Christmas Bells

Christmas Bells
Christmas Bells - Blandfordia nobilis

Monday, April 27, 2009

Fun Fungi of Robertson.

The fun fungi of Robertson are bursting out of the ground. Hardly surprising, with the moisture we have received recently. This is a large post, for reasons of the importance of knowing what you are dealing with, when considering Fungi.

The first thing to understand about all "fungi" is that the distinction between "Mushrooms" and "Toadstools" is totally arbitrary.
If you touch them or wish to eat them, then the responsibility rests with you.
Know what you are doing, or else be content to buy your "mushrooms" from a Green-grocer.

I stress that the first group of these fungi are "fun" ONLY in the sense that everybody loves to SEE them, but they are DEFINITELY NOT SAFE TO EAT (unless prepared by experts). These are the so-called "Fairy Toadstools" (Amanita muscaria). These are also called "Fly Agaric".
A perfectly formed "Fairy Toadstool"
The stuff of fairy tales, and post cards and children's books.
Here is a mature specimen, with the white stem "ring" and white gills visible.
This shot shows a 62mm camera lens cap (2 3/4 inches) for scale.
Note the white flecks on the cap, which are the remains of the "veil" which originally covered the entire fungus fruiting body, prior to it emerging from the soil.

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The rest of these fungi are safe to consider as potential meals. Mind you, it pays to know what you are doing and to have a good recipe. I cannot advise you personally on that (I do like Field Mushrooms pan-fried in butter), but I can say that these next fungi are all considered edible.

However, I have to add a caveat - which is that if you propose to eat fungi which you gather, the onus of responsibility for identifying what you have in your hand (or your saucepan) rests with you.

I am confident of what I see, and identify. But what you find might be ever so slightly different, and ever so potentially dangerous. If you know someone of European background, with experience of European Mushrooms (which all of these are), then talk to that person about any fungi which you find growing wild.

There are some seriously dangerous fungi out there.

Canberra, and Melbourne are notorious for dangerous fungi, which grow there, because of all those introduced trees. One of the tricks is to identify the host plants with which the fungi are growing. White fungi growing near Oak trees are especially suspect, as the Death Cap Toadstool commonly grows in Canberra, and the Melbourne region, usually near American Oaks, especially Pin Oaks.

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Here is a collection of three species of edible fungi found commonly in the Southern Highlands of NSW. Their varying size, colour and form make an attractive display.The first of these species (below) is easily recognised by its characteristic slipperiness - which earns it the name: "Slippery Jack". You can see how wet and shiny these very fresh specimens are. Even though it had been raining, the slipperiness was noticeable only on this species, not the Amanitas or Lactarius which were growing beside them, under the same Pine Trees.

Its scientific name is Suillus granulatus.
There is another very similar species, Suillus luteus, but that fungus (which I have not found in the Southern Highlands), apparently has a distinctive veil when just opening, and once the cap has opened, that veil leaves a remnant ring on its stem. My specimen does not have that 'ring" - and the absence of a "ring" on the stem of this "bolete" is distinctive. Look at Gaye's image of the other species, on the link above to see what I mean.

In the Southern Highlands of NSW, the true Slippery Jack grows commonly in association with Pine trees, typically Pinus radiata.Like all classical "Bolete" fungi, the "Slippery Jack" has "pores" not "gills".
From underneath, they look like a sponge.
I have broken away a small section to show the little vertical tubes which form the"pores".
Click to enlarge the image.
The next of the edible "exotic" mushrooms is commonly known as the "Pine Mushroom", even though the preceding species also grows almost exclusively in association with Pinus radiata (in the Southern Highlands of NSW).

This is Lactarius deliciosus, or the "Saffron Cap". This is a gilled fungus - immediately making it distinguishable from the previous one, which had pores.

This fungus is regarded by Australians of northern or eastern European background as something of a delicacy. Personally, I just love its colour. As this fungus opens, it tends to form a flattish surface, with a slight depression in the middle.

You can see the hollow in the centre of the cap of this next image. It is an older specimen which has been "scraped" by slugs or snails, which obviously love these fungi.
From underneath, its identity is immediately obvious.When seen from underneath, the Saffron Cap has a distinctive spotted stem, and the diagnostic feature is the way the cap, if broken, reveals the bright orange interior colour. Click to enlarge the image.

