are fruiting from wood as it may be buried or hidden in the grass. Wikipedia has a pretty good page on these if you want a more scientific description and some information on their psychoactive compounds. Being a LBM or little brown mushroom its really important to get your ID right with these as there are plenty of lookalikes and some may be deadly like members of the galerina family. One last rather interesting effect of this fungi is that consumption can occasionally lead to wood lovers paralysis. Be warned!!

Psilocybe subaeruginosa found at about 600m

Psilocybe subaeruginosa found at about 600m

 

Maybe Craterellus aff. australis??

Australian Craterellus aff. australis

Australian Craterellus aff. australis

These Australian  Craterellus aff. australis are about as elusive as they get. It may be because their brown cap blends into the surroundings or that they are very small or that I’m just not looking in the right places. The other day I finally found a way to get to a creek line that I’ve been eyeing off for a few years now. It did not disappoint with some beautiful mossy forest and rocky waterfalls, what I would classify as a mushroomy spot. I found a few hedgehogs and some pink chants but had to leave without a proper look around. I got back there with a distinct gut feeling that the brown craterellus were about and sure enough I found them. Three of them to be precise.

Australian Cantharellus ‘brunneus’

Australian Craterellus aff. australis

I have found something similar one time before but it was up north and as I sleuth about trying to figure out what I have I’m becoming a bit less sure that they are the Cantharellus ‘brunneus’ from up north and I’m more thinking they are a creterellus sp possibly craterellus australis, this is mostly because they have a hollow stem and look slightly different to the ‘brunneus’ that others have found. Craterellus australis has a very limited presence on the interweb so its hard to compare them but I think the hollow stem and clumping rules out cantharellus. Perhaps I can get the spores examined under a microscope. The only decent reference I can find on craterellus australis is here. (in book two)

Australian Craterellus aff. australis

Australian Craterellus aff. australis

I went back to check my spot and further down stream we found a good patch of about 30 of them growing in the root system of a small watergum in sandy soil a few meters from the creek. This time they were forming tight clumps with a couple even slightly fussed at the base. The Mature ones are very conical with hollow stems.  I have decided not to eat this second collection and do a more careful description and dry them out, hopefully I can at least get the spores examined under a microscope.

Craterellus aff. australis

A two photo stack showing more detail of Craterellus aff. australis

 

Psilocybe Cubensis: Cubes or Gold tops

Australian psilocybe cubensis, Gold tops

Australian psilocybe cubensis, Gold tops

This post on psilocybe cubensis is for ID purposes only. Information on consuming this mushroom is not contained in this article and it should be noted that possession of this mushroom is illegal in Australia. When ever I mention that I’m interested in foraging for mushrooms I get a wink and a smile because people assume that I am out looking for gold tops, one of the most widespread and common magic mushrooms across the Tropical and Sub-tropical regions of the world. Truth is I rarely see this mushroom in the wild and it took many hours of sleuthing to find any at all to photograph for this post. Growing up on the north coast of NSW gold tops have always been part of the ‘folk lore’ of this region and something I’ve been aware of since child hood. In my day it was almost a rite of passage to go out hunting for these mushrooms. I’m not sure what todays youth think about picking these mushroom but it is a species that could be encountered when looking for edible species such as Macrolepiota dolichaula or Field Mushrooms and other agaricus species

Australian psilocybe cubensis, Gold tops

Australian psilocybe cubensis, Gold tops

Some key features of this mushroom: It (almost) always fruits on dung, particularly cow dung in grassy fields. It can be quite large, sometimes over 10 cm across and 15cm high. As you can see in the above photo they can also be very small. The cap starts out cinnamon brown and bell shaped before opening out into the more classic mushroom shape with a golden yellow umbo. It can have small white scales on the cap that are remnants of the veil. A long fibrous stem that will bruise blue when damaged. Its has a ring and a large floppy veil that can be quite dark when it is stained by the dark purple black spores. The gills start out creamy white then become grey before going dark grey or black. Cubes fruit in the warmer months after rain. They are more often found in paddocks that have not been intensively farmed and fertilized. There are some lookalikes such as Agaricus ‘gold umbo’ and agrocybe preacox. There are also a number of other mushrooms found growing in dung, and at least one other magic mushroom that stains blue, panaeolus cyanescens aka the blue meanie. These have similar characteristics but are much more slender and don’t have a ring on the stem. If you are reading this post because you or someone you know has eaten some psilocybe cubensis I can suggest you read this fact sheet and I will pass on the advice of well known American mycologist David Arora who writes: “In cases of accidental ingestion or a ‘bad trip’ the victim should be repeatedly assured that the effects are temporary. A factor to bear in mind is that transferring the person to an unfamiliar environment (such as a hospital) can be frightening and that sedatives may worsen the effects, especially if administered forcibly….Symptoms are similar to LSD. Shortly after ingestion and for a duration of several hours the “victim” experiences….elation or hilarity and hallucinations or delusions.” From Mushrooms Demystified. Over doses and deaths are very rare.  There is much more to be said about the history and traditions around this mushroom and its use recreationally and in medical trails but I will leave that to others to tell.

