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.

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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.

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.

 

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.

Macrocybe crassa: A giant mystery solved?

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Probably Macrocybe crassa

I first found these mushrooms a few years back, a whole bunch of these fricken enormous clumps of mushrooms appeared in my neighbors pile of compost. Having never seen anything even close to these giant clumps before I was impressed and excited by the find but unable to get an ID that I was happy with, in my field guide the only genus that looked close was lylophyllum. Every year since they have fruited again over summer in the same spot, I would stop and admire them, take a few photos, take a few home, one time I even fried a few slices up just for a taste. They tasted pretty good but I spat them out unwilling to swallow a mushroom that I wasn’t able to ID.

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The second location I found Macrocybe crassa

Earlier this year (2017) we were driving around near Coramba and my partner said she saw some kinda big white mushroom, I turned around and found the second patch of these giants, they were growing from piles of soil mixed with gravel and organic matter that had been dumped by the road crew. Some of the clumps were rotten, others just emerging from the soil, over the back I found some with caps over 200 mm across standing over 300 mm above the ground, the biggest mushrooms I’ve ever seen. Not long after this I saw a post on the internet, local legend Darcey Browning from Darkwood had found his own patch and true to form, went straight to the press. He wasn’t having much luck IDing them either.

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Macrocybe crassa

Finally the other day I emailed my pictures to the Queensland mycological society and got a prompt reply from one of the head honchos, he said that he was 95 percent sure that they are Macrycybe crassa, and that he has found them in his own yard further north. Macrocybe crassa are eaten in some parts of Asia, most of the pictures and info I have found so far are from Thailand. There have also been a few attempts to cultivate them. Where to now with these novel giants? First i will send away a sample for dna analysis and if it comes back as Macrocybe crassa I will have a bit more of a taste next time I cross paths with these noble giants. I’m also keen to clone them and see if they can be domesticated. Stay tuned. To see my other m. crassa shots click here.

Update: My dna results are back for these guys, the sequence came back as a 99 percent match for Macrocybe gigantea, an edible species known from India and Pakistan where work has been done on cultivation of these fungi. Something of note with the genus macrocybe is that they can contain cyanide! Some sources say this can be cooked out while others say this is only partially true! Read more here and here.

Australian Macrocybe gigantea

M. gigantea from this season, same location as last year but the caps are darker in colour

I have just found some more fresh mushrooms this season, they are much darker this year, the caps are mocha in colour! Its interesting because in the same patch last year they were pale cream to white. Anyway finding some fresh ones has got me interested in cooking some but first I decided to look into this cyanide thing. I am by no means qualified to make any assessments about the toxicity of these fungi so I will just compile the facts from my research here in one place. In this study done in Japan Cyanide was tested for in 54 different types of fungi and at the top of the list, with by far the highest quantity was Tricholoma giganteum (macrocybe gigantea) at the level of 0.086-0.283 milligrams per gram. To give an idea the next highest was Grifola frondosa at 0.0018-0.046 mg/g. To compare with another source of cyanide, amygdalin found in apple seeds. One gram of finely crushed or chewed apple seeds may deliver up to 0.06-0.24 mg of cyanide, roughly the same amount as the m. gigantea. The above Japanese study also sought the type of cyanide which turned out to be free cyanide. The term free cyanide refers to the cyanide ion and hydrogen cyanide. Hydrogen cyanide is a colorless, extremely poisonous liquid that boils slightly above room temperature at 26°C. Hydrogen Cyanide has a faint, bitter, almond-like odor which I believe I can smell in the mushrooms. Hydrogen cyanide is considered one of the most hazardous forms of cyanide. While some say that the cyanide is removed by cooking the Japanese study concluded that the remaining percentage of the cyanide in T. giganteum after grilling for 6 minutes was 65%, while that after boiling for 3 minutes was 46% (27% in basidiomycetes (the fungi) and 19% in broth). The level of residual cyanide in T. giganteum after cooking might be sufficient to cause poisoning with symptoms such as vomiting. This is backed up by at least one case of non fatal poisoning from Macrocybe spectabilis in Hawaii. The reality is that the tiny quantity of Cyanide in the mushrooms and the fact that it is reduced by fifty percent in cooking shows that its highly unlikely to cause serious poisoning unless a very large quantity of poorly cooked mushrooms are eaten. For an 81 kg adult to become seriously ill, they would need to eat about 41-286 mg of cyanide. Thats between 350g and 9kg of mushroom! Still until more is known about this fungi is probably better not to eat it at all or if you do eat it, boil for at least 3 minutes before draining and frying and only eat a small amount.

