Archive for March, 2010

Truffles – the new crop of the region

In this corner of Western Australia, black truffles are becoming big business.   Although the soil requires quite a bit of lime to bring up the pH, they are growing exceptionally well here, with some of the biggest specimens in the world coming from a farm about 20 kilometers away from me.  I have a small plantation of innoculated oaks and hazelnuts that are years away from providing a harvest, but I live in hope.  This is an example of a truffle that I purchased locally.  It cost around $100.


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Tricholomopsis rutilans – plums and (dis)custard –

Some mushrooms that are listed as edible might be better listed as non-poisonous.   I did try a little bit of one of these plums and custard mushrooms which are considered edible in Europe, but it was truly disgusting, with a taste like mud – yuk!


June 2022.

It is likely that this is not in fact Tricholomopsis rutilans but another closely related species. One that has been reported from the Perth region in 2020 is Tricholomopsis scabra.

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Morchella – The morel, a worldwide favourite

This mushroom is a favourite right around the world.   Most people in Western Australia are completely unaware of it, however.  I have found it in quite a few situations, but nothing quite compared with the crops that emerged from pine bark mulch next to a limestone wall at Golden Bay, to the south of Perth over a period of 3 years.  There were thousands of them. They are always quoted as a spring mushroom, but I found these large crops in mid-winter (June/July).

I didn’t get photographs of the outcropping, unfortunately as it was before digital cameras were an everyday item.  But I did get this one picture of a single specimen. (see edit below) There is a better image of one on this site.


And, just in case you don’t believe the  numbers of morels that I picked, here is a jar full of dried ones.   BTW, if drying morels, do it as fast as possible to prevent any other organisms taking hold.

I have found a single morel growing in the karri forest right next to my place, and they are reported as being common in Spring through the jarrah forests of the SW.  They are not uncommon in suburban Perth, and friends have shown me examples cropping up in their back yards.

It is quite easy to culture these from a piece of the inside of the hollow stem, using standard techniques.   The ones I have cultures like this have been very vigorous growers.  However, moving  from culture to fruiting body is not a simple task and has defeated many highly skilled mycologists, as well as me.  Update (2022) My friend Jsun Lau has managed to grow them, however, in a planter pot.

I have eaten a lot of these, my favourite recipe being morels stuffed with crab meat cooked in a cream sauce.  The only problem I found was that it was almost impossible to wash the sand out of the crenulations.  WA is a sandy place.  To be perfectly honest, though I find them to be pleasant to eat, I can’t understand the frenzy that they induce in places like the US, in May.

When I had a lot of them, I tried to sell some to restaurants around Perth.  Most of them had never seen a morel!

Note: June 2011. The morels in the picture above have been identified as Morchella rufobrunnea, by DNA matching through the assistance of morel expert Philippe Clowez. (Genbank KM588017.1)  This appears to be the first record of this species in Australia. Previous specimens have come from Mexico, Israel, The Canary Islands. The habitat where these were found is remarkably similar to that described for the other specimens, even down to the presence of olive trees in one case. The unusual timing of the fruiting appears to be another feature in common with the overseas versions. Thank you Philippe.

Edit 1 Sept 2015:  With thanks to correspondent Oscar, I was able to collect more specimens of Morchella rufobrunnea from pinebark mulch in Joondalup a Perth suburb last weekend.  This was exactly the same sort of substrate that I found them in before.   I am very grateful to Oscar for alerting me to these as I have been on the lookout for them for 14 years since my first find.   Here is a picture of a cluster of them together with the lump of and bark and soil that they were growing from.


The lump of bark and soil appears to be stuck together with mycelium in much the same way as the stonemaker fungus, Polyporus tuberaster.  The association with pine bark mulch is interesting as this species is reported to be associated with pine forests.  Just how they come to be associated with the mulch is a mystery though.  They appear to be saprobic rather than mycorrhizal in this case.  Since the advent of Facebook mushroom interest groups it has been possible to establish that these are also widespread in SA, VIC and NSW too. They occur over a very wide time range, from June right through to October.

Here is a picture of some as they occurred on the mulch.



Reports of M. rufobrunnea in WA range from Bunbury to Yanchep and they appear to be exclusively restricted to the Swan Coastal Plain which is comprised of calcareous limestone sands which are naturally alkaline in nature.  In Israel, they are reported in a silty clay loam with a pH of 7.85.  This 2021 publication describes some detailed investigations into the microbiome associated with the fruiting bodies.  They report a progression of microbes in samples from bare soil illustrated in the diagram below.  This appears to show quite a complex level of symbiosis with different types of microbes at different stages of development.  The existence of complex relationships between Morchella and bacteria has been demonstrated elsewhere in the literature (2019).  Even more remarkable perhaps is the claim the Morchella crassipes actually farms the bacterium Pseudomonas putida. In contrast to its human counterparts it has not slapped a patent on this process however.


Another type of morel that occurs in Western Australia comes up in forests after fire.   I have encountered these in burnt karri forest in large numbers though they are also reported to occur in burnt jarrah forest.  These are reported to be Morchella elata by the local mycologists. Here are a couple of images of them.

Morchella elata lantern1


From these two images, it can be seen that the morphology changes widely. The second one looks very much like M. importuna, a mulch-growing species from the US.

More recent work has suggested that there are two fire morels in WA, one of which is identified as Morchella septimelata and the other is yet to be named.  A recent revision by Richard et al. renames M. septimelata as the earlier described M. eximia. This is of worldwide distribution and genetically identical specimens have been reported from Wyoming.  A specimen collected in 2016 by the author has been confirmed as M. eximia by DNA analysis thanks again to M. Clowez. (Genbank KM587970.1)  Fire morels occur in August and September.

There is another morel that occurs in NSW and Victoria in forests that have not been subjected to fire.  It was recently (2014) identified as Morchella australiana.  This species has been recorded in WA from a sample collected near Narrogin.   Though it was identified by DNA sequencing, this has sadly not been shared to the world via Genbank.  This specimen is recorded in iNaturalist and an image is reproduced below under commons license.  It has also been seen near Palgarup. 

Morchella australiana

Morchella australiana, near Narrogin, WA

People have been collecting morels that are not associated with fire  from the forests in Victoria for a long time.  Perhaps these are the Morchella australiana referred to above.   Below is a picture of a basket of them kindly provided by a friend.   You can see the black edges on them which seem to be a feature of these ones.

Victorian forest morels

Victorian forest morels

In Tasmania, Karen Stott & Caroline Mohammed have investigated native morels as part of a RIRDC project, “Specialty Mushroom Production Systems: Maitake and Morels”, available online.  They have identified a number of species that are shown below in a picture from their publication. They also address the cultivation of these fungi.  It would not be surprising to find similar species in WA, or perhaps a re-classification of some of the M. elata that are currently reported here.

tasmanian morels

In South Australia, people are reporting a morel with black edges.  One report says that these can be found on remnant sand dunes with sclerophyll forest.  Here is a picture of one from South Australia with kind permission from Yannick Foubert.


There are many more morels in the US than we have here.  Debbie Viess who has been kind enough to comment in this blog has a rather nice summary together with some information on some of the different species.

October 2021

I was intrigued to see some images taken by Bronek Burza in the Hobart area of Tasmania labelled Morchella tasmanica. A couple of his images are included below, with his permission.

Morchella tasmanica credit Bronek Burza
Morchella tasmanica credit Bronek Burza

I had not heard of this species before so I did a little bit of research. It turns out that this was first described in 1920 by John Ramsbottom who worked for the British Museum. The specimen was collected by Lilian Suzette Gibbs in 1914 from The Dromedary near Hobart. A snippet from her publication is given below.

Lilian Gibbs (1870-1925) is quite an interesting character – she travelled the world documenting the ecology of mountain habitats. I will leave the interested reader to research further about her.

Lilian Suzette Gibbs

The description of the species is given in the second installment of the paper above. It is in Latin and doesn’t really help too much with the identification.

An English translation of the above is provided by an online translator with quite a few perhaps incorrect adjustments by me.

Ascomate oblong-conical, acute, c. 3 cm. long, 1.5 cm. thick, base
scarcely exceeding stipe diameter, pruinose, with primary longitudinal ribs subparallel, edges obtuse, dark-chestnut-brown, secondary transverse, folded, irregularly shaped;

Stipe subequal and at the base not thickened, slightly thicker toward the top, c. 9 cm. long, 1 cm. thick, glossy velvety, completely covered in tawny down ;

Hairs? variable, septate, distally scarcely thickened, c. 20 microns thick;

Asci cylindrical, tapering at the base, octospores, 350-400 µ x 22-24 µ;

Spores largely ellipsoid, hyaline or hyaline-ochraceous, 27-32 µ x 15-16 µ;

Paraphyses branching, septate, hyaline or hyaline-ochraceous, barely thickened at the tips, 15-17 microns thick. 

On wet ground.