Brick Red Marasmius, an interesting species

 

A sub-tropical Australian Marasmius species

A sub-tropical Marasmius species

This species came to my attention last year when someone just to the south posted a photo on a facebook page. A couple of days later I found a small ring growing in grass near the coast. It checked all the boxes for marasmius, at least to my limited experience with the species. This year I have seen last seasons patch fruit again with a second ring near by. I have also found it growing in a second location, again in a ring on a lawn by the coast. With a white spore print, widely spaced gills, prominent umbo and a tough unbreakable stem it seems very close to marasmius oreades. The first DNA result came back as , 91% Marasmius occultatiformis (KF774161) but then a couple of days later Pablo sent thru a better result. 97.58% Marasmius aurantioferrugineus (MK278334), and other species of Marasmius, this last note opens up a wide list of possiblities. MK278334  looks like a species from South Korea. There are some photos of Marasmius aurantioferrugineus from Japan here and here. I have no idea if this species is edible but I am not aware of any toxic marasmius species. I have since heard of other reports of red marasmius in southern Queensland. QMS has listed two similar looking species but they have put them in the very closely related collybia genus. Collybia subdryophyla and Collybia alutacea though both these records are mushrooms that were found in mulch or leaf litter rather then grass. Another possibility is the Marasmius heinemannianus group tho these mushrooms are found in the northern hemisphere and seem to be smaller.

Australian sub-tropical red Marasmius species.

A sub-tropical Marasmius species

Amanita Muscaria The Fly Agaric

Amanita Muscaria The Fly Agaric

Amanita Muscaria The Fly Agaric

Amanita Muscaria is the most iconic of all fungi and it seems to be becoming more common in our area. The Fly agaric has most probably been introduced to Australia and grows most often in association with introduced pine trees. In pine plantations it can take over, displacing other edible species. While some say these mushrooms are edible after treatment and others still, say they are psychoactive. The majority of mushroom hunters consider them poisonous. Personally I have no interest in eating them and there are far better alternatives around for those wanting to take a trip. Still I find them note worthy and interesting so writing this post will give me an opportunity to delve a bit deeper into a mushroom that has shared a very long history with humans.

Amanita Muscaria The Fly Agaric

Amanita Muscaria The Fly Agaric, Note the yellow layer under the skin of the sliced cap.

Amanita muscaria has been used as an entheogen by indigenous peoples of Siberia and the Sami of northern Finland. Here they may have fed the mushrooms to reindeer in order to filter out some of the toxins before drinking their urine. It may have also been used by other peoples in Europe and Asia and by some Native American peoples. Today they are still used in the Carpathian Mountains of Ukraine as documented by hamiltons pharmacopeia. There is also a theory that the Vikings used fly agaric to trigger their berserker state before pillaging their way across northern Europe. There is not much evidence to this theory but it persists. One of the more bizarre aspects of Christmas may also have origins connected to amanita muscaria. Think of a plump man with a red and white hat, excessively jolly and flying thru the air being pulled in his sleigh by none other then a troop of reindeer! Its hard not to make a connection but there is folk history around this myth. A Book called The Sacred Mushroom and the Cross was written in the 1970s by John Allegro. In the book John reaches the conclusion that the New Testament’s main subject, Jesus Christ, is actually just a mushroom. Specifically, Jesus was an Amanita mascaria! This is just some of the interesting folk lore and history that surrounds this mushroom. Fans of mushroom groups on social media will have by now become familiar with images of animals eating this mushroom. Many of the local specimens I have seen have chew or peck marks in them. It may well be that animals enjoy the effects of the mushrooms so perhaps the Sami did not have too much trouble convincing the reindeer to detoxify their shrooms.

Amanita Muscaria The Fly Agaric

Australian Amanita Muscaria The Fly Agaric

Morrie over at Tall Trees and Mushrooms Has done a good post about detoxifying this mushroom for the table by boiling. This is a good idea as the main toxins in the mushroom are water soluble. The two main toxins are Ibotenic acid which is known to be a neurotoxin and Muscimol. These two compounds are closely related. Ibotenic acid is decarboxylated to muscimol during the boiling process with both compounds in theory being leached into the water. Anyone who is planning to eat this mushroom for the table or for its psychoactive effects would do well to carefully research the process before doing so. It is also possible that people have died from eating this mushroom. I recommend this article for anyone wanting to read more about the poisonings and experiences recorded around a. pantherina and a. muscaria. I will not be eating this one and will list it as poisonous. 

 

Australian Chanterelles: The Martin Martini Trifecta.

Australian smooth chanterelles, center Cantharellus concinnus, right Cantharellus viscosus

Martins trifecta: Left Australian smooth chanterelles, center Cantharellus concinnus, right Cantharellus viscosus

There are plenty of people around that like to forage mushrooms but only some have the ability to really find the goods and Martin is one of those rare people. A few years ago he lit up the mushroom pages with baskets full of chanterelles. In Australia this is not a common occurrence. Martins finds inspired awe and not just a little mushroom envy from the Aussie foraging community. This season Martin was kind enough to show me one of his spots where I picked the yellow and smooth chants for the first time. Martin gave me a few tips and a new perspective on what to look for and where to look for Australian chanterelles. Back home I put in the hours and after almost no success I finally found a tiny shriveled yellow chant. This pathetic dried out mushroom lead me to find one of the best mushroom patches I’ve ever come across, a patch with all three varieties in abundance!

Left cantharellus concinnus, center Australian smooth chanterelles, right cantharellus viscosus

Left cantharellus concinnus, center Australian smooth chanterelles, right cantharellus viscosus

FoQ lists five chant species but there are a few more species like these beauties from FNQ. There are also Gloeocantharellus species and even some false chanterelles maybe Gomphus sp. The only recent reference on Australian Cantharellus is only confident to list three species of the 14 type specimens looked at in the paper and says “In Australia the genus cantharellus is without doubt not restricted to these three species. More field studies are needed to document the diversity of the systematically and bio-geographically very interesting Australian mycoflora”. For example these Big fat smooth chanterelles are yet to be described in 2019! Any taxonomists out there wanting to get there teeth into something?

The big double smooth chant on the left weighed 135g! Bottom left are the yellow viscosus and bottom right are the orange concinnus.

The big double smooth chant on the left weighed 135g! Bottom left are the yellow viscosus and bottom right are the orange concinnus.

I guess the big question with these chants is how do they taste? The answer is probably somewhat disappointing at least with these three species. I find their taste pretty bland and very similar, the yellows and smooths have the best texture but the concinnus have the best flavour. I got a tip to dry fry them until well coloured then added a bit of olive oil and salt and they came out tasting pretty good. Unfortunately they are not as tasty as the northern hemispheres varieties. I also had a go at dry frying then pickling the large smooth chants and they also came out pretty good. Word is the yellow chants from FNQ are the best tasting ones we have. If I ever try some I will be sure to let you know. Martin is still finding the goods and not limiting himself to just chants, he regularly posts photos of his finds on Australian wild Mushroom Hunters.

 

 

 

Yellow Chanterelles

Yellow Chanterelles, Cantharellus viscosus

Yellow Chanterelles, Cantharellus viscosus

I have been on the hunt for Local Australian Chanterelles for a long while now without a great deal of success. Today I was walking round a park on the edge of a patch of native forest near the coast when I looked down and saw a tiny dry yellow mushroom, I was about to walk on when I decided I’d better check so I bent down and discovered dried out chanterelle! I searched the area without finding any more so I started to follow a bit of a track into the bush and finally found a ring of these illusive yellow chants. They were growing in clay soil on a flood plan of a coastal creek under some Lomandra with large brushbox, paper barks and casurinas growing over head. Cantharellus sp. are a mycorrhizal mushroom that form a relationship with a host tree. It seems that some Australian chants are not very fussy about the tree species. I have also seen these yellow chants growing with Black Butt and Flooded gum further north.

Australian Yellow Chanterelles, Cantharellus viscosus

Australian Yellow Chanterelles, Cantharellus viscosus

QMS calls a similar looking species Cantharellus viscosus Im not sure how they came to that conclusion but in the absence of any other reference I cant really come to a better name for these chanterelles. Australia has a lot of different chants and I’m not sure how much taxonomy has been done on them. This paper seems to suggest that much more work is needed. I will probably send away a sample for DNA sequencing but I doubt it will shed much light on this species. This species is uncommon locally but is more widespread to our north. They are eaten by some of the people who know about them. I fried some up in butter and found the texture good and the flavour mild but good. The smell of these mushrooms raw is slightly apricoty but not as strong as Cantharellus concinnus The apricot chanterelle.

_DSC0170

A chanterelle lookalike probably Multifurca stenophylla

I thought I would update this post with the above photo of a multifurcia sp. my partner found the other day. It was growing in some remnant coastal woodland in the roots of a big old black butt. Less then four meters away were some c. viscosus. At first I was sure this was a cantharellus sp. but I soon noticed that the gills were producing a white latex like some lactarius species do. The smell was also wrong for a chant. I was stumped but thankfully the facebook mushroom community was able to help with an ID. I don’t know if this species is poisonous but the latex is described as acrid so I don’t think I would want to try them, still the false gills are very similar to cantharellus so its certainly possible to mistake the two. Multifurca is closely related to lactarius and russula, its a rare and probably ancient species. The two links above have some more photos and info.