 

lentinus sajor caju

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lentinus sajor caju

This tropical species is a distant relative of oyster mushrooms, it is often mistakenly called Pleurotus sajor-caju. Lentinus sajor caju Grows with Large leaf privet (ligustrum lucidum) in some of our lower sub tropical valleys. It is probably getting less common because privet is considered a weed and is targeted by landcare groups for eradication, so many areas of privet have been destroyed, however like most weeds it can still be found in abundance in places. I think the Coffs coast is getting near to the southern edge of the lentinus sajor caju range, the mushroom is probably more abundant further north. Having said that I know of at least one spot where they grow in abundance locally. Fruiting in the warm weather after rain on dead wood. I am not sure if they will fruit on other wood besides privet but it is likely. It is sometimes hard to ID a dead tree!

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lentinus sajor caju

These fungi taste pretty good, similar to regular oysters tho they become quite tough and leathery soon after they form so they are best picked while in the ‘button’ stage. My main concern with these mushrooms is that they may bio-accumulate herbicides like glyphosate if they are growing on a poisoned tree. This is often the case because Landcare groups target privet. Bio-accumulation is a process where the mushroom mycelium concentrates a toxin from the substrate in the fruit body. I really don’t know how much of a problem this is and its unlikely that any studies have been done. Some mushrooms are able to break down the toxins rather then concentrating them.

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Note the ring on the stem, picked at this stage the mushrooms are more tender but still chewy.

The persistent ring on the smooth stem, their abundance on dead private and the vase shape that often holds water are helpful things to look for when IDing these mushrooms, one other thing to look for with a microscope or magnifying glass is the serrated edge of the gill. This fungi can dry out in situ and remain on the log for months after fruiting. The leatheryness of this fungi means they have a long shelf life in tropical climates where more fleshy fungi would spoil quickly. They are cultivated in parts of Asia. They grow in tropical Africa too and may be more widespread. I suspect they have been introduced to this part of Australia. They are more common in FNQ and could have hitched a ride down from there. To see my other photos of lentinus sajor caju follow this link.

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lentinus sajor caju, don’t expect to see just one of these fungi when they fruit.

Pioppino: Agrocybe Aegerita

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The black poplar mushroom or Pioppino: Agrocybe Aegerita

Under a big old poplar (Populus Nigra) in a park this winter i found a whole bunch of black poplar mushrooms, Agrocybe Aegerita, some of which were huge, unfortunately the rain had got them and but for one or two they were all soggy and turning to mush. The Pioppino is considered a choice edible in Europe and is widely cultivated as a gourmet mushroom. I find it interesting that they grow with just a few varieties of trees like poplars and willows, but do not appear to be mycorrhizal. Its also fascinates me how they made it half way round the world, mushrooms are after all great travelers, hitching a ride in this case in the roots and soil of a poplar seedling, probably all they way from Europe. Perhaps they grew tired of the cold winters in their native clime.

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Agrocybe Aegerita

The mushroom caps of Agrocybe Aegerita are quite distinct, cream coloured margins with the rust brown flush in the center when young, they also have these interesting little dimples and folds that seem quite common in this species. They can get quite large, some of the specimens I found were more then 150mm across. They have long thin woody stems and light grey gills. The spores are tobacco brown. Fried in butter with a bit of salt the flavor and texture were excellent. I have cloned the wild specimens that I found and hopefully I can get them to fruit in the future. Agrocybe Aegerita are high on my list of quality edible fungi, if only I can find more Poplars!

