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.

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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).

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.

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

 

Cloud ears, jelly ears and wood ears. Auricularia fungi

Auricularia auricula-judae, Auricularia delicata and Auricularia cornea

Auricularia auricula-judae, Auricularia cornea and Auricularia delicata. Wood ear, cloud ear and jelly ear. Names are in order.

I have been spotting Auricularia fungi for years now but have never found the desire to eat them. They are however eaten with gusto in parts of Asia, at least a. cornea/ polytricha and a. auricula-judae. In fact they were an early export from Australia to China back in the 19th century. I am writing this because I find at least four distinct species of Auricularia locally and I think they are worthy of a mention even if they are about as appetizing as a fresh shucked sea urchin (I can still vividly remember gagging). I will admit that myself along with most of the internet are a bit handicapped when it comes to putting the different species in the correct box, my IDs are best guesses and could probably be improved on. The fact that these fungi fruit freely and often make them one of the most commonly seen edibles in this area. Perhaps after a sample I will become a convert, readily pontificating their health benefits (and mouth feel) to anyone who’ll listen. stranger things have happened. To the pan Jonas!! **groan**

Wood ear, auricularia auricula-judae

Wood ear, auricularia auricula-judae

First to hit the pan is the classic wood ear, auricularia auricula-judae. Fried on oil with a pinch of salt does little to improve the visual appeal, the smell is not to bad. The flavour is subtle but that mouth feel…ummmazing. The texture is half crispy half rubbery, if it was mixed in with other mushrooms and a decent sauce I might even eat it again. The Queensland Mycological society breaks this fungi into two separate species, looking at photos and books its difficult to come to any conclusions about  exactly whats what, Wikipedia lists  thirty species of auricularia globally so its easy to see how subtle differences are missed, they can be found with patience and a microscope, things I sadly lack. In China auricularia auricula-judae and the similar A. polytricha are a very popular fungi, over 1.5 million tonnes are grown annually, they have been cultivated for over 1000 years. They are eaten in soups for their texture and health benefits, its said they help with colds and fevers by reducing the heat in the body. Modern scientific studies show anticoagulant and antitumour properties in the fungi. They are eaten in many other parts of the world, the wikipedia article is worth a look for further information.

Cloud ear or hairy wood ear. Auricularia cornea

Cloud ear or hairy wood ear. Auricularia aff. cornea

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The second type of Cloud ear or hairy wood ear. Auricularia aff. polytricha

Next to meet my taste buds is a. cornea, these are similar but with more crunch, kinda reminds me of celery. These may in be the Auricularia polytricha mentioned above, at least they look the same, and the texture description matches. Qldfungi.org.au calls them a. cornea which is good enough for me, again there may be two species of hairy wood ear. I often find this fungus growing on dead tobacco bush (solanum mauritianum) Note the fine white hairs along the margin of the caps.

Auricularia aff. delicata, jelly ear

Auricularia aff. delicata, jelly ear

I can not find much information on the edibility of a. delicata, so I’m not going to recommend it as an edible but for the record I have fried some up and given it a chew, a very small piece. Its is similar to the others tho its thicker and more gelatinous. Think of a gummy bear sandwiched between two layers of cardboard. Qldfungi tells me there are two species or at least variations of a. delicata in Queensland. I have found at least four variation of this species, the colour along with other features tends to be very changeable. Some are almost white while others are rich brown. The colour also changes as they age, they tend to bleach out becoming paler, they can also swell after wet weather. Again it will take patience and a microscope to figure it all out. DNA would be another option tho some tests seem to support variations rather then multiple species. Above and bellow, the photos show a big difference in appearance, the specimens bellow are some of the best I have seen, with a slight hairy top and fine white hairs along the margin similar to a. cornea. Also note how different these two photos are to the sample of a. delicata in the right of the photo at the top of this post. All three photos are of fresh young fungi before they have become bleached or otherwise effected by the environment.

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Auricularia aff. delicata a hairy jelly ear

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Pelictania camylospora, a possible look alike.

There are a range of cup fungi mostly in the genus peziza and jelly fungi in the genus tremella that could possibly be confused with Auricularia species, so as always please be cautious and diligent with ID. Never eat a fungi without a positive ID and only eat a small amount the first time. I have put a bunch more Auricularia photos on Flickr including another freakish member of the Auricularia delicata clan.

Polyporus squamosus The Dryads saddle

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Polyporus squamosus The Dryads saddle

The dryads saddle or Pheasant Back mushroom is one I’ve become familiar with from overseas mushroom groups on social media but is not a mushroom I expected to find in Australia, that was until the other day when we saw a giant cluster of fungi about 15 meters off the ground in a big old ficus, they were too high to climb to so instead I looked down and sure enough found some more growing on dead wood from the fig on the ground. We found these in mid October after good rain. Many reports say that these fungi fruit in the spring.

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The Australian p. squamosus on a dead branch in a Morten bay fig

This is one of the rare polypores that is soft enough to be palatable. Most polypores are so woody or leathery that they are inedible even if they are not necessarily toxic to humans, they can however be used in other ways, teas, tinctures, extracts, dyes, felt and tinder can all be made from certain polypores or bracket fungi. Another edible polypore is chicken of the woods. The Australian p. squamosus differs from the northern hemisphere variety in that the brown scales on the cap surface are much smoother and less defined. The Australian variant has a pleasant if slightly mealy odor, is soft and supple to the touch and has quite spongy pores underneath. A more detailed description can be found here. As far as I remember this is the only location that i have noticed this fungi, I suspect that this is a sub tropical species that may be more common further north, it is also a type of fungi that until recently I would have not paid much attention to.

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A young fresh dryads saddle

The species in my field guide that could be mistaken for P. squamosus is neolentiporus maculitissimus but I am unable to find much info on them. They look much more leathery and they have larger pores then the dryads saddle. The young fresh caps of P. squamosus are considered edible but not great in the books I have. Its generally accepted that polypores are quite safe and unlikely to cause poisonings but as with all generalizations this is not quite correct. There are bracket fungi that can cause illness , this is just one example. As always proceed with caution, ID carefully, don’t accept folk lore or generalizations and do your own research before eating a new fungi. Having satisfied my brain, I fried up a few slices, cooking well with some oil and salt. I found the taste and texture appealing and not at all rubbery, in fact they were tender. As it was my first time eating this mushroom I only ate two small pieces. This is a fungi that I will be on the lookout for in future.

The Hedgehog Mushroom: Hydnum Repandum

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The Hedgehog Mushroom: Hydnum Repandum

This is another great edible that is annoyingly uncommon. It is a mycorrhizal fungi that grows with some native eucalypts, so when found it should reappear every season as long as the host tree survives. I have only found them growing twice in the Autumn, both times it was in mixed eucalypt woodlands on a ridge. With the distinctive spikes instead of gills or pores these mushrooms are hard to mistake. The caps are meaty and brittle. The spines are also brittle, they have a mild pleasant smell and a great taste and texture when sauteed. Spines are not altogether uncommon in the fungi kingdom, several other fungi that are not edible could be mistaken for Hydnum Repandum, I have seen small black capped Phellodon niger as well as an unidentified white bracket fungi with spines. I have also heard of, but never found, an edible brown morph of Hydnum Repandum. If you find Hydnum Repandum mark the date and check back the following year. I rate these as one of the better edible mushrooms around.

Lycoperdon Puff Balls

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Lycoperdon Pyriforme growing with introduced pines

Lycoperdon Pyriforme and Lycoperdon Perlatum

Puff balls are quite common in the area, with one of the larger genus being lycoperdon. Lycoperdon puff balls can be distinguished by their upside down pear shape and the fine spines that cover their surface. The spines get darker as the fruit ages and can be rubbed off. They are safe to eat while they are young and fresh, its good to check the firmness of the fruit before picking. Slice them in half, the flesh should be firm and pure white. They start to go soft as the spore mass matures and edibility quickly declines. Never eat them after the flesh changes colour to yellow or brown and be careful of breathing the spore dust once they are fully mature.

Most white fleshed puff balls are considered safe to eat while young. Puff balls that have dark flesh should not be eaten, most of the ones I see have black flesh and don’t smell very appetizing. Its also important to remember that some mushrooms and stink horns start out as eggs that can look exactly like a puffball. Slicing them in half will show the mushroom to be or the dark gelatinous interior of the often bizarre stink horn. Many mushroom in the genus Amanita start out as volva eggs and some can be deadly including the infamous death camp, amanita phalloides.

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Lycoperdon Perlatum growing in native forest

I am not a huge fan of the flavour of cooked lycoperdon puff balls, I have tried both species fried in butter with a little salt, they are not bad just not great either. However like most new foods an appreciation may develop over time or with the right recipe. To see all my puffball photos follow this link.

 

The Horn of Plenty: Craterellus Cornucopioides

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Craterellus Cornucopioides, black trumpets or the horn of plenty

Craterellus Cornucopioides: black trumpets or the horn of plenty

This Autumn I found my first and probably only patch of Black trumpets, Craterellus Cornucopioides or Craterellus australis. They were fruiting on a river bank in sand and gravel under water gums, Tristaniopsis sp. (I think). They had popped up after a wet period and a small flood had submerged the area. They fruited well for about a month. Black trumpets are right up there with morels and chanterelles as one of the worlds best gourmet mushrooms. freshly picked they smell amazing, fried in butter they taste even better. They can also be found growing with Antarctic beech or under Casuarina sp. and are usually associated with moss.

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The horn of plenty!

The problem with these guys is that they are almost impossible to see, they blend in with their surroundings and are easy to walk past. As someone who knows this I walk slowly scanning the ground in front of me for any signs of fungi stopping to look closer at any prime habitat. To most people this seems crazy. Having a camera and taking shots of my finds means that I can keep a record for future reference and I don’t need to take the fungi away from their home. It also gives purpose to the slow wanderings thru the bush! I say all this because anyone who is serious about finding this fungi will need luck, time and commitment on their side! Bonne Chance!

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Update: I have found these beauties growing in the same location this season. Patch for life?