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.
While Marasmius oreades is fairly common in southern Australia I never expected it to show up in my neck of the woods. Facebook has certainly revolutionised the mushroom community and I find the mushroom pages a very useful tool for seeing what occurs where. The other day in the middle of summer after quite some rain the above photo was posted for an ID request from one of the villages in the New England table lands west of Coffs Harbour. I got up there for a look a day too late but there was lots of patches growing on the golf course. Some had been mowed while others had dried up. Still I had a bag saved for me so I was able to have a proper look and bring some home for a sample.
M. oreades is a highly regarded edible and is known for its strong pleasant mushroom flavour. Cooking these I was impressed by their good flavour and texture. There are a few key ID features with this fungi, one is their ability to rehydrate. They are such a thin and delicate mushroom so they dry out quickly but will spring back to life with rain. Personally I am a bit weary of eating older mushrooms so for me I would avoid these rehydrated mushrooms but some sources say they are still good. Another feature is the very tough stem, you can bend it in half and it will not snap, its probably best to discard the stem when cooking. They also have a white spore print and widley spaced gills that do not run down the stem. Their habitat is lawns and meadows and they seem to like well looked after grass. As such its probably worth considering where they are growing and what fertilizers or herbicides etc have been in use near by. Its also important to carefully ID these mushrooms because the lookalike list is very long and some are poisonous. The above features are a good guide to at least the main identifying features.
The Australian tylopilus balloui is not a single mushroom species but a group. You can see some of the other members of the group here or here. A mate of mine put me onto these, when I saw his photo I was immediately reminded of the north American balloui that features in the book 100 edible mushrooms by Michael Kuo. In the book Kuo is not impressed by this often bitter mushroom but none the less lists it as an edible. Its also listed as edible elsewhere. One source says the bitter taste can be cooked out, Kuo says that the bitterness varies from mushroom to mushroom. So far the couple that I have tried have been bitter both raw and cooked. The texture is good so perhaps with peeling and very through cooking it may be more palatable. Or perhaps its best left to the maggots that seem to enjoy this mushroom. I should note that in Australia there is a wide and noticeable difference in the mushrooms in this group and while mine look pretty close to the North American species with very similar characteristics many of the mushrooms in the above links are not such close matches. I will list it as an interesting species and not an edible. For my money its one of our most beautiful fungi so for that reason alone I will continue to watch for it in the hope of getting some more good shots.
Jsun from Mushroaming put me onto Pleurotus Tuber-regium more then a few years ago and to be honest I had just about given up ever finding them. This summer we have La nina in fine form and have had about half a meter of rain in the last month or so. Its early January so I thought it was worth checking a Hoop pine plantation not far from where I live. Its hot steamy weather and the mozzies are thick. walking thru tall eucalypt forest there is almost no mushrooms around but enter the 30 plus year old hoop pines and there are fungi, at least ten different types but the largest and most noticeable by far are the tuber-regium. Some must be over 20cm high, caps on some are over 150mm across. They are beautiful and elegant fungi. Digging around the tubers are quite small, between the size of a ping pong ball and a tennis ball, some are down about 5 to 10 cm but others are on the surface below the leaf litter. These are a tropical fungi that grow in many parts of the world, in east Africa they are used as food and medicine. With the caps and tubers being eaten. With such a wide distribution its likely that this is a species group rather then just one single species.
Australian Pleurotus tuber-regium
Edible eh, I’ve been here before. The caps remind me of Lentinus sajor caju in texture both cooked and uncooked. The flavour is not bad but there is a bitter after taste of the very young cap I try sauted. I expect that the larger caps may be quite chewy. In Africa they are sometimes cooked like meat in stews. It seems that the tuber is the more useful food but I find them very hard and dry. I fry some and boil some. The flavour is not terrible but they are not really palatable. They remind me of the texture of gyprock. In Africa the tubers are soaked for over 12 hours then ground into a paste. The past is used in a soup or mixed with corn flour and fried. Sounds good but I’m probably not the person to try this, if you do tho, please let me know how you go! In the link above they describe some of the medicinal uses for the fungi, they tell use it can treat small pox, heart problems, asthma and obesity some tribes even use it as one of the ingredients to embalm a dead body. This paper claims that P. tuber-regium can degrade polyethylene film. The mushroom also catches and eats soil nematodes. This is a really beautiful and interesting fungi but probably not a choice edible for many.
Hericium coralloides is not a common fungi and its a real treat to find it. Because its so uncommon I’ve been a bit reluctant to post about it. The secret is out now with the Australian species now being grown commercially introduced with national media. In my Part of Australia I have only found this fungi three times, all in rain forest near creeks. Twice in lowland rain forest at about 200m and one in Beech forest at about 800m. My best log would be fruiting prolifically on the few occasions that I would visit, sadly that log has most likely fallen victim to the 2019/20 bush fires.
When I first found this species I managed to clone it after many attempts, I never managed to fruit them but as you can see on the above photo they fruited on agar. This species and the closely related lions maine Hericium erinaceus have become very popular both as food and medicine with many dried supplements containing hercium. I fist tried lions main in Seattle about ten years ago, sliced, crumbed and fried it was a real treat. The Australia Hericium coralloides also tastes great, with a sweet crab like flavour. This is probably the only species found in Australia and very hard to mistake it with anything else. It grows on dead wood.
Today I was up the coast and stopped in a national park, at the beach was a large dead pandanus tree, I went and had a closer look and sure enough the tree was heavily ‘infected’ with the same pleurotus that I have now found in three different locations on the deadwood of pandanus. I have also seen them a bit on the mushroom pages so I thought I would do a post and share some photos.
Pleurotus djamor growing on pandanus
I got a bit excited about these a few years ago and got them sequenced the results are as follows: 99% Pleurotus djamor (EU424287), P. salmoneostramineus (AY265844). Australia has a whole bunch of these closely related small to medium white to pink oysters growing across many different habitats. I have already done a post on them here. This one that likes the local NSW pandanus species (p. tectorius) seems to be consistent in appearance. However there are a number of different oyster species both native and feral and about 30 species of pandanus found in Australia so this relationship is probably not limited to this one species of pleurotus. This oyster goes a bit brown as it dries out as you can see in the gills in the photo below. I tried some once and found it a bit bland. Other people have eaten them too.
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
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.
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 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
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
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
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.
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
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.
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
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!!
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 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
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.
A two photo stack showing more detail of Craterellus aff. australis