Mushroom Foraging

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Craterellus Cornucopioides, the Black Trumpet

Australian Edible Mushrooms and Fungi

This blog and the photos and fungi featured are found on Gumbaynggirr country in NE NSW. The Gumbaynggirr people are the traditional owners of this area and have never ceded sovereignty over their lands.

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

Ganoderma chalceum, an Australian reishi?

Australian Ganoderma chalceum

Australian Ganoderma chalceum

Ganoderma chalceum is a fungi that always reminds me of reishi, from the shiny lacquered top to the way it produces strange and varying shapes when fruiting. In NE NSW Australia this is a reasonably common species that seems to have quite specific requirements. I almost always find it growing on dead mountain oak logs, Allocasuarina torulosa (I think). It grows in moist forest or rain forest down by the creek. I thought I would delve into this fungi for my blog to see if I can show that it is indeed a close cousin to the reishi family. Since reishi is not just a single species and has a wide distribution I will start there.  Well actually I’m not sure if I can untangle the many species of ganoderma that people use for medicine and refer to as reishi. Ganoderma is a taxonomic mess of over 200 species many have multiple names or have ended up in questionable positions. Reishi or ganoderma lucidum and allies comprise a number of different species in the northern hemisphere, over ten different species. One in particular is worth noting here, the black stalked g. japonicum/sinense.

Australian Ganoderma chalceum

Australian Ganoderma chalceum

Ganoderma chalceum is better known as g. cupreum, an older name for (probably) the same species group. This paper suggests that g. cupreum is closely related to g. sinense but this link does not really prove that cupreum has any of the same medicinal properties as the well studied sinense. This paper examines Australian, Asian and African cupreum and its worth noting that at least one of the Australian samples was found on Allocasuarina. This also suggest that cupreum is a group rather then a single pantropic species. A close Australian relative to chalceum, Ganoderma steyaertanum is being sold as “Australian reishi” and touted as being a medicinal mushroom with the same properties as g. lucidum. I hope this is based on science and not assumption, my attempts to find out have so far been unsuccessful. However g. steyaertanum does seem to be genetically close to g. lucidum from Asia.  G. chalceum and g. steyaertanum are difficult to tell apart the latter being sometimes significantly larger. Its also worth noting that much of the literature on these two species is to do with them being pathogens of some tree and palm species. This key from QMS is kinda helpful and shows four “reishi like” ganoderma in SE QLD.

Australian Ganoderma chalceum

Australian Ganoderma chalceum

Well, after several hours of reading and searching I have not really got an answer. Its certainly possible that these Australian ganoderma have some or all of the properties of reishi but it seems to me that they would need to be studied more closely to really determine the truth. G. lucidium and allies have a huge number of potentially active compounds, over 100 polysaccharides and 119 triterpenoids along with many other unique compounds. If your interested in learning more about this its hard to top Paul Stamets book Mycelium Running. Its likely that consuming small quantities of these Australian species would be ok but even true reishi is not without possible side effects. Without some better information regarding the chemical makeup of these Aussie reishi’s I would be hesitant to take their extracts long term. This species is an open book and I hope to add more to this post in the future. These species would make a great topic for a PHD student or someone with the skills and equipment to properly examine them. If you have anything to add to this post I would be more than happy to hear from you in the comments or via email.

The Australian Native Shiitake: Lentinula Lateritia

Lentinula lateritia – the Australian native Shiitake

Lentinula lateritia – the Australian native Shiitake

The Australian Native Shiitake, Lentinula Lateritia should be a bucket list mushroom for anyone who is excited about eating our aussie fungi. Not a really common fungi but one that I come across almost every year. For whatever reason Its not until this spring that I was able to get some photos that show these fungi in their prime and at a number of different growth stages. The above photo was found in a proposed logging coupe at about 800m. This area is a volcanic feature in the landscape with rich red soil and mature rainforest. Growing on a small dead and fallen log I found about 30 mushrooms, the best of which can be seen above. I always find these fungi at altitudes above 200m generally on quite large dead logs in the rainforest and along creek lines. They seem to fruit in spring thru to autumn after a bit of a wet period. They may be found lower down and also during the winter. I have seen one photo of them growing on a dead banksia by the coast but I think this is rather uncommon. I also think that these fungi are mostly found in the subtropics from NE NSW north however I have not had a good look at their distribution, Wikipedia says they are also found in SE Asia.