Most readers will recognise this as the familiar Field Mushroom (Agaricus campestris).
It is a young specimen, freshly opened, with the pinkish-fawn tones in its gills.
Kindly note the disclaimer issued by the WA Dept of Agriculture on that Website linked above.
Here is the top of another Field Mushroom - same species, just a more mature specimen.

Note the skin on the cap which peels easily.
This is NOT a diagnostic feature between '"Safe" Mushrooms and toxic ones
- despite what you might have been told.
"Peelability" is a positive indicator of this species, but it is NOT a diagnostic feature, in itself.
Other poisonous species of gilled fungi also peel easily. Look for gill colour, and for any discolouration when the gills are bruised.
Even apparently safe-looking "Mushrooms" with strong "chemical" odours are to be avoided. Some dangerous ones smell like "safe mushrooms".
Ultimately, identification of "Field Mushrooms" must be carefully judged on a number of factors.
Refer back to that W.A. site linked above.

Here is the same specimen, viewed from below. This is a typical mature Field Mushroom. The pink gills age to this dark blackish-brown colour. Mushrooms like this are sold in Green-grocers shops as "flats" (as distinct from the smaller"button mushrooms"). The difference between them is simply a matter of maturity (stage of development at which it was picked).
My view is, never eat any Fungus if you have any doubt at all about its identity.


mick said...

This is definitely a very specialized field of knowledge and I enjoyed your post about it. I don't know enough about them to trust to luck and collect :-( My most surprising experience was out on the prairies in Canada where my hosts collected huge amounts of a beautiful looking orange mushroom with white spots. It looked very similar to those fairy mushrooms to me but was perfectly safe and edible. No idea what its English name was and I am not good at reproducing Ukrainian names!

Snail said...

Sensible advice about not eating wild mushies unless you know what you're doing. Great post, Denis. Who doesn't have a soft spot for the fly agaric?

Slugs and snails are very fond of fungi (not so much the brackets but most of the others). I'm thinking that when I move north I might set up a mushroom 'feeding station' to see what snails I can lure out of the forest.

Denis Wilson said...

Hi Snail
You are right - slugs and snails love them, and they also love the same wet conditions which bring out the autumn fungi.



Denis Wilson said...

Hi Mick
You make my point about ancient ethnic/cultural knowledge of what is safe, and what is not.
Your Ukranian friends obviously know their stuff. Good for them.
Look-alikes are not a sufficient basis for identifying your Mushrooms and Toadstools. That's why I talked about bruising characteristics, odour, rings on stems, veils, etc, etc.
The experts take spore prints, and use high powered microscopes to examine the shapes of the spores.. .
But they are magnificent things to examine in close detail. And there is such huge biodiversity in the Fungal kingdom. Truly amazing creatures.


tilcheff said...

An extremely interesting and well illustrated post, Denis!

I love observing and photographing fungi, but never touch or pick them.
Mum had a friend who worked as a nurse in the Emergency and this lady had terrifying stories of whole families being lethally poisoned.

Best regards

Denis Wilson said...

Hi Nickolay
Yes, I have some friends who advise against touching some Fungi. Certainly breathing in the spores can be positively dangerous.
There are horror stories of people with quite large fungi growing out from inside their noses!

Mingfei said...

When summer comes there are a lot of mushrooms sold in my hometown. I really love these delicious food!

Sharyn Munro said...

Hi Denis,
After enjoying your blog for ages, I have finally created a Google account so I can leave comments. So thank you for all the past posts from which I have learnt so much, as well as this really informative fungi one. Isn't a fabulous time for fungi now!?

Denis Wilson said...

Welcome Sharyn, to the comments facility.
Autumn can be a great season.

Denis Wilson said...

Hi Mimgfei

Thanks forth comment.
Presumably your mushrooms are different from these.
Here in Australia, these fungi are introduced with trees from Europe and America.
We have our own fungi of course, but nobody is really quite sure what is good to eat.
By contrast your people have a history and so people would know what is safe to eat, and not. We are a young nation in an ancient land. Much to learn.