Posts tagged pine plantations
A walk in a pine plantation in WA during winter will often reveal a truffle-like fungus lying on the top of the ground or sometimes almost buried.
This is Rhizopogon, introduced with the pine trees and a very effective fungus for assisting the pines to grow. The mycelium from fungi such as these acts as an extension of the roots of the trees, drawing in nutrients that would otherwise be unavailable to the trees.
Many sources report that the species occurring here are Rhizopogon luteolus but DNA results on the specimen pictured above match R. pseudoroseolus (GQ267483). This species, an introduction from the USA is also very common in New Zealand, though the appearance does not appear to match either the image nor the key published by Jerry Cooper of the Fungal Network of New Zealand. There are many different species, lots of variability and many published revisions of this genus so it does make identification difficult.
In Japan, a member of this genus, Rhizopogon roseolus is much prized as a food where is it known as Shoro. The Kiwis, always much more proactive on these matters than we are, have done some comparisons on the species growing in New Zealand with those in Japan and have gone so far as introducing the Japanese species into NZ as a potential agricultural product.
This is not an easy fungus to identify visually and there is sparse information about edibility. My friend Jsun has eaten a species that grows in Queensland and while visiting here he pickled some that I had collected. These are shown in the picture below. He has selected specimens that were firm and had a white interior when cut in half. When pickled, the outside became quite distinctly reddish.
I have eaten small quantities of these and must say that they are rather bland. Jsun reports that he likes to add them to stews and so forth and that they soak up the flavor of the dish.
Laccaria proxima is known from both Europe and North America. In my area it is strictly associated with pine plantations. I believe that the pine species is the Maritime Pine, Pinus pinaster. The occurence of L. proxima is variable, but it appears to be extremely common in well established plantations with trees of a diameter of around 300 mm.
In June in these forests there is a wide variety of fungi, including several small mushrooms with brown caps. Laccaria proxima is distinctive in that it has pale salmon pink gills that are not crowded. This distinguishes it from another abundant species with yellow gills that are crowded as shown below. Laccaria proxima has a white spore print. This should be checked.
L. proxima varies in size from about 20 mm to 80mm in diameter. The stems can be up to 100mm long and they emerge from the pine needle mat. Underneath the mat, one can see the white mycelium in a layer on the top of the soil. As the mushrooms grow, they move from having slightly inrolled margins to curling up so that the gills are exposed. Below are pictures of the different stages.
A distinctive feature is the striations on the stem. These stems are quite tough. A small white mite was present on the specimens that I picked in late June. They are a long lasting mushroom that does not otherwise get attacked by insects.
I prepared some of these by washing them and then frying in a pan with oil. I had to decant some of the water during cooking as it had caught up in the gills. I added some ham to the mixture in the pan and ate them on toast. The taste resembled Volvariella slightly, though it was not as intense. I found that it left a pleasant after taste when I had finished the meal and this lingered for some time.
There is a smaller abundant native species, Laccaria lateritia. It is very similar in general appearance, but it is smaller and the stems do not display the same striations as in L. proxima. It is probably edible as well but I have not tried it at this stage.
This is an interesting mushroom because of its abundance and well established edibility from overseas experience. Though it is not considered to be a choice edible, it is quite palatable and the pleasant after taste makes it interesting. I suspect that it has a flavour enhancing quality to it.