Mushroom Foraging

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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

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.

A sub-tropical Australian 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.

Left 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.

Oudemansiella [xerula] Rooting shanks

Australian Oudemansiella [xerula]Rooting shanks

Oudemansiella [xerula]Rooting shanks

In Australia we have at least a couple of species of xeruloid mushrooms, the genera Oudemansiella or xerula is closely allied with Collybia and also marasmius. Most sources from overseas seem to say that the xerulas are non toxic and edible tho not choice. They are also considered Medicinal with some interesting properties and compounds. Tall Trees and Mushrooms has a good post and conversation on this species. I am mostly writing this post because I really like the above photo I snapped locally a few years ago, it also gives my an excuse to sample this mushroom and see how it tastes. Today I found a nice fresh patch next to a hedgerow up in the hills, the photo below.  Time to share my experience and learn some more about these tall slender fungi.

Australian Oudemansiella [xerula]Rooting shank

Oudemansiella [xerula]Rooting shank from near Lowanna NSW.

As you can see from the two photos there is a fair amount of difference in size and colour of both cap and stem, I’m not sure weather these are one or two species but they would be or be close to, Oudemansiella radicata var. australis which is also known as xerula gigaspora. I have seen this mushroom growing from a rotten log but most often its growing as above from the ground however the mushroom is most probably attached to some dead wood underground via its long ‘tap root’. The root is one of the most easy ways to ID this species so its worth while carefully digging the stem base out of the soil with a small tool or sturdy stick to see if its present. The above two photos illustrate the two different variations or species I find. In the top photo the caps is almost chocolate brown and the stem is also quite dark, these are normally bigger then the second photo where the cap is light brown or slightly grey and the stem is lighter in colour. The chocolate variation is normally found in native forest where as the light brown variation grows more along fence lines or near ‘hedge rows’ up in the hills. The chocolate variation looks similar to Oudemansiella radicata.

Australian Oudemansiella [xerula] showing some of the tap root.

Oudemansiella [xerula] showing some of the tap root. This collection is from lowland rainforest.

These fungi have a brown cap that feels a bit like velvet when dry and is a bit sticky when wet, the cap often has folds and dimples and can be up to 80mm across. The umbo is not always obvious but is sometimes present. The gills and spores are white and the gills are widely spaced and attached to the stem. It has a long stem without a ring. The stem is tough and fibrous. The stem can have snakeskin like markings. The stem base turns into a long taproot that is present when the mushroom is growing in the ground, it may not be present if the mushroom is growing directly from wood. Importantly the stem base is not bulbous and the is no volva sack present. This is a mushroom that is best left to the experienced because the list of lookalikes is long and some are potentially deadly. Amanita and lepiota species could be mistaken for this mushroom so as always be very sure of your ID and don’t be in a rush to cook them up! I’ve been finding xerulas for a few years now so I am pretty confident to have a crack. I removed the tough stem and fried the sliced cap up in some olive oil. They do not have a strong smell or taste but the texture is good and there is nothing unpleasant about them. I would eat them again but maybe a part of a sauce or a well flavoured recipe. Its worth noting that this mushroom may be a good bioaccumulator of heavy metals so should not be picked in polluted areas. Some of the other medicinal properties of the mushroom such as the Oudenone content should also be considered if you are thinking of making regular meals from this mushroom. The links in this article have more information and this one is a good overview.

Agaricus section Bitorques

Australian Agaricus section Bitorques

Agaricus section Bitorques? Note the cobwebby veil.

I’ve now found this interesting squat Australian agaricus in two locations and I’ve also got the above collection sequenced. The results came back as 98.55% match for an Agaricus sp. (JF797187) That was sequenced by a couple of Frenchmen but looks like it also came from Australia. I’m no expert but to my mind 98.5 is not close enough to be a match for this species buts its also close enough to be possible. Looking at Mushroaming I see that Jsun has found a similar looking agaricus in Tassie, see “Agaricus Field Tasmania” about a third of the way down the post. So if this is a wide spread mushroom in Australia then I guess it would be fair the expect some variation in genetics.

