Fistulina spiculifera- Beefsteak in name only

Fistulina hepatica is a cosmopolitan fungus that is known in Europe as growing on oak trees.   In Western Australia it favours Jarrah, though I have one next to my house that grows on a Blackbutt.  Though it could not be classed as common, it is widespread.   I have seen it growing in Kings Park in Perth.  It probably grows right throughout the range of the Jarrah tree.  As a young fungus, it is quite soft and dense, but as it ages it can become quite tough, like many other bracket fungi.   Here is a small specimen that is around 120 mm across.

Fistulina hepatica

Fistulina hepatica

Note the ribbed upper surface.  The underside is yellow pores and it has a yellow spore print when viewed as a dense mass.  There really isn’t anything else that you could confuse this with unless you really tried. Though the specimens I have seen do show signs of insect attack, they  do seem to be quite resistant to that attack and the fungus makes it through to old age without being reduced to a mush, if I may use that term

When cut into slices, it displays quite a pleasant pattern:

Fistulina slices

Fistulina slices

With some exposure to the air, the cut surfaces can take on a liver red colour, which is where the ‘hepatica’ part of the name comes from.  This colour may be due to the phenolic compounds that are reported to occur in it.  It is also reported to contain vitamin C, which is unusual for a fungus in my experience.

Fistulina_red

The name ‘Beefsteak fungus’ is perhaps unfortunate as it tends to make one think that it should be treated like a piece of meat.  The taste, however is nothing like meat, or any of the mushrooms that you might normally serve with meat.  Raw, it is rