Archive for Inedibles and look-alikes

Agaricus osecanus – Giant horse mushroom, giant disappointment

cropped giant horse

I found this monster growing at the base of a eucalyptus tree in Bridgetown.  It was almost buried, rather like Agaricus bitorquis.  Although I have called it Agaricus osecanus, that is a fairly loose term, referring to a group of similar mushrooms. I am using Arora as a guide.

I first found these during Spring, and then again in Autumn.  The most distinctive feature of them is the huge diameter of the stem.   As you can see, it is a handful.   In fact the specimen above appears to be three individuals fused together and it had dried out a little and cracked so that it was in danger of falling apart.   The flesh however was quite firm.

I was quite excited when I found such a large mushroom that was clearly an Agaricus of some sort and therefore likely to be edible.   I thought that I would take a culture of it as soon as a I could.   However, the smell was not like any other member of the genus that I have ever encountered.   A friend described it as ‘earthy’ but I found it simply ‘less than attractive’.

Before going to the trouble of culturing it, I decided to do a small taste test.  To this end, I cut some small slices (no colour change) and fried them in a little butter/oil.   My friend and I both tasted it and though the initial taste seemed ok, we had both spat it out within 5 seconds.   It tasted terrible.  Hard to describe exactly, but I found it to have a floury taste.  Certainly not something that you would want to swallow.

So, for me this represents a fourth grouping within Agaricus, based mainly on the smell.  The other three categories are mushroom (octenol) smell, almond smell and phenol smell.  I can’t put a description to this smell, but it does not fit into any of the other three categories.   `

Such a shame.  It was massive and had lovely white firm flesh.

Ah well.

Note: May 2016

I had hoped to get another specimen of this and send it off for dna testing, but this year someone came along and not only smashed them up, but ripped off all the loose bark of the tree whose base it was growing at.  Such a senseless act and now we may never know what this was.

 

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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.

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Chloropyllum- not worth the risk

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.

There are in addition many reports of people eating supposedly edible species in this group and one person has been violently ill while the other has not been affected.

edit 17/04/2016  The specimen pictured above is Chlorophyllum brunneum.

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 may make you very sick and is a common cause of mushroom poisoning in North America. The nature of the poison in this mushroom was a mystery for a long time, particularly since it doesn’t affect all people at all times.  It was revealed in 2012 to be a  protein called molybdophyllysin by Yamada et al.  This protein is similar in structure to components of some other fungi and bacteria, but the other compounds are not toxic. It is heat labile, beginning to break down at 70 degrees, which may explain why some people, including the Cribbs report having eaten C. molybdites with0ut ill effect.

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!

As a footnote, there is a report of the effects of eating this mushroom in the Medical Journal of Australia, by local academic Lindsay Mollison. I note that his report is in December 2011 and that he speaks of doing an extensive internet search to find out what he had eaten.   Perhaps his experience was just prior to when I made this original post in July 2011.  A shame.

*A paper by Vellinga in 2003 revises Chlorophyllum and Macrolepiota in Australia.  She says that we don’t have Chlorophyllum rachodes in Australia, but a similar species dubbed C. nothorachodes.  Specimens formerly referred to here as Chlorophyllum rachodes were found to be Chlorphyllum brunneum, and Macrolepiota procera, a northern hemisphere species, does not occur here.  Although her paper does help to sort out the state of the species in Australia, recent evidence suggests that her survey is not complete.

Here is a link to Vellinga’s paper.

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A look-alike Psathyrella

This small cluster of mushrooms appeared recently in a garden bed amoungst some horse manure.

These mushrooms have a white cap with a brown colouration in the middle and when we flip them over, we can see that the gill colour is in the right range.

However, if we try to separate the cap from the stem, we find that we can’t, and the stem is furthermore completely hollow and thinner than what we might expect from an Agaricus.  The mushroom pictured is Psathyrella candolleana.  There is another species more commonly seen in forests called P. aspersopora.  Both are of unknown or doubtfull edibility.

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A look-alike Hebeloma

During another walk this evening I encountered another mushroom that had a similar appearance to an edible field mushroom.   I picked it and brought it back to the house to document why it is not an edible field mushroom.  Here is a picture of the cap.

The cap is not outside of the colour range that one might expect for an edible field mushroom, but notice that it is shiny?  In fact it is quite slimy to the touch.  This alone is enough to declare it to not be an edible Agaricus.  However, let us continue…

When we flip the mushroom over, we can see that the gills are in the right kind of colour range and that the stem has the right sort of thickness in relation to the cap.  In fact, the gills even darken from pinkish to brown over time.   However, the thing that is glaringly absent is an annulus or ring on the stem.  Not a hint of one!  We know for sure now that this is not an edible Agaricus, but lets go further…

If we attempt to snap the stem away from the cap, the result is unsucessful.  The whole cap tears apart rather than breaking at the junction of the stem and the cap.  There is no change in the tissue type between the stem and the cap.  This thing has now failed three tests.  Quite a pretty mushroom never the less 🙂

If you are wondering about the tabletop, it is Australian red cedar, Toona ciliata.  The mushrroom is Hebeloma westraliense, edibility unknown (Bougher and Syme).  Hebelomas are very useful for promoting the growth of Eucalypts and are cultivated for that purpose worldwide.

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Look-alike Cortinarius

I was walking along the fire track this evening when I spotted this lovely big white mushroom cap, about 100 mm across.

Now, in colour and shape, this is not disimilar from an edible Agaricus.  It is similar for example to Agaricus bitorquis.  The location, in undisturbed eucalypt forest is a little unlikely for an Agaricus such as that however.

It can be seen that the edge of the cap has remnants of a torn veil.   This might lead one to think that it is an Amanita.  However, on flipping the mushroom over, all is revealed.

We can see from this that the mushroom has a ring on the stem, like an edible Agaricus and that the gills are within the right colour range, but on the surface of that ring is a deposit of orange spores.   This shows us immediately that what we are looking at is not an Agaricus, but is in fact a Cortinarius of some kind.  If it was an Agaricus, it would have a chocolate brown spore print.

Further differentiation from Agaricus is provided by the fact that the stem and the cap are part of the same structure.   In Agaricus, the stem will break away cleanly from the cap.

As a rule, species in the genus Cortinarius are poisonous, so this is one mushroom that we would definitely avoid!

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