Lentinula lateritia – the Australian native Shiitake

Lentinula lateritia – the Australian native Shiitake

These are quite a distinct mushroom and do not really have any close lookalikes but I guess it would be possible to confuse them as they sometimes fall into the little brown mushroom category many of which fruit on dead logs. The white gills and tough stout stem are pretty well unique to this species. They also have white scales or floccules on the cap margin and stem. The cap is variable in colour from brown to quite orange, spore print is white. Galarina species will fruit on large dead logs in similar habitat so thats something to be aware of. For a more detailed description check here.

Lentinula lateritia – the Australian native Shiitake

Lentinula lateritia – the Australian native Shiitake

These last two photos show older specimens that have been thru some rain. As far as edibility goes they are hard to beat, I love the slightly chewy texture and nutty flavour. They taste very much like true shiitake mushrooms from the super market. Some attempts have been made to cultivate this species but I am not aware of anyone who has been able to fruit them. I found them very slow on grain and I think I also tried them on sawdust spawn without great success, as with many wild cloned mushrooms that grow slow the contamination out competes, at least for me in my mouldy house. For someone with the skills this species could be a real winner for the gourmet mushroom market as I think they would probably grow better then true shiitake in the hotter parts of the country.

Lentinula lateritia

Lentinula lateritia, down around 200m but very soggy.

Cyttaria Septentrionalis, Antarctic Beech Orange

Australian Cyttaria septentrionalis

Australian Cyttaria septentrionalis

Cyttaria septentrionalis is an ascomycete fungi that parasitizes Antarctic beech nothofagus moorii. The Cyttaria genus is found growing on nothofagus species in Australia, New Zealand and South America, mainly in Patagonia. Cyttaria gunnii is the more common and well known Australian species that grows on myrtle beech, n. cuninghamii. “The genus Cyttaria provides an excellent example of a combination of Gondwanan origin and host specificity”

I first found these fungi a few years ago but have not found them in abundance until this spring when they were going nuts in the Beech forests around Dorrigo. Our local beech forests are some of the most extensive around and there are lots of beech growing across national parks, state forests and private property around Dorrigo and the New England area. While they are most common above 800m they are sometimes found growing down below 500m. It seems that c. septentrionalis fruit best in the springtime as I have spent a lot of time in the Beech forests in Autumn and never really found many. I have been keen to sample these fungi for some time so I took advantage of their abundance and picked some to eat.

Australian Cyttaria septentrionalis

Australian Cyttaria septentrionalis

These fungi have a long history of being eaten in Australia by Aboriginal people however they are not eaten very much anymore to my knowledge. It appears there are three options to consume these fungi. In the photo above you can see the jelly like interior of the balls. This can be eaten raw and is quite sweet in some accounts. I did not find the jelly very sweet or flavourful but it was not gross or unappetizing. The second option is to fry up the shells after eating or scoping out the jelly. I tried this also and found them to be ok. They became a bit soggy but the flavour and texture was decent. The third option which I did not try is to brew a slightly alcoholic beverage with the fungi. It seems that they harbour a good yeast and with their natural sweetness they will ferment. How exactly this should be done is not something I will comment on as I don’t really know much about brewing. It would be a cool experiment for someone who is knowledgeable and interested in exotic brews. With some other brews made by aboriginal people the flowers or fruit were soaked in a water filled carved out tree trunk to remove the nectar/sugar then the brew was allowed to ferment until deemed ready for consumption. This is certainly a fascinating and probably not well known aspect of Indigenous culture in Australia.

Australian Cyttaria septentrionalis

Australian Cyttaria septentrionalis

Some notes on edibility from my limited experience: Eating uncooked wild mushrooms is generally a bad idea. This is a rare exception and to avoid food poisoning I think it is worth being quite selective and only eating young, fresh and clean fungi. If there is a fermented or suspect smell or look to the jelly I would be inclined to give it a miss. One that I opened where I think it was past its prime let out a very wet fart as the gas escaped. My guess would be if its flatulent forget it. Once the holes on the outside open up the spores are becoming mature and while they may still be edible I would probably avoid eating them at this stage. Its also worth remembering that fungi are protected in national parks and hefty fines apply for foraging in protected areas.

Australian Autumn Yellow Morels

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Australian Morels are not a common find but we have a bunch of species of black and yellow morels. The Morchella esculenta group is quite a large closely related family of yellow morels with m. esculenta found only in Europe and China.  However in the past Esculenta was used as a generic name for yellow morels but with advances in DNA analysis esculenta has been broken up into a number of species. I have already written about a yellow morel I found locally And truth be told this new lot looks very similar, the only real difference is the season. The first lot I found fruit in spring but this year the autumn yellow morels have had a bumper year fruiting from the Hunter north into Queensland. The above photo was from a suburban front yard not far from where I live. The back of the house has native bushland but these were in the front yards under a stand of palms and some other native landscape trees.