Australian Agaricus section Bitorques

Agaricus section Bitorques in situ, growing in compacted soil next to a road near the coast.

This agaricus has brown scales on the cap similar to a Swiss brown mushroom, it also has the same dense flesh, without any noticeable staining and a pleasant mushroomy smell. It looks very much like agaricus bitorquis but differs with a cobwebby veil similar to cortinarius. It also lacks the double ring of bitorquis. It does have a sheathlike upwards facing ring which fits with section bitorques. The second collection I’ve found was growing under large paperbark’s in grass near the coast, see below.

Australian Agaricus section Bitorques

Agaricus section Bitorques in situ, growing under paperbarks.

I have cooked up and eaten a small amount of this mushroom, it tasted very nice. Most sections of agaricus are non toxic with the exception of section xanthodermati also some of our native agaricus are probably poisonous with yellow staining and an unpleasant smell.

 

 

 

Leucoagaricus americanus the Reddening Lepiota

Leucoagaricus americanus the Reddening Lepiota

Australian Leucoagaricus americanus the Reddening Lepiota

I have not often found this mushroom but it at least occurs on the east coast of Australia. Leucoagaricus americanus or the Reddening Lepiota seems to have been bouncing around different genus for a while now synonyms include Lepiota americana and Macrolepiota americana and I have even seen it in agaricus. This is a mushroom that is most often found around gardens and wood chip piles near human habitation. I have found it in newly made garden beds mulched with wood chips, it fruits in the same place a few times a year. Most sources say that its edible but some do not and as is often the case its difficult to find a consensus. Its in the book ‘100 Edible Mushrooms’ by Michael Kuo who also owns the Mushroom Expert website although there are no references to edibility on his website post. Still if Mr Kuo (sometimes) says its edible and good then I can be happy with that.

Leucoagaricus americanus the Reddening Lepiota

Leucoagaricus americanus, Left is a fresh scratch, right are two older scratches and center is the green stain from cloudy ammonia

The reactions are quite interesting for this mushroom. Cutting the flesh gets a quick red colour change, while scratching the cap or stalk gets a quick yellow colour change that slowly turns orange then red then brown. I’m told a drop of KOH can also make a red colour change while a drop of ammonia gives a rapid green colour change. The list of lookalikes is very long for Leucoagaricus americanus but the above reactions are pretty unique to this mushroom so make it reasonably easy to ID. Having said that I don’t recommend eating this mushroom unless you have plenty of experience and are confident in identifying mushrooms. I’ve just fried some up and given it a chew, It smells rather bland but I found a quite sharp sour taste, a bit like sorrel. The flesh is thin and there is not a lot to get excited about when it come to eating this one.

Leucoagaricus americanus the Reddening Lepiota

Leucoagaricus americanus the Reddening Lepiota

 

The flowerpot parasol Leucocoprinus birnbaumii

The flowerpot parasol or Leucocoprinus birnbaumii

The flowerpot parasol or Leucocoprinus birnbaumii

The flowerpot parasol or Leucocoprinus birnbaumii is a very common weed fungi, often found growing from commercial potting mix but also in gardens and more inexplicable places around human habitation. I decided to write this post because the flowerpot parasol or FPP is reported to be mildly poisonous causing significant stomach problems. Its possible that the alkaloids in the fungi that cause the bright yellow colour also causes the stomach problems but more research would be needed. The alkaloids are called Birnbaumins and are more or less unique to this species of fungi. If the FPP is not eaten they are pretty harmless to the plant and to people. They are really quite pretty and a bit of a novelty. The FPP is very tenacious and difficult to get rid of so unless you are concerned about pets or children they are probably best left to their own devices.

