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 Mushrooms and interesting 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 twenty varieties of edible fungi in the area.

In Australia the eating of foraged mushrooms is regarded 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.

Identifying mushrooms is a learned skill, anyone who is prepared to spend the time can become competent and therefor safe. Without the required skills and knowledge mushroom foraging is risky and can result in misadventure, in fact the risks are real. Fortunately most mushrooms are benign and some are delicious. There is no standard test for mycotoxins, and many of the 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 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

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Slippery Jacks: Suillus luteus and granulatus

Slippery Jacks: Suillus luteus. Note the ring on the stem at center

Australian Slippery Jacks: Suillus luteus. Note the ring on the stem at center

Australia has a handful of suillus species, the most common in this area is suillus granulatus known as the weeping bolete. Suillus luteus or the slippery jack is also present but may be more common at higher elevations on the plateau. Both species have lots in common, they are introduced and grow with conifers, mostly pinus radiata and pinus pinea. They fruit in the cooler months. They have yellow pores that can be peeled off, browish caps again with peeling slimy skin and stems with fine granular dots. Light yellow flesh that does not stain blue. Very young fresh granulatus can have milky droplets on the pores and no ring on the stem. Luteus has a purple ring or band around the stem and often a darker reddish brown cap. QMS lists five species of suillus and they have a description of luteus and granulatus

Suillus granulatus the weeping bolete. Note the small white droplets on the middle mushroom

Suillus granulatus the weeping bolete. Note the small white droplets on the middle mushroom

Both species are edible, common and often found in large quantities. They are, however not considered excellent eating. As the names suggest they can be somewhat slimy and the flavour is pretty average. They also require peeling of the skin on the cap and of the pores, they can still be eaten without peeling them but its possible that they will cause some stomach upsets. They can be dehydrated and used later as stock or seasoning powder, and someone who is not to fussy and keen on free food would do well out of these species. I peel them and saute them with butter and a pinch of salt. if they are picked young in dryish weather they cook up ok. Raw or cooked the flavour is bland but the texture of fresh young caps is quite good. (I only ever chew and spit raw mushrooms, wild mushrooms should (almost) always be cooked) Since these mushrooms are known to cause gastric upsets in some people, I recommend only eating a small amount the first time and be mindful of enthusiastic sharing with friends who have never eaten them.

Calvatia rugosa

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Calvatia rugosa The yellow staining puffball

Calvatia rugosa is an uncommon puffball and the only one I am aware of that stains yellow both on the flesh and the skin its also known as calvatia ruboflava. Its found in North america and also Australia and probably plenty of other places. I found it for the first time the other day and thought I would have a look and see what its got going for it. According to at least one source its edible when young but I had also heard reports that it is unpleasant. When I broke it open the flesh quickly turned yellow with the most intense colour change on the sterile base.

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Calvatia rugosa, after a while the yellow fades on the sporemass but remains and intensify’s on the sterile base, the skin also stains when rubbed.

Calvatia rugosa is a small to medium sized puffball that can become quite wrinkled as it ages, its has a reddish skin made up of fine scales. The flesh is white but stains and bruises yellow, as does the skin. according to mushroom expert, the smell when young is not distinct but can become foul like rotting meat when mature, I did not wait to find out. The spore mass becomes orange brown to brown. This is such a unique puffball that i will not write a long description, QMS has one here. I decided to fry some up to have a taste, at first I thought it was burning very quickly but it was just turning bright orange!

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Calvatia rugosa turns orange when fried

I tried a small bit, the taste and texture was not unlike other puffballs I have tried. Thinking it was ok I had some more, this time it tasted quite bitter. I have never come across a colour change like that so I decided to boil some up to see if it would leach out in water. It did. A few days before we had been talking about mushroom dyes and this seemed like it could work, so I Left it to my more artistic partner to experiment with. She used some water colour paper and a scrap of cloth. Below are the results of a double soak. No additives were used and the colour seems quite stable. Its likely that the colour could be intensified with certain additives but we were impressed with the results. I did a search and only one mention of this fungi being used as a dye by anyone else (listed under calvatia ruboflava).

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Paper and cotton dyed with the mushroom broth.

