Ramaria ochraceosalmonicolor – angst and confusion

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….

Ramaria ochraceosalmonicolor

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.

6 Responses so far

  1. 1

    Speedy said,

    have you ever found R.botrytis?
    It’s supposed to occur in Aust. (as well as Europe and Nth Amer.)
    a friend in Cent. America picks and eats it often.

    when I find Ramaria while walking through forests I’m often tempted to have a taste , and often do, though just a taste then spit it out.
    I’ve not found many to be unpleasant, and always wonder about their edibility , caution prevents me going any further with them.

    Interesting reading of your exploration of it.

    • 2

      morrie2 said,

      Hi Speedy,

      No, I have not found R. botrytis. For the moment I have had enough exploration with Ramaria! Clearly, some people eat some species. Reports often say that some people are sensitive to it. When I hear this I tend to wonder if the people have actually eaten the same species or if the species varies over time. Personal accounts are rare. That is mainly why I have published this account, minor though it may be. It may serve as some guide for other potential myconauts.

      Cheers

      Morrie

      • 3

        PEASANT GIRL said,

        Hi Morrie,
        I really like your site, particularly as your images are very clear for identification! My family have been eating Coral fungi(Ramaria salmonicolor) for years,mostly preserved with Honey fungus( Armillaria luteobubalina ),however, with all the many species of wild funghi we pick during the seasons, we only ever pick them in recurring areas(Macrolepiota proceri), we NEVER eat them raw( just like potatoes!),and we share the message that many people can have sensitivities to certain species, and also if you are 99% sure, leave it where it is.We have friends who have no digestive issues with the yellow stainer(Agaricus xanthodermus), but we do . We met some people who ate Phlepobus marginatus because a friend of theirs thought it was Boletus Luteus!! No thanks. We do pick Marasmius oreades here in quantity, but agree, its an easy one to get wrong, just like the Ramaria. For us, it is tradition, culture and passion to forage, and yes, we are all just really beginners with australian native species, but we are educating our next generation about identifying toxic everything,not just funghi!

      • 4

        morrie2 said,

        Hi Peasant Girl,

        Thanks so much for your feedback.

        I don’t recommend using my photographs for identification. The ones that I have eaten are as photographed, but they are more of an introduction than a guide for identification. People should always do their own research.

        I would be very interested to see some photographs of the Ramaria that you eat and anything else for that matter. Can you tell me which region you gather them in? How do you identify the ones that you eat?

        I agree about the cooking. Even our normal everyday store bought mushrooms are best cooked.

        I cannot bring myself to eat Macrolepiota procera or konradii, though you are not the first person to have mentioned eating them and all the books say they are edible. This is because of fear of amatoxins which occur in some similar looking species.

        Your comment about Agaricus xanthodermus is interesting. I can’t imagine eating them because of the unpleasant smell of phenol. The presence of phenol has been established by chemical analysis. I used to work in a chemical factory where we distilled phenol from coal tar. It is not a nice smell in my opinion. I have eaten lots of other yellow staining mushrooms though that don’t have the phenol smell. Some of the almond smelling ones can be very overwhelming though.

        It seems to me that Marasmius oreades could be cultivated. That would ensure the correct identication. I have never encountered them in the wild.

        Thanks again,

        Morrie

  2. 5

    Speedy said,

    I’d be interested to see the mushrooms that Peasant girl mentioned too.
    …and to have a rough idea of what region they occur (without giving away details) and type of habitat.

    What happened to the people after they ate the Phlebopus?

    I sometimes eat a native blueing Bolete that grows under River Redgum here in Nthn Victoria.
    they’ve been identified as belonging to the ‘Boletus multicolour group’
    though they look nothing like pics of B.multicolour that I’ve seen…
    …so many species yet to be studied … and formally described.
    I’ll get some pics

    Marasmius oreades… I’ve found them in many lawned areas.
    I often pick them and strew them over my lawn inthe hope that one day I’ll have them comming up close to home.

  3. 6

    PEASANT GIRL said,

    Hi again,
    I would be happy to share photos with you, just as soon as I get my technology a little more up to date! I do have photos on my phone of the Armillaria, Macrolepiota, Suillus, Lactarius,Tricholoma and Morchella species, but still learning to use the thing.
    We pick our Ramaria in the high altitude eucalypt forests of NE Gippsland (apparently where the aborigines harvested them) however, have located them where we live in NE Victoria, but have also found many other Ramaria species(lorithamnus?) that we haven’t picked. They range there from pale yellow to coral pink in poor soil. They have a solid stem base with the fingers at the end, a bit like how cauliflower looks but softer of course.
    We are fortunate to be able to also forage here for Agaricus Campestris, Ag. Arvensis, Armillaria Luteobubalina (our favourite), Macrolepiota Proceri (I agree, this one needs to be identified with great precision and we only pick this in the snowy mountain area of NSW) Leccinum Scabrum, Suillus Luteus, S.Granulatus, S.Grevillei, Lactarius Deliciousus, Tricholoma Terreum, Marasmius Oreades, Morchella Elata, Coprinus Comatus, Cantharellus, Concinnus, Lycoperdon Perlatum, Pleurotus Ostreatus, Russula Cyanoxantha, and a few others,However, we may not have all the scientific names right as we mostly refer to them with a common name, but mostly an Italian dialect name. We identify them mostly by the season/tree/soil relationship, by their formation, colour, stem attachment and base into the soil, but we pick in mostly recurring areas. My father has been foraging in Australia since 1952, and has always made us aware of edible mushrooms in this country, not just european look alikes(even if some migrated too!) They have unique flavour due to the Australian soil and environment and should be appreciated for this, not compared!(by chefs particularly) It would be nice to see more research done, as I am particularly interested in the Morel and its reproduction. It would be great to see cultivation of this species (studies in Tassie?), Marasmius and also Birch Bolete. Would never give up foraging though, saw amazing jelly fungus on the tree stumps in the hills this morning. The contrasting colours in the winter forest was fantastic.
    Oh, the couple who tried the Phlebopus are still alive and kicking, no side effects!
    Will attempt to share the photos if you want pics of those ones mentioned on my phone.
    Cheers


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