I first became interested in Ramaria ochraceosalmonicolor after the eminent Naturalist J. H. Willis mentioned that he had eaten it in his 1957 publication ‘Victorian Toadstools and Mushrooms’. Ramaria are not easy to identify and any perusal of the internet will find various illustrations with this name but looking nothing like the picture below. There is even a paper in the Australian Journal of Mycology (2007) which goes into much detail about the naming of the species.
For my purposes, however, the important thing was to establish what Willis had eaten. The paper linked above mentions that Willis as well as Bougher and Syme show illustrations of a coralloid structure for this fungus. Though the Bougher and Syme illustration is clear and matches the photograph, I was puzzled by the reference to Willis until I noticed that he had an illustration of three species of Ramaria as a fronticepiece in his book. I had previously overlooked these illustrations. Comparison with his images left me in little doubt that this is the form of Ramaria that he was referring to.
This being the case, I set some aside for a sampling. Ramaria can be risky, with a tendency to cause diahorrea according to Arora, so I decided to set them aside in the fridge and try them in the morning, rather than risk and uncomfortable night.
To be continued….
So, I fried up the sample that I had collected and consumed about 2 tablespoons full at 10:30 in the morning. It is now 6:45 in the evening and I have had no reaction. But what an anxious time it has been. After consuming the fungus, I began googling and came up with Ramaria flavo-brunnescens. It grows exclusively under Eucalyptus in Brazil and other places in South America, and has been responsible for the death of cattle. There is a report with gruesome histological details. I am at a loss however to understand why there are not similar reports from Australia, given that there must be many cattle grazed on Eucalypt forest.
There is, futhermore, a report of human poisoning and death from this fungus (the same one as in Brazil), although admittedly in combination with an Amanita, from China.
The images from the Brazilian report are disturbingly similar to my image above. Certainly enough to be within the general area, and the reference to Eucalyptus is especially unsettling. The poison is unidentified. It is reported to affect the incorporation of sulphur-containing amino acids such as cysteine. It is also most likely volatile, as toxicity is not present in dried samples.
The books in my library vary in their assessment of this fungus. Willis says he has eaten it. Kevn Griffiths says it upsets some people, Bougher and Syme declare it poisonous.
In the balance, I suggest that this fungus is far too difficult to identify to consider it edible and there is some potential for it to be lethal. Despite my experience of consuming a small portion of a cooked specimen and surviving, I suggest that it be considered an inedible species.
While there is a tantalising morcel about the toxin in google books, the key information is an orphan on an invisible page and I am loathe to spend the $137 necessary to purchase the entire book online. It simply is not worth the bother. The reward is not worth the cost. I post this report so that there is at least some documentation on the internet regarding this genera. I cannot find a single report of the progress of poisoning by this genus in humans on its own available on the internet. Neither do my books on poisonous fungi describe the progression of the syndrome.
30 April 2015
There are more Ramaria out at the moment with a wide variety of colours and forms. It prompted me to have another look for references and I found this one with some images that clearly show the ‘cauliflower’ form that is supposed to be a characteristic of this species. Note however the slight difference in nomenclature.
I haven’t seen any specimens this compact, but I have consumed one of the local species with a local man of Italian descent. I have made a video of him with it that I will process and upload when I have time.
If anyone has a link or relevant experience, I would appreciate hearing about it.