Someone who is enthusiastic about mushrooms like I am will let their friends know about it and when they spot something that you might be interested in, they will tell you about it. So it was the other day when we were looking at a house for sale in Bridgetown. My friends were in a small section of yard where someone had dumped some grass clippings. Spotting some mushrooms, they called me over. To my amazement, there was a cluster of Clitocybe nuda, perhaps more widely known as Lepista nuda, or the Wood Blewit. This is a very cosmopolitan and widely eaten mushroom, that requires cooking before consumption.
This mushroom is an introduction to Australia and is quite common on the east coast where I frequently see pictures of specimens that others have found, but having never seen it in Western Australia, I assumed that it did not occur here, like several other species more common in the east. Edit: I have subsequently found that there is a single record from the Perth region from 1981, but I cannot access the record for some reason. Too old perhaps.
The particular specimens that were growing from the grass clippings were rather aged, though there were some new buttons starting up. In the image below you can see both.
Clitocybe nuda in grass clippings.
I have overturned the mature specimens to show the purple colour of the gills. You can just see a purple button emerging at about 5:30. (sort of, sorry about the image quality, I had to use my phone). Here is a close-up of one of the buttons in the pile.
Button of Clitocybe nuda
Because these specimens were too old, it was not possible to consider eating them. I am currently in the process if trying to get a clone going from one of those little buttons though.
Edit. I visited the site about a week later and the little button had grown into a small but fully formed mushroom. I think that these are some of the prettiest mushrooms around. When cut, the stem showed a purple colour similar to the gills.
There are some other purple mushrooms around that one might easily mistake for this one. These belong to the genus Cortinarius and it would be most unwise to eat any of them. The one the springs immediately to mind is Cortinarius archeri. There are two main differences between Cortinarius and this mushroom. The first is that Cortinarius always grows in association with a tree. It is mycorrhizal. These specimens are quite clearly growing from the grass clippings where the mycelium could be seen reaching down into the pile, however. The second is that Cortinarius has a rusty orange spore print (see below). These had a rather pale spore print (it was a very faint print because of the age) but is was clearly not rusty orange. The orange colour of Cortinarius can also be seen in the gills as they mature and as a deposit on the stem, where the remains of a membrane is evident. Prue also talks about this type of confusion on her blog. She is possibly referring to Cortinarius austroviolaceus which is the Australian version of C. violaceus.
Another couple of purple capped mushrooms are Leucopaxillus lilacinus and Russula clelandii.
Though I haven’t eaten this one, my friend Fiona over at WhereFishSing has reported her experience with it, which anyone interested might like to read.
Now that I know that these are around, I am hoping to find more of them. And if anyone comes across some little purple button mushrooms growing in their compost or grass clippings, keep and eye on them and please let me know about it.
If I manage to get this into culture, I will post some further images.
As a footnote, there are several other species related to this one growing on the east coast though they are smaller.