Marasmius oreades is known the world over as the fairy ring mushroom. I have not come upon them in the wild, though they do grow in Australia, having probably been imported from Europe. I came upon them in a market in Perth, where they were being sold for $160 per kilogram, imported from France! The picture below shows what they look like by the time they have been picked, shipped and packed. In France, these are known as Mousserons. Note. October 2012. After investigating further during my trip to France, it appears that Marasmius oreades is known as the Faux Mousseron. Mousseron is applied to Marasmius oreades by English speakers, while the French refer to Calocybe gambosa or St George’s mushroom as mousseron, or mousseron vrai. This muddies the waters somewhat as it is not easy to distinguish the identity of the dried specimens above. The way the stems split and their relative thickness would seem to be contrary to what one would expect from M. oreades. I will pick some in the morning and investigate this further. I will leave the reader to investigate further the identification of these mushrooms. This investigation should be undertaken with care, as there are lots of mushrooms that come up in fairy rings, and some of them are extremely poisonous. Here is a link describing them in Victoria. (I need to find a new link it seems) Update October 2012 Here is a picture of some of these mushrooms growing in France, in the village of Correze, which I am visiting to attend the annual mushroom festival. These are in the lawn of the place where I am staying. I will take one down to the fete tomorrow to have the identification verified.
Marasmius oreades growing in France
A couple of distinctive features of this mushroom are the dark raised central region of the cap, and the toughness of the stem, which can be twisted back on itself without breaking.
While I was in France, I was invited to visit a farm in the Alpes Maritimes, at an elevation of 1000m. Here I was shown M. oreades growing in classic fairy rings in an open paddock. The rings could be seen quite clearly by their dark green colour in comparison to the surrounding grass. The image below shows my host kneeling down to harvest some mushrooms from one of the rings.
Picking M. oreades from fairy ring.
See also my fellow blogger for further information
Wood ear mushrooms, Auricularia cornea, are often seen for sale in Asian food shops. The grow quite widely on the east coast – I have seen them around the Lismore area, and they grow in the Cairns area as well as in the Hunter valley, where you can find an excellent description here.
I don’t have an image in my collection, but if someone would be kind enough to donate one, I would be happy to use it and give appropriate credit.
I have not eaten this one, and don’t know how to cook it either, but would be happy to have information on this. Cultures of these mushrooms are available in Australia, via an enthusiast, on the east coast at least.
Update 29 June 2012
I have had a kind offer of use of images from Kathy. Here is one reproduced below.
Auricularia cornea by Kathy
Chorophyllum rochodes is a known as the shaggy parasol mushroom and is classed as edible. There are many other mushrooms of similar appearance, however and I strongly discourage people from eating this genus or any of the related ones, such as Lepiota. The risk of fatal poisoning due to a mistaken identity is real and the consequences too awful to contemplate.
Another member of the genus, Chlorophyllum molybdites (below) has a very similar appearance, but instead of white gills, they are feintly green. It is not a deadly mushroom, but it will make you very sick and is a common cause of mushroom poisoning in North America.
I won’t elaborate further in the identification of these mushrooms, since I do not advocate even considering them for consumption. And that says something!
In other parts of the world Laetiporus sulphureus is known as chicken of the woods and is considered a good edible mushroom. I had not heard of any occurence in Australia, but Ray Palmer of north Queensland has reported it growing on Eucalyptus near his home. You can see Ray’s pictures on his Flickr site, here.
I would emphasise that I have not eaten this mushroom, and I am not aware that Ray or anyone else has either. So it is in the ‘potential’ category for the moment. But an exciting prospect!
Note 26/2/2013. Since it is reported as edible in the comments below, I have upgraded this to the ‘edible but untried’ category.
If should be noted that the edibility of L. sulphureus depends on the substrate. On this page, they recommend that you don’t eat it if it is growing on Eucalyptus.
If anyone has any further information on this, I would be most interested to hear about it.
As noted in the comments below, Forthferalz has drawn my attention to some other references to this fungus in Australia. This picture is provided by blueswami.
I am not sure what angle this was taken at, but in comparison with other pictures, it seems to be upside down. I think it looks more realistic like this:
There appears to be quite a wide variety of morphologies and colours for this genus. Even in North America, where it is widely consumed, there appears to be differences between the east and west coast experiences, as well as some confusion about which species is being consumed.
For a few years I have noticed some mushrooms coming up after I had burned piles of branches and stumps and so on. At first, I thought these were Volvariellas, but closer inspection showed that they were Pluteus petasatus. They have quite a distinctive cap, grow in clusters and have a characteristic pink spore print.
For some reason, these mushrooms tended to grow at the base of some tall weeds that also grew after the fire. I have no idea what the basis of this association is.
David Arora records this mushroom as being the best of the genus Pluteus, but after frying some up and tasting them, I concluded that they were very similar in taste to Volvariella speciosa and are not something that I would be drawn to eat in particular. Like Volvariella, they would probably go well with some silverbeet or spinach.
After there has been a bushfire in the forests around here, and in fact in many parts of Australia, there are a number of fungi that are triggered to send up fruiting bodies. One of these is Laccocephalum mylittae (formerly Polyporus mylittae), known in early colonial times as Blackfellow’s bread. This is because it was eaten by the Aboriginal people and it has a sclerotium with a texture rather like grains of cereal pressed together. When sliced it is dense like pumpernickel. This fungus may well have been consumed as a food for tens of millenia. It is widespread across the country.
The fungus spends most of its existance feeding on fallen or buried logs. From this woody matter it transports material to a large underground sclerotium which slowly grows in size. It is reported to grow to as large as 600 mm diameter, but the ones I have seen have been about the size of a football. The sclerotium is heavy, with an estimated relative density of 1.1. This growth may go on for 30 years or more, until there is a fire to trigger off the cycle. The sclerotium rapidly sends forth a fruiting body which is apparent at the surface of the ground within a couple of days of the fire. These are commonly seen along side fallen logs. The mushroom is fairly non-descript at first, eventually becoming more defined as it consumes the sclerotium over a period of about a month.
Here is a young mushroom with the sclerotium attached. The mushroom is white, whereas the sclerotium has a dark brown skin covering it.
One can easily imagine that the Aboriginal people would have swept through areas they had burned a couple of days earlier to harvest the scelorotiums, which can be quite numerous. Being dense, they provide a significant food source and they do not appear to decay rapidly. They can be crumbled up and dried out into something resembling a cereal grain. Whether the Aboriginal people did this is probably unknown. The picture below shows the scerotium cut open to reveal the inner texture.
It is entirely possible that this fungus could be cultivated like any other wood rotter. I have a specimen that I will attempt to clone if I have the time and inclination. It might make an interesting addition to our native food cuisine. I would describe the taste as bland, but a friend found it to be quite pleasant. It would lend itself to some creative cooking. Apparently, it has significant nutritional value.
The mature specimen is shown below. It can be seen that the mushroom has grown, while the sclerotium has become depleted.
Phlebopus marginatus has the largest fruiting body of any mushroom in Australia. It is a truly spectacular mushroom. I am including it here as it is recorded as being edible, but the sheer joy of the whole growth event may surpass any pleasure from eating it.
In Western Australia it is known as the Salmon gum bolete, and Roger Hilton has recorded it as being edible. The pictures below, however, are from Victoria (thanks lizza)
It grows in rings. These might be described as circles of giants.
The actual size of an individual mushroom can be up to a metre in diameter. This picture shows one in comparison with a block splitter that is 800 mm in length.