Macrolepiota dolichaula

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Macrolepiota dolichaula This is the tall variation

Macrolepiota dolichaula or the white parasol is one of Australias most regal agarics as the photo above shows there are few fungi that are more pleasing to look at or more photogenic. They appear in paddocks and roadsides occasionally over summer then in great flushes in autumn, their tall white caps stand out against the green grass and they can be seen from kays away. While most folk call them toadstools and some death caps! These fungi are actually very closely related to the parasol mushroom, macrolepiota procera, known as a prime edible in Europe and the US. DNA studies have put m. dolichauala, m. procera and the other Australian macrolepiota clelandii in the same clade due to their genetic similarities. The best available scientific paper on Australian macrolepiota and chlorophyllum can be found here.

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Macrolepiota dolichaula with its skirt like movable ring

Most people, myself included struggle with the fact that Macrolepiota dolichaula is actually a really good edible mushroom. Fresh they have a spongy texture and a rather strong smell that just screams out ‘toadstool!’ but once they are cooked they become rather delicious. I must stress that it really is important to be sure of the ID of these mushrooms because they have quite a lot of unpleasant lookalikes that from my experience often grow nearby. The three most common lookalikes are Chlorophyllum molybdites, Chlorophyllum hortense and a few of the large white amanitas. Some of the key features on m. dolichaula are as follows, the large size and long stem, often twice as long as the diameter of the cap, Its hollow and fibrous, stains slightly brown with a large floppy and movable ‘double’ ring, the golden brown umbo and scales and the white gills and spore print. The snake like scales on the stem are not always present. I find two variations of m. dolichaula, one with a longer thin stem and much finer scales on the cap and stem and one that is shorter and stockier with more and larger scales on the cap and the snake skin pattern on the stem. I have sent away the two variations away to see is a there is a genetic difference as well. For a full description of Macrolepiota dolichaula.

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On the left is the stocky variation of m. dolichaula and on the right is chlorophylum molybidites

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On the left is the tall variation of m. dolichaula and on the right is chlorophylum molybidites

While I most often see this mushroom in cow paddocks and on roadsides I have also been finding it growing in coastal heath among native vegetation. Sometimes only a single mushroom, sometimes small groups and sometimes huge rings in the grass. M. dolichaula grows in India and through parts of Asia where it is eaten and some attempts have been made to cultivate it. There are only a few images from Asia and India and their version looks quite different to ours, perhaps the DNA analysis will shed some light onto their similarity but at this stage my assumption is that the local m. dolichaula is native to Australia and not introduced from Asia or the sub continent. This is a highly nutritious mushroom and well worth becoming familiar with.

Update: The DNA results are in, short stem, 99% Macrolepiota dolichaula (KP859148)  long stem 100% Macrolepiota dolichaula (KJ643334) The match was to a sample from Thailand.

Amanita marmorata the marbled death cap

In Australia Amanita phalloides known as the Death Cap has achieved almost legendary status and is rolled out almost yearly by the media for their annual ‘don’t eat wild mushrooms’ article. Something that is perhaps less know is that Amanita phalloides is just one member of a larger group of amanitas know as section phalloideae with well over 50 members world wide, some contain amatoxins like Amanita phalloides and are deadly poisonous while a few are actually edible! The rest are somewhere in the middle with more work needed to determine their toxicity. I have been wondering for a while now how many varieties from section phalloideae are found in Australia, then the other day I was introduced to one that has been fruiting at my local nature reserve.

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Amanita marmorata the marbled death cap

Amanita marmorata is a deadly poisonous member of section phalloideae that I have recently become acquainted with. Its not a common mushroom though I have found it a couple of times over the years but it was not until I came upon a facebook ID request about it, when a well known Canadian mycologist IDed the fungi in question I clicked on his link and quickly joined the dots. He later confirmed my mushroom as a. marmorata. I found it growing under coastal Casuarina with which it forms a mycorrhizal relationship. They have been fruiting regularly for some weeks and as I walk past them quite often I stop to have a look or take a photo. I brought one home and went thru the macroscopic traits, apart from the smell not matching the description it seems a good match (the smell may change with age). They are described as having a strong smell while my collection had almost no smell. Growing just a few meters away were some edible white agaricus mushrooms so it was entirely possible that someone (me) could have picked them along with a death cap or two for my lunch, luckily I don’t really like those little agaricus and I am usually quite diligent in checking my collections. It really made me realize the importance of being able to discern the different mushrooms to genus. Particularly the rather distinct amanita genus. The two links above have good descriptions of this mushroom.

