Mycelium Running

I’ve been long overdue for putting up this post. We’ve been so busy, running, running, running around, much like these mycelium running all over our yard (nice review here).

yard o Mushrooms

You know it’s autumn when you look out the window at the sea of mushrooms sprouting up all over the yard. The conditions have to be just right. It happens only over a four-to-five week time span.

I recalled last year when we first arrived, there were a ton of those pretty red ‘shrooms all over the place. The common yet toxic amanita muscaria (scarlet flycap, fly agaric) are found all over New Zealand, introduced from Europe with potted exotic tree seedlings and is usually found growing near pines and birches. This year we’ve had close to a hundred of them. I’ve gone out and plucked them in all sorts of sizes – filled up a big bucket!



Amanita Muscaria

Bruce has been curious about mushrooms for some time now and has set up a few areas in the yard to attempt to grow the edibles – shitakes and stropharia. These are coming along nicely although you might not think so from looking at them. Bruce planted the spawn in a bed of shredded tree mulch in November. The white in the photo below are the mycellium which have grown off the spawn. In order to ‘grow’ the mushrooms, Bruce will need to put some topsoil over the mycellium in order to encourage fruiting. Check out this guy’s website on growing oyster mushrooms in your own grow-room!

Bruces Shrooms

I’ve been curious about shrooms but not really motivated to read up on the topic until my yard turned into a big fungi patch. Back-yard science project!

I went out one day and collected ten different kinds of fungi. Ran off to the library to pick up some field guides with nice glossy photos. I came across two that appeared very worthwhile:

A Photographic Guide to Mushrooms and Other Fungi of New Zealand by Geoff Ridley and Done Horne, and
Mushrooms and Toadstools: An Illustrated Guide by Jiri Baier

Toadstools? When is the last time you thought about toadstools. And what are they anyway?

Perusing my field guide, I found out that there are many classifications of fungi, only one of which are mushrooms (also called toadstools or agarics). There’s also boletes, pouches, puffballs, stinkhorns, corals & clubs, jelly fungi, woody brackets, leathery brackets, cap fungi, slime moulds, and the dreaded insect-killing fungi. Yuk!

So, here’s my catalogueing (to the best of my ability) of our fungi and some interesting tidbits about them:

Shaggy Ink CapShaggy Ink Cap (Coprinus Comatus): “The distinctive columnar shape of these mushrooms rising from roughly mown grass makes them very easy to identify as does their swift passage to a dripping black liquid as they autodigest. They are considered edible (who’d wanna?) but must be collected when young before they begin to dissolve and eaten quickly before they deteriorate. The same rule of not consuming alcohol before or after eating them should be applied to this species as a simple safety measure.” This one grew to about 8″ (20cm) and the cap did dissolve within 36 hours. It also looked like this when it first came up.

Bolete Bolete Slimy

Larch Bolete (above) (Suillus luteus or boletus elegans): Definitely this fungi is of the bolete family, and I’m guessing it is of this variety. We had quite a few of these growing all month. “Larch bolete is recognised by the presence of a ring and its association with larch. The slime may or may not be present depending on weather conditions. This species is considered edible but the slimy skin and pore layer should be removed as the texture is not pleasant. Boletes differ from mushrooms in that they possess a layer of pores, rather than gills, on the underside of the cap. The pores are the openings of cylindrical tubes through which spores are released.”

Velvet ShankVelvet Shank (Flammulina Velutipes): “Is widespread but not common and is recognized by its red to yellow-brown, sticky caps and finely hairy, dark stems. It is produced commercially in NZ under its Japanese names enoki or enokitake.” Well, after looking at photos of these on the web, I’m not sure this is of the shank family. Hmm.  {See addendum below with possible clarification on this mushroom}

Grey Brown PinkgillLittle Browns

These little guys I think could be the grey-brown pinkgill and the cinnamon pinkgill respectively (genus entoloma, pink-brown spored). And therein lies the end of my fungi identification ability — couldn’t really tell ya what we have.

What we really need is someone locally knowledgeable who can come round and tell us what we’ve got. Kind of like Antique Roadshow, ‘do you know what you’ve got there?’. I mean, if we’ve got all these edibles, then certainly we should be eating them. But I’m just not so sure. The guidebooks aren’t that helpful with identifying the edibility of fungi, commenting “the edibility of most of the native species was not determined by either Maori or European colonists. There are several highly toxic fungi known in NZ and the toxicity of many others is not known. There are many edible mushrooms available in supermarkets today.”

Mushroom Spore ProjectA key characteristic in identifying mushrooms and boletes is the color of the spores. Spores can be white (including creams and yellows); pinkish-brown, orange-brown, and black. I decided it would be fun to collect some spore prints. After harvesting the mushrooms, I took off the caps and laid them out on paper and covered each with small clear cups, inserting a coin between the cup and paper to allow for just a bit of air circulation. Within 24 hours, the mushrooms had released their spores. Voila! Most had brown spores, but one had yellow. Cool!

Spore Prints 3Spore Prints 2Spore Prints

And that concludes my science project for the month!

For more on fungi, visit:

New Zealand Fungi
Fungal Network of New Zealand

Update Nov 14, 2009:

I just received an email from Clive Shirley, creator of The Hidden Forest, a website which documents the strange fungi, lichens, and plants of the forest.   Clive offered some insight on my post:

“The mushroom you have named Flammulina Velutipes (White spore print) is not this but
rather a poisonous species known as Paxillus involutus (Brown spore priny)likely found
under birch or some other exotic.

As to the two you have named as entoloma I don’t think ether are the spore print should
have been pink! The one on the right is possibly a Cortinarius species.

Cheers Clive”

Thanks Clive!