To date there has only been one species of Morchella that has been considered to be native to Australia and this is Morchella australiana. Some collections from Tasmania have been identified as M. australiana and there is some speculation that Gibbs’ specimen is in fact the same as M. australiana. In that case it would seem that the name Morchella tasmanica should take precedence. It should be noted though that the Tasmanian specimens do not seem to turn black like the specimens of M. australiana from Victoria and NSW.

This led me to wonder if the Gibbs’ specimen was still in existence and if it might be possible to do a DNA analysis on it. It seems that I have been beaten to the punch here and that just last month a voucher was lodged in Genbank by a group of Australian mycologists. It appears with the Genbank reference OK159934.1. Perhaps because this is a very old specimen, the analysis has been done on the LSU (large subunit ribosomal RNA gene). If one runs a BLAST on this, it does not show up M. australiana as a close relative but perhaps this is because the different approach taken in the DNA analysis. I don’t have sufficient expertise to work my way through this. In due course I imagine that there might be some publication explaining whether M. tasmanica and M. australiana are the same species.

We can compare Rambottom’s description with that of the more recently described M. australiana. One glaring difference is the size of the asci; only 140-165 microns for M. australiana. The paraphyses in M. australiana are described as 5-10 microns thick, which is much less than Ramsbottom describes.

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Suillus species- Slippery Jack et al.

suillusThis fungus is always associated with pine trees and emerges in huge numbers in pine forests all over the country.   There are two common species, S. granulatus, the normal one where I am and S. luteus, which is more common up near Perth.  The main difference is that the former has no ring on the stem.

Although this mushroom is much collected by people of European background, and turned into pickles,  it is not something that I am fond of.   I find that it leaves a rather unpleasant after-taste.   It is usually peeled and it benefits from drying out before use in cooking to prevent it turning into a slimy mess.

Footnote:  I tried some S. luteus last night (25 April, 2010) in a kind 0f stroganoff.  The dish was pleasant enough, but the after-taste was there again, lingering for a couple of hours.  It is a pity, as these are so plentiful.

Footnote 2: 20 June 2015.  The practice of peeling slippery jacks appears to have a sound basis.  This report indicates that the slimy cap contains a rather strong toxin that is heat stable and not extracted by boiling water.

Footnote 3: 28 April 2016

There has been some suggestion that smaller specimens are firmer than larger specimens.  To investigate this, I picked some fresh S. granulatus and dried them on a wire rack over the wood stove, without peeling them.  The results are shown in the graph below.   It can be seen that there is a clear linear relationship between the wet and dry weights and that the dry material is about 6.5% of the wet weight.  In other words, they are 93.5% water.  In other words, there is no evidence that the smaller specimens are more solid than the large ones.

None of the specimens appeared overtly wet.  Perhaps if there had been more rain, they might have had a higher moisture content.   By comparison, oyster mushrooms are reported to have between 70 and 95% moisture contentAgaricus bisporus is reported to have a moisture content of between 88.6 and 91.3 percent.  That means that the Agaricus mushrooms are about 60 percent more substantial than the Suillus.

moisture content

There are quite a few different species of Suillus to be found in the pine plantations of Western Australia. These include: Suillus luteus, Suillus quiescens, Suillus salmonicolor and Suillus collinitis. There are others that are difficult to identify to species level without DNA work. Below are a few examples of some that I have found.

Suillus salmonicolor

This one grows in one particular area of one pine forest and I have not been able to identify it. I have named it ‘silverback’ because of the silver grey colour of the cap.

Suillus ‘silverback

Suillus species display a range of colours. This one had bright red staining on the stipe and a light blue on the flesh inside the cap.

Suillus ‘red and blue
Suillus ‘dotty’


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Pluteus cervinus – edible but bland

There is a lot of timber milling around this district and hence a lot of sawdust is generated.  One of the mushrooms that comes up on such piles of sawdust is Pluteus cervinus.   This is a rather gelatinous mushroom with the distinctive pink spore print of the genus.  I have cooked and eaten this mushroom, but I wouldn’t class it as the most desirable fungus I have ever consumed.   I think that it would benefit from an initial dewatering in the pan before cooking.

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Agaricus arvensis – almond mushroom

At various times of year, including mid summer, the parks around Perth erupt in large amounts of mushrooms.  These grow in circles that can be 10 or more metres in diameter.

Viewed up close, the mushrooms have a distinctive appearance.

These mushrooms have a smell of almonds that varies in intensity, depending on the location.   Some smell so stongly of almonds that they can only be used as a flavouring.  The almond smell is due to the presence of benzaldehyde.  This has been shown by gas chromatography.