The flowerpot parasol or Leucocoprinus birnbaumii

The flowerpot parasol or Leucocoprinus birnbaumii

I found these FPP growing in a batch of potting mix that I had put aside in a tote because it was such poor quality, it seemed to consist of barely decomposed saw dust which looked moldy but that mold I guess was actually the FPP mycelium. Its been hot and dry the last few weeks but none the less i looked down and was greeted by the rather pretty mushrooms in the top photo. The tote was absolutely chocked-full with more primordium but they have since dried out and aborted. The FPP likes this hot summer weather despite their very thin and fragile fruit bodies. The FPP is one of couple different species of similar yellow fungi and there are many other small white or cream fungi that look very similar and all of them are best avoided or at least not eaten. For more info on the FPP check out mushroom expert.

 

Agaricus ‘gold umbo’

agaricus ‘gold umbo’

Australian agaricus ‘gold umbo’ note the yellow staining on the left hand mushroom

I have been finding this medium sized agaricus mushroom in the area for a few years now, I am yet to get an ID that I am happy with. Earlier this year I sent a sample away for DNA but the results came back suggesting that it is an unsubscribed species or at least one that is yet to be sequenced. I have decided to write about it and post a few photos because it is one of my favorite local finds. This agaricus grows in the same areas as agaricus aff. campestris its a similar size and superficially looks very similar. There are a few differences tho. the cap is often slightly gold, and the cap and stem stain yellow gold when bruised. The mushroom has a sweet mushroomy almond anise smell. The gills start out white and only slowly become light pink before turning brown. This mushroom is so similar to a. campestris tho that it has probably been thought of as the same species by most foragers.

agaricus ‘gold umbo’

Australian agaricus ‘gold umbo’ there is some yellow staining on the two mushrooms on the right

This mushroom fits pretty well into section arvenses or section minores but it could also contain phenol and be part of section xanthodermati, the later is less likely. I have fried some up and it tasted really good, one of the best tasting agaricus I’ve had. The DNA results came back as 97% Agaricus purpurellus (KF447903) this is far from a match and suggests a new species or a known species that has not been sequenced. I have been unable to find a match from any of the Australian sources that I use. I have some more samples so I might get it sequenced a second time from a different location. I would like to get a herbarium to take samples but I am yet to find one.  I will update this post when I have something to add.

agaricus ‘gold umbo’

Australian agaricus ‘gold umbo’

 

Chlorophyllum hortense

Australian chlorophyllum hortense

Australian chlorophyllum hortense

Chlorophyllum hortense is the little brother of c. molybdites. Hortense is a smaller more dainty mushroom that grows in similar conditions and locations. Chlorophyllum hortense has a few Synonyms Leucoagaricus hortensis and lepiota hortensis it was transferred to chlorophyllum in 2002. The photo above is from this spring, after about 200 mm of rain in the last few weeks its been one of the best spring mushroom seasons in years. This patch is fruiting in a field in a large ring, the grass within the ring is twice as tall and much greener then the surrounds.

Australian chlorophyllum hortense

Australian chlorophyllum hortense, the red staining and movable ring are key features.

Chlorophyllum hortense looks very similar to a whole heap of different mushrooms from a number of different genus including lepiota, Leucoagaricus and leucocoprinus. There are a few main ways to ID this mushroom that I will now list: They have a long thin fibrous, hollow stem that stains red when bruised. They have a movable ring much like Macrolepiota species. They have a gold to yellow umbo (raised area in the center of the mushrooms cap) that breaks into scales that can wash off in the rain. The fruit bodies start out solid yellow then that layer of yellow skin breaks into pieces that become the concentric scales. They have white spores unlike Molybdites that has green. Check this blog for a more detailed description. The bright red staining is a giveaway with these, the other similar looking mushroom that stains the same way is Leucoagaricus americanus. Hortense has a (sub) tropical distribution similar to molybidites.

Australian chlorophyllum hortense

Australian chlorophyllum hortense

I can not find much info on these mushrooms, there are a few sources that say they are edible while most seem to say they are suspect. I don’t think they are worth experimenting with. A couple of papers are worth a look: This one is north american and this one is the only paper on the Australian collection of chlorophyllum and Macrolepiota species.