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Amanita marmorata the marbled death cap

Eating death caps can lead to a rather drawn out and disturbing demise, if you make it through the first 48 hours a partial recovery may be made followed a few days later by kidney failure, sometimes the liver as well. Its estimated that just 30 grams of mushroom or 7mg of amatoxin is enough to kill an adult. Studies suggest the toxins are not absorbed through the skin so they can be safely handled without gloves, as can any other poisonous mushroom. I Have done a bit of research and so far, listed bellow, are the mushrooms from section Phalloideae that occur in Australia, this is not a full list and much more work can be done on Amanitas in Australia. There are also a number of deadly amanitas in south east Asia and china so its entirely possible that some of those occur here. For a full list of section Phalloideae follow this link. In Australia I can find only two that contain the deadly amatoxins.

Amanita marmorata the marbled death cap, known from many parts of Australia including NSW and Queensland and has been exported over seas. Deadly poisonous.

Amanita phalloides Is know from Canberra south into SA and Tasmania, its an introduced species often associated with oak trees. Deadly poisonous.

Amanita neomurina known from NSW and Queensland no information on toxicity.

Amanita austrophalloides Only know from a single collection with no information on location or toxicity

Amanita eucalypti Is known from WA, no information on toxicity

Amanita murinaster know from NSW and Queensland, unknown toxicity.

Amanita peltigera is known from WA and queensland No information on toxicity.

Agaricus aff. flocculosipes

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Agaricus aff. flocculosipes

I found these mushrooms for the first time the other day at one of my usual haunts. Agaricus aff. flocculosipes is a member of section arvensis and has only recently been ‘discovered’ in Thailand and now thanks to DNA has popped up in Australia. This mushroom looks very much like agaricus augustus so its probably just been lumped into that label up until now by Australian mycologists, assuming that anyone in Australia has actually looked at this species.

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Agaricus aff. flocculosipes, note the prominent floccules on the stipe!

One of the things that sets this fungi apart from augustus is the shaggy stem, these interesting woolly scales are known as floccules and as you can see even the large floppy ring and veil has the floccules on it. Agaricus aff. flocculosipes has brown scales on the cap which can be over 100mm across. The gills start out white before becoming light pink then eventually brown. These mushrooms were growing in the rain forest among native trees. They have a very delicate mushroomy smell with just a hint of almond or marzipan. The flavour is also delicate. I really enjoyed the flavour and texture of these mushrooms. There are some poisonous agaricus that look similar to these mushrooms, they are generally a bit smaller and often stain yellow in conjunction with an unpleasant smell. In fact when I found these there where some of the poisonous agaricus just a few meters away!

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Agaricus aff. flocculosipes

Update: I decided to get a sample sequenced. The DNA results are in as 99% Agaricus flocculosipes (MG270071).

A sever allergic reaction to a Rameria species

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The Rameria species involved in this case

The three most common types of mushroom poisoning are actual poisonings from a known toxin, like from the amatoxins in a death cap mushroom. Food poisoning from eating mushrooms that are too old, contaminated or simply from over consumption. The third is an allergic reaction the effects of which can range from a very mild to very severe. This in some ways can be the most frightening as sometimes a known edible can have a negative impact on an individual while leaving others unharmed. This is why it is recommended to never eat an unidentified mushroom or rely on an ID from a dubious source or person, to only eat cooked mushrooms and to always start slowly by eating just a bit the first time. This is risk minimization but there are no guarantees. Read on to hear of one such allergic reaction from eating raw coral fungi, this case happened locally a few years ago.

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The Rameria species involved in this case

On the 26/5/14 I poisoned myself with a species of Ramaria (Coral mushroom). This particular one grows quite prolifically on our property and after a bit of Googling, and chatting online to a couple of people I was assured it was an edible and delicious species. So I proceeded to collect a basket full and add them to the evening meal.

As I was picking them I broke off a small piece about the size of a peanut and ate it raw.
I took my haul inside and went about my daily business.

About an hour later I noticed I was feeling a bit irritable and itchy. I put this down to the beginning of a Shingles outbreak as this is the way it starts. It soon got worse and I began to be covered in small blister like spots. These were stating to get painful. I decided that it could be more than Shingles and didn’t cook the Ramaria. As the evening progressed my skin became full of blisters and felt itchy and painful at the same time. I took a cold shower to see if that would help but it seemed to make matter worse.