In Australia we have a few species of Agrocybe mushrooms, Agrocybe parastica grows on some rain forest trees in the area though is not very common. The agrocybe praecox cluster is also present but again is not very common, I have only found one member growing on a grassy bank in my front yard. I have also found what looks like another agrocybe species, edibility unknown, growing at the north coast botanic gardens in Coffs Harbour. Photo below. Not all the members of the agrocybe family are edible and it can be hard to distinguish the different species. As Agrocybe Aegerita is found growing with poplars and willows it is reasonably easy to ID.

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Agrocybe species i found at the botanic gardens.

Cantharellus concinnus: The apricot chanterelle

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Cantharellus concinnus: The apricot chanterelle

We found these bright orange Cantharellus concinnus in the rain forest, near a stream growing in sandy soil under palms and water gums, basically where i find all the good mushrooms! Being a chef for about 14 years trained my nose well, when I picked one of these tiny mushrooms and gave it a sniff I almost swooned with pleasure. The smell is really something special, a rich mushroom meets apricot at sunset on a tropical shore kinda perfume. I’ve been looking for Chanterelles in Australia for years with no luck, finally this season I found heaps with my only complaint being that they are to bloody small to eat!!

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Cantharellus concinnus

Apart from the odor these fungi can be distinguished by their folds or fake gills. They look a bit more like forking veins then true gills. Locally we have a larger Smooth Chanterelle that has more potential as an edible, Australia also has a handful of other Chanterelle species and morphs that are larger then these tiny apricot chants. Some grow down south others in southern Queensland and FNQ so here’s hoping we find them locally. For more varieties check out the Mushroaming blog.

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A more successful harvest of Chanterelles from a few years ago, picked on an island in Finland!

Volvariella volvacea: The Paddy straw mushroom

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Volvariella volvacea

After driving past a massive pile of camphor laurel wood chips for more then a year I finally stopped to see just what the massive mushrooms that always seemed to be fruiting actually were. To my surprise they turned out to be the paddy straw mushroom, Volvariella volvacea, I was aware of them growing in southern Queensland but this was my first and so far only encounter with them locally. How exactly they got themselves established is anyone’s guess. They are the only edible fungi I have found that will grow on camphor chips to date. Paddy straw mushrooms are widely eaten in Asia and can be found in cans at most Asian food shops. They are canned because they do not have a long shelf life when fresh.

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Volvariella volvacea, best eaten at this ‘egg’ stage.

These mushrooms need to be carefully identified as some of the potentially deadly Amanita family also form in these volva sacks or eggs. Volvariella volvacea are saprobic, growing in wood chips, rich soil, compost and gardens. They grow in clusters starting out as a dark brown to almost black egg quickly shooting up to become a large supple mushroom. The gills start out very light pink almost white before darkening, the spore print is salmon pink. The amanita section that forms from a volva includes the infamous death cap so it is very important to know the difference, death caps grow with introduced trees, mostly oaks, they have a pale to olive green cap, white gills and a white spore print, they do not to my knowledge grow from wood chip piles or much further north then around Canberra.

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An Amanita species, not a death cap, at three stages of growth, starting from a volva sack

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Volvariella volvacea, pink to brown gills at maturity, pink spore print.

In the upper right corner of the Photo below are two mushrooms that are not Volvariella volvacea. They look superficially similar but they have white gills and do not grow from an egg. This is an important point because different species of mushroom often grow next to each other and can easily be picked along with the edible mushrooms. In this case I’m not a hundred percent sure what those two odd mushrooms are, they do look a lot like a lepiota species which means they could be poisonous. They may also be Leucoagaricus aff. americanus. Volvariella volvacea are only good to eat at the egg stage so here it should be easy to stay safe. As a general rule, I never eat a mushroom unless I am sure of its ID and I have verified it as best I can with multiple sources of quality information. if in doubt don’t eat them. Here I would google Volvariella volvacea and look at wikipedia, mushroomexpert and then do a google image search. That way I get multiple photos and written descriptions to compare.

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Volvariella volvacea with two mushrooms from a different species top right