These mushrooms are white gilled initially and then the gills turn to dark brown with age.   They also bruise yellow, which is often taken as a sign of inedibility.   In fact, however, the yellow staining mushrooms that must be avoided are Agaricus xanthodermus and other species  which contain phenol.    To be able to eat these mushrooms with confidence, one needs to be able to distinguish between the smell of phenol and the smell of benzaldehyde.   That is the smell of phenyl disinfectant and the smell of almond essence.

I find that the small mushrooms are the best to eat.   I have seen other people collecting these.   Some elderly Italian gentlemen.   I have also grown this mushroom.  Well, just one small one!

Here is a picture of a small one, taken in Dagleish, Perth, on 29 March 2010.

In fact, these were the first mushrooms to be put into cultivation, before the normal Agaricus bisporus, and if the early attempts at cultivation had turned out differently, we might be used to the taste of almond mushrooms.

Since these mushrooms grow in the open sunlight, it is interesting to speculate whether they contain significant quantities of vitamin D, since the development of this vitamin has been demonstrated in other members of the genus when exposed to ultraviolet light, as described in this slide presentation.

Here is a few that I picked one lunchtime that are sitting on my keyboard in my former office in Perth.

Agaricus xanthodermus, the one that has the phenolic smell, is not something that I have encountered often.   I did come across this bunch of them growing in sand at Yeagarup though on 5 May 2007.  The smell was very distinctive as was the yellow colour of the base of the stem.  The yellow colour is due to a the oxidation of the phenolic group of leucoagaricone to form agaricone, by atmospheric oxygen.

One last comment.  These mushrooms only have white gills at the immature stage.  One should be very careful to ensure that the gills turn brown with age.  Never eat a mushroom with white gills in the belief that it is a field mushroom unless you have established that you are looking at the immature stage of an Agaricus.   That will take some experience.  Failure to heed this advise could be fatal!

Mature specimens of Agaricus never have white gills.  The deadly Amanitas do.

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Agaricus bitorquis – a classic field mushroom

When the first autumn rains come it is time to head down to the secret mushroom site where Agaricus bitorquis can be found year after year.

For some reason, they seem to favour growing under she-oak trees. Quite often they are found fully grown but still buried, with just the top of the cap visible in the middle of a lump in the ground.

These mushrooms can grow very big. 150mm across is not uncommon and they are thick and fleshy with it. When cut, the surfaces bruise slightly red. This picture shows one I am holding in my hand to give some idea of size and shape.

When cut through, they show a reddish staining, as shown on this picture.



At my favourite site for bitorquis, there are several other edible mushrooms. In this picture can be seen some Coprinus comatus and an Agaricus arvensis, all picked at the same site and ready for the pan!

As a postscript, I have read that these are sold as supermarket mushrooms, though I have never seen the red staining so distinct as on the ones in the wild.

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The Hedgehog Mushroom – Hydnum ‘repandum’

One very common mushroom throughout the SW of WA is a species commonly known as Hydnum repandum. It differs from normal mushrooms in that it has spines instead of gills or pores.

It can be found in open marri/jarrah forest in hills around Perth, but down here I find it most frequently in association with tea-tree (Taxandria) scrub on my property. Like the Chantarelle, it grows in rings.

It is a relatively long lasting mushroom, not prone to insect attack or rot. Though small, it is not hard to pick enough for a meal or two in half an hour if you are in the right area.

Here is a plateful that I picked one day.


A favourite dish I make with these involves putting them into a pan with some chicken stock and red wine and reducing the volume to about half. Then chicken can be added, along with vegetables and some cream to finish.

A close-up of the mushroom is shown below, but the colour leaves something to be desired.   I will try to get a better one this season.


These also occur on the east coast where they are reported to grow in Messmate forest in Victoria.

There is another very similar species or perhaps variety that grow in close proximity to these ones.  They have been described as Hydnum ‘chestnut’ or Hydnum aff. repandum.  These ones have a longer stem and a chestnut brown cap.  I have also eaten these and they taste similar though they are not as robust in form as the orange toned species.  This one also grows in Victoria and Tasmania.

hydnum chestnut

Hydnum ‘chestnut'(crocidens), on my place

Both of these forms can exhibit a deep pore at the centre of the cap.  I did wonder if this was Hydnum umbilicatum, but Roger Hilton advised me otherwise and since this feature appears to be randomly distributed in specimens of both types, it is most likely a morphological variation rather than a separate variety or species.