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The Rameria species involved in this case

I wasn’t feeling ill as in sick or nauseous so I decided to stick it out and not go to hospital but I did go to a medical centre the next morning. The doctor basically said I’ve had a massive allergic reaction and gave me antihistamines and basically said it will pass. My heart rate and pulse were fine. He actually thought the whole thing was rather funny.
To cut a long story short the next three weeks were hell. My skin became covered in tiny blisters and itched and hurt like mad. It did bring on an attack of Shingles as well which made matters worse. It was worse around my glands and warm bits so my armpits, groin, back of the neck and my fingers and toes were worse affected. The blisters continued for about a week then my skin peeled like a snake. I felt very irritated as I wasn’t getting much sleep. The whole experience was like a really bad case of Chicken pox and I ended up having two weeks off work. I now worn people not to even consider eating any Ramaria in Australia at all.

I have heard of some coral fungi being eaten in Victoria but I am unaware of what species these are and reports are very thin on the ground. There are no known species of native coral fungi that are known to be edible that is unlikely to change anytime soon. I am posting this story because its a local case and as far as I am aware its not published anywhere else. Jonas.

 

Summer Puffballs: Australian Calvatia species

Australian Calvatia aff. cyathiformis

Australian Calvatia aff. cyathiformis at different stages of growth, to the left is the sterile base after all the spores have dispersed.

The calvatia genus comprises most of the largest puff balls in the world and in my opinion the best edible puffballs in the country. Australia has a handful of different calvatia species that range from golf ball size up to softball or bigger, over 150 mm across. They start out white, with or without a sterile base, The species in the photo above has the sterile base. As the puffball matures it becomes larger and softer and begins to change colour as the spore mass matures. The colour they change to and that of the mature spores along with the presence or absence of the sterile base are the ways the different species are differentiated visually.

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Calvatia aff. cyathiformis found in January in a sports field.

I have been unsuccessful in properly identifying the calvatia puffball I have found this season, its a bit of a odd one out. Generally calvatia species fall into two categories the ones that turn yellow or red then brown, the spores do the same ending up a mustard to olive-brown colour at maturity or the ones that turn purple then brownish, the spores end up bright or dull purple. The species I Have found turns slightly yellow then dark brown and ends up with a grey slightly woolly spore mass. I have been unable to satisfy myself as to its true identity, Its closest to c. cyathiformis but I’m not really sure. Wikipedia list 58 species globally, I can find  good reference to about 9 species in Australia tho I am skeptical about a few of them. The species are  c. craniiformis,  c. lilacina, c. rugosa, c. fragilis, c. candida and the three I’m not so sure about c. gigantea,    c. fusca and c. olba. As you can see from some of the links the details are sometimes a bit thin on the ground! All of them should be edible while they are young with firm white flesh the main factor will be their palatability. Some species are reportedly bitter while others may have a slight laxative effect.

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Calvatia aff. cythiformis maturing and the fully mature cross section, (bottom right) note the spore mass at the top and sterile base bellow, there is a slight membrane between them.

These puffballs start out white and round on top, pear shaped with the sterile base. The skin is leathery with a lizard skin sort of pattern of cracks or scales, this will vary a bit depending on weather conditions. As they mature the fruit body swells and flattens out somewhat, they also develop some folds and wrinkles. The biggest one I have seen was about 120 mm across. At maturity the skin becomes dark brown and begins to flake off exposing a second thin layer with the grey spore mass showing thru in cracks. The sterile base is quite prominent but smaller then some other species, the mature tissue is quite woolly and brown. The spore mass starts out pure white before becoming grey and powdery, it seems to have a slight woolliness to it. There is a thin membrane between the base and spore mass. I find these growing in grass in parks and roadsides some times with poorer soils. I have seen one patch forming a large fairy ring. Fruiting over summer and into early Autumn. There are a range of smaller white puff balls that grow in similar areas the most common species are Vascellum partense and some bovista species, these are also edible tho not as good. There are also the lycoperdon puffballs that grow more often in forested areas. The calvatia tastes like egg or potato when sauteed in butter. They should only be eaten while they are young and firm before they reach their full size. Once mature care should be taken not to inhale there spore dust. To see more of my puffball photos click here.

