Pleurotus australis is not the most common of mushrooms and unfortunately it’s habitat overlaps that of the poisonous Omphalotus nidiformis, or ghost mushroom. Thats the one that glows in the dark. I have only ever seen P. australis growing on peppermint trees. That is Agonis flexuosa. The first one I ever saw was in the Perth area. I enlisted the help of a venerable mycologist (Roger Hilton) to identify it. There were a few fruiting bodies on the tree in question and they were huge. The texture of these was like leather and there is no way that they could be eaten. Note the wavy cap margin.
Mature Pleurotus australis
In the region down where I live now, however, the oyster mushrooms are smaller and would be edible if there were enough of them to be bothered with. They also get fly-blown very quickly.
For some further information on locally picked oyster mushrooms, see WhereFishSing.
Here is a picture of some growing at Yeagarup.
Young Pleurotus australis
They are quite simple to cultivate. The same procedures can be used as one would apply to any other oyster mushroom. Pasteurised straw is a the simplest medium. The rather odd thing about P. australis under cultivation is that it bears little resemblance to the wild fungus. The pinheads are a dark black/purple colour.
Pins of Pleurotus australis in cultivation
When grown on a little further, they are a rather soft mushroom, with a distinctive purple tinge to the upper surface. I have some pictures of these somewhere and when I find them I will add them to this post. Ah, here we go. This is an example of a cultivated one.
Cultitvated Pleurotus australis
One thing that must be said about this mushroom. Be very careful not to confuse it with Omphalotus nidiformis. They are very similar in the wild. O. nidiformis, however, will glow if you break off a small piece and put it in a jar by your bed. The oyster mushroom can also be recognised by the fine network of criss-crossed gills that run right down the stem to the point where it emerges from the tree. This is a picture of Omphalotus nidiformis. It is somewhat variable, but this is typical.
Omphalotus nidiformis from SW WA
In other places, Omphalotus nidiformis can take on a much more funnel-shaped appearance. Here is a picture of some from the rainforest at Dorrigo, NSW.
Omphalotus nidiformis from Dorrigo
23 June 2013
This year I visited the site of the mushroom shown in the first illustration. There was a new crop growing and they were in the juvenile stage. As with the local ones from down here, they had a dark purple cap with a slightly scaley texture. They were more robust, but otherwise matched the local specimens. So it is clear that they change as they age. I am now more comfortable with the identification of both as P. australis. I again tried to bring this into culture, but without sucess this time. I do have some pieces of infected wood though, so I will try to culture those. A friend in Perth got a culture of the Perth specimen going last year, but he found that it would not grow on straw like his normal king oyster mushrooms.