Note: August 2016

Some recent DNA information from suggests that the chestnut variety is Hydnum crocidens.  It is interesting then to see the similarities between these mushrooms and those on Clive Shirley’s NZ site that are named as varieties of Hydnum crocidens.

It is even more interesting to read a recent  phylogenetic analysis of Hydnum based on DNA analysis and published in May 2016.  This puts paid to any concept that this mushroom is Hydnum repandum.  Specimens in the WA Herbarium are of un-named species (17 and 19) and others are unequivocally Hydnum crocidens.  The 3 species from New Zealand are all found in Australia.


Spines of Hydnum crocidens

Under the microscope, the spines appear glistening white with some of them displaying an orange-coloured point. There is some suggestion from this image that the spines are hollow.

The spores of this species are very small and almost spherical.

Spores of Hydnum crocidens

The spores are borne on basidia that are normal to the surface of the spines. From what I can make out there appear to be 5 spores on each basidium.

Basidia of Hydnum crocidens

It is noticeable that these mushrooms are resistant to decay. They can last for many weeks in the wild without developing the fungal infections like Hypomyces that cause the rapid demise of other species. This suggests that they have some inherent antimicrobial activity.

Medicinal use of Hydnum.

Recent (2021) research has shown that extracts from Hydnum have antibiofilm activity. This is important because many chronic bacterial infections, such as the childhood ear infection Otitis media rely on the formation of a biofilm for their persistence and their resistance to antibiotics. While this research is behind a paywall, the abstract suggests that extracts of the mushroom used in conjunction with antibiotics can resolve biofilm infections.

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Pleurotus australis – the native oyster mushroom

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.

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.

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.

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.

12 Years on and here is another picture of a cultivated specimen.  In this case I took the culture from a dried specimen.  It took a while to take off but grew quite well after that.  I fruited this one in my greenhouse whereas the first one was fruited in a rather dark corner of my kitchen.   In any case the result was quite different.

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.

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 dorrigo

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 scaly 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 success 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.

9 May 2021

It is a long time since I updated this post. I have now moved to Busselton. These mushrooms are everywhere around the town and in the adjacent forest particularly this year. If you go out in the evening with a torch you can see them releasing spores. You have to see this in person to appreciate the vast amount of spores that are released by these mushrooms. They must travel a long distance which makes it surprising that they aren’t more common on Peppermint trees in more inland locations. A friend did send me a picture of some on one of his apple trees in Manjimup and they have been spotted on a grape vine in Margaret River however so it seems that they are capable of occurring on other hosts. Actually, now that I think of it, I have seen these on a Warren River Cedar (Taxandria juniperina) while taking a tour along the Donnelly River and Taxandria parviceps(?) near Capel.

The spores are elongated, rather like grains of rice, about 10.5 x 5.6 microns. This is a microscope image showing the spores along with some sizing statistics. These differ from the spores of Omphalotus nidiformis which are close to spherical.

In the wild, this mushroom is often found to be riddled with larvae. These belong to the fungus fly Tapeigaster cinctipes. The males of this species patrol the tops of the mushrooms, waiting to mate with any females that happen along. The females lay their eggs in the gills and the larvae make their way into the mushroom from there. It is common to see these mushrooms pecked to pieces by birds that are no doubt feeding on the larvae. The images below show a male on the top of a mushroom and a view of one of the larvae under the microscope.

Tapeigaster cinctipes

Tapeigaster cinctipes larva

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Agaricus sylvaticus – the forest mushroom

When the rains come in Autumn, the karri forest comes alive with a huge variety of fungi.

One of the mose sought after ones is Agaricus sylvaticus, the forest mushroom. It grows to a diameter of approximately 150 mm and is often found in large outcrops.

I have childhood memories of walking through the forest picking these mushrooms when we would come down and stay here on school holidays. Those memories are an strong driver for my living here now.

The forest mushroom is quite a distinctive fungus and once one has seen a few, it is easy to recognise them. There is, however one caution that I would apply to picking and eating them and it is the same caution that I apply to all Agaricus species – if it smells of phenol, leave it alone. Another description of that smell is ‘like India Ink’.

I have picked and eaten these mushrooms for many years without ever finding any that smelled of phenol, but one year, when they were in great abundance, I picked a bag of them and the phenol smell was clearly evident. Perhaps it was the fact that there were so many of them, I don’t know. But I didn’t risk eating them. Mushrooms containing phenol are likely to cause distressing stomach upsets.


Sometimes this mushroom can reach enormous size.   This specimen was found when I was collecting firewood in the mixed jarrah/marri forest.


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