Update: I have had a sample of the puff balls sequenced, the results came back as a 98 percent match for Calvatia fagilis, which was unexpected. In my opinion a 98 percent match could mean these are a different species so as always more work needs to be done. C. fragilis is very closely related to c. cythiformis so i will just leave my original ID as is. I have since had another sample sequenced, it came back as 98% Calvatia cyathiformis (MF686508)

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The calvatia on the left at the perfect age to eat. On the right is a large Vascellum partense, another more common lawn puffball.

Chlorophyllum molybdites: green-spored parasol

false parasol, green-spored parasol and vomiter

Some of the growth stages of Chlorophyllum molybdites aka the false parasol, green-spored parasol and the vomiter!

Chlorophyllum molybdites is one of the most common and widespread fungi in the warmer parts of the Australia. This mushroom is most often seen kicked to pieces, scattered across urban lawns and stomped onto roads. One of the most despised of all fungi and probably the cause of more mushroom poisonings then any other. Is there any redeeming features to this common toadstool or is it deserving of its fate, to be mowed to ground level then poisoned by the suburban lawn enthusiast, relegated to a blight on the emerald dream of a perfectly trimmed and manicured patch of turf, just that little bit greener and neater then those bastards across the street.

Chlorophyllum molybdites false parasol, green-spored parasol and vomiter

mature Chlorophyllum molybdites

While a chew then spit, taste test is considered safe enough for most fungi, it is generally a bad idea to swallow. Chlorophyllum molybdites if eaten raw can lead to a heroes journey, a trip to hell and back riding the porcelain bus all the way to the emergency ward. It won’t kill you but leads to severe gastrointestinal distress, vomiting, diarrhea, and colic. The symptoms can last from a few hours to a few days! In severe cases, an affected person may experience bloody diarrhea and hypovolemic shock (Berger and Guss 2005). I am unable to find what the exact toxin in this fungi is but it is probably a protein. Whatever the toxin is, it is worth noting that the effects can vary greatly from person to person and in mushrooms that grow in different climates and regions. The toxin seems to be affected by heat, and some say boiling the mushroom for 30 minutes can destroy the poison and make the mushroom edible. Cooking the mushroom will probably lessen the effects of the poisoning but is unlikely to completely prevent it. The mushroom is also likely to be toxic to dogs.

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Chlorophyllum molybdites and the classic green tinge on the gills.

This is not an easy mushroom to ID and is often mistaken for other edible fungi. It is not until the mushroom is mature that it gets the tell tale green gills, until that point the gills are white to cream sometimes with just a hint of grayish green. The mushroom looks and smells like it should be edible. The cap is convex, at first brown, as the mushroom expands the brown skin breaks into scales on a cream coloured second skin. At this stage it can be mistaken for the shaggy mane (Coprinus comatus). The cap expands into a classic mushroom shape before flattening out, covered with large or small brown scales.  At this stage it is easily confused with other Chlorophyllum and macrolepiota species. If the mushroom dries in the sun the cap becomes brown again. The fibrous stem is often quite short but can be quite long with a bulbous base, it has a double ring which is movable on the stem. the flesh is white but can stain red. the spore print can be almost white to an ugly olive green. Chlorophyllum molybdites is found growing in parks and lawns, on roadsides and in fields. It is found around human habitation. Another chorophyllum species that is most likely poisonous and occurs in the same habitats as c. molybdites is c. hortense, its a slightly smaller mushroom with a white spore print. The best available scientific paper on Australian macrolepiota and chlorophyllum can be found here. It is prudent for anyone interested in edible fungi to become familiar with these species.

Australian oyster mushrooms: Pleurotus species

Pleurotus australis, Pleurotus djamor var djamor, Pleurotus ostreatus

Perhaps  Pleurotus djamor var djamor growing on a dead bangalow palm in the rain forest.

I often find these small to medium oyster mushrooms growing on dead wood or wood chips, I also find this same species or a similar one growing deep in the rain forest on dead bangalow palms. This leads me to believe that its a native species as weeds and introduced species very rarely penetrate our pristine rain forests. If it is pleurotus ostreatus then its also possible that the variety on wood chips is feral. Either way the resemblance of the two? species is very clear. This is another one on the list to DNA as I guess its the best way to see if there is a genetic difference. Queensland mycological society has this or another similar species as Pleurotus djamor var djamor.