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A French Morel expert thinks these yellow morels are Morchella galilaea or close. This is a species known to fruit in Autumn and that has been confirmed in NZ and Java along with a number of other countries. I have two samples that I will be sending to get sequenced and I will try to find out if anyone else has looked at the Aussie ones. I’ve had my first find from a few years ago sequenced and they are not a close match to galilaea. I was lucky enough to have this patch shown to me and the man who did told me that they were a fine and tasty treat. I did not pick enough to taste, just a couple for science. I will update this post if I can find out more.

Mycena chlorophos

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Glowing mushrooms are always a hit, in my part of Australia we have two common species, omphalotus nidiformis and mycena chlorophos. With a wide distribution across the Asia pacific mycena chlorophos is well known and appreciated by many. These fungi are common in rainforest and many other forests and gardens across the eastern parts of Australia. I was out spotlighting the other night when I came to a mushroomy sort of spot so I turned off the light and got just the slightest glimpse of a tiny glow in the undergrowth. Honing in on the spot under a large clump of native ferns I found the above four mushrooms growing on a piece of dead wood. To get the above image I used a tripod and a long exposure setting on the camera. While taking the shots a couple of times the flash went off so I was able to get the same image below which is nice as it shows what the mushrooms would look like during the day.

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I the obvious question is why do they glow? and the answer is not so easy but the most probable reason is around spore dispersal. Most fungi have some kind of strategy to get their seeds spread far and wide. Puff balls create vast quantities of spores that can puff out and drift away on the air currents. Morels are delicious so the picker becomes the seed distributer. In the case of glowing mushrooms many insects are attracted by light so its likely that the small critters feasting on the mushroom are also helping to spread the spores. Since this is a blog about edible fungi I guess I should try to answer the question that is so often asked when a mushroom is encountered; Can I eat it? The short answer is no. Omphalotus can look much like oyster mushrooms so I can understand why people would want to eat them in fact I’ve done it myself (omphalotus are poisonous for the record and I only ate a small bit, don’t worry I’m fine!) mycena chlorophos are tiny so it would be a waste of time to try to eat them and they are probably slightly poisonous too. I have heard a story perhaps an urban legend of a fella who while already intoxicated decided it would be a good idea to eat the glowing shrooms, needless to say he ended up quite ill but we may never know if it was the mushrooms. One last interesting fact that applies more broadly to glowing mushrooms and may not always be the case. They don’t glow during the day but only during the dark hours. This is probably a strategy to conserve energy. I have found what I thought were glowing mycena during the day and put them inside my shirt in the dark only to be disappointed by the absence of any glow. So if your after glowing fungi head out at night. 

Is it Cantharellus ‘brunneus’

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Last year I was on the hunt for these and when I thought I found them they turned out to be something else. This year its almost been too wet for fungi if that is even possible. Anyway they other day we were walking thru the Gumbaynggirr National Park when one of my sharp eyed companions spotted this single chant right between two massive old Brush box tree at about 700m. We got a few photos but since its a protected area we did not do much else and moved on to view more giant brushbox and even bigger giant stinging trees down bellow.

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These first came to my attention when the ‘Chant whisperer’ found them up near Mullum, he found a few also under brushbox and said they were delicious…He thinks they are Cantharellus Brunneus  But even this description is pretty tentative. They almost never show up on the facebook mushroom pages however I am aware of a few other sightings. Still if you find them I think it would been kind to treat them as rare and be respectful about harvesting any. With the growing interest in edible mushrooms in Australia perhaps someone will be inspired to take a closer look at aussie chants, It would be a worthy project for sure. Australia seems to have a number of rare and cryptic species of cantharellus and its safe to say that many are still undescribed and not in the literature, even the more common ones are not well studied.

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Marasmius Oreades

Marasmius oreades

Marasmius oreades

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.

Marasmius oreades

Marasmius oreades

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.

Australian tylopilus balloui group

Australian tylopilus balloui

Australian tylopilus balloui

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. 

Australian tylopilus balloui

Australian tylopilus balloui

Australian Pleurotus tuber-regium

Australian Pleurotus tuber-regium

Australian Pleurotus tuber-regium

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

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.

Australian Hericium coralloides

Australian Hericium coralloides

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.

Australian Hericium coralloides

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.