Australian oyster mushroom growing on wood chips.

Pleurotus sp. growing on wood chips at the north coast botanic garden. Interestingly the DNA results came back for this one as a pink oyster, a 100 percent match for Pleurotus salmoneo-stramineus.

It has taken me quite some time to become competent in telling the difference between pleurotus and the more common glowers, omphalotus nidiformus which are toxic to humans. Omphas have a woody stem often darker in colour, they also have colour on the top of the cap, ranging from yellow to purple, grey to black. They also glow in the dark. though sometimes the glow is very very faint and can only be seen in complete darkness. Because omphas have so many different morphs its easy, at least it was for me, to become convinced that the glower is an oyster. Once I ate some ompalotus nidiformus because I had decided it must be an oyster mushroom. Lucky for me my rule about only eating a small amount cooked came into play and I was only mildly affected. It was a good Lesson to learn and now I am more careful.

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detail of the decurrent gills and fine white fluffy hairs at the stem base.

The cap of these oyster mushrooms is white to grey or cream, its not viscid. The flesh is thin and rubbery, there is little if any stem and the gills are decurrent, often tho not always running all the way to the stem base where there is fine white fluffy hair, this stem base will readily regrow mycelium onto corrugated cardboard. The spores are white or cream. This pleurotus species is just one of a cluster of native and introduced species in Australia. I most often find these mushrooms in spring and summer.

Fried in oil with a pinch of salt these mushrooms taste great, they have a slightly chewy texture. These are also a mushroom that i have been able to regrow from stem butts. To have a look at all my oyster mushroom shots follow this link

 

Wine caps: stropharia rugosoannulata

Australian stropharia rugosoannulata

Australian stropharia rugosoannulata

Stropharia rugosoannulata has plenty of common names including the wine cap, king stropharia and the garden giant however many people just use SRA. This is a mushroom that lives with people, in many parts of the world, its a lover of wood chips and is probably becoming more common and widespread in Australia. Its one of the best edibles around and is easy to cultivate in outdoor patches as the name suggests it can be grown in the mulch of a garden and makes a fine companion to many veggies. Locally there are two species of stropharia that are edible, besides SRA there is a pure white variety. DNA was done on them both SRA came back a 100% match for the north american species while the white stropharia came back around 98% which probably makes it a different species . Their features and habitat are very similar.

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Detail of stropharia rugosoannulata buttons

This mushroom grows quick and like many mushrooms its best eaten while young and fresh at the button stage while the gills are still white or light grey, as the mushrooms mature they can get very large, the gills become a deep purple, almost black, the spores are the same colour. As you can see in the photos they have a very distinct cog like ring, this is probably one of the best ID features, however it can fall off as the mushroom matures. The cap colour is quite variable, it can be deep red or paler like in my shots, these ones almost have fine pink scales on the cap and as the mushrooms mature the cap becomes white or tan however they can still have that deep red cap when they are large. The cap is slightly sticky when young. The flesh is firm, thick and white. The stem is fibrous and not hollow. The base is somewhat bulbous but there is no volva. They grow in a wide range of habitats, mostly near people in wood chips. They will also fruit in gardens, compost piles, disturbed soil and uncommonly in aged cow dung.

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After three days the cap is over 180 mm across

There are a range of mushrooms that grow in similar conditions to SRA, beware of smaller mushrooms with red caps and always be sure to carefully ID your finds and be sure you have not picked any look a likes, multiple mushrooms species can fruit side by side particularly in wood chips. All these photos were taken in my garden, last season I found SRA fruiting in a massive pile of wood chips, I was able to clone them, make spawn then an outdoor patch using grain spawn and sugar cane mulch, less then six months later I give the patch a new layer of mulch, a week later mushrooms appeared.

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young fresh SRA

Sauted in butter with a little salt the texture and flavour are superb similar to button mushrooms but with a slight hint of potato. Any mushroom that grows around human habitation may have come in contact with toxic substances like herbicides or exhaust fumes. Its always worth considering the likelihood of contamination of the mushrooms before eating them. This is one I’m always on the lookout for. Its also a mushroom that will (hopefully) be a feature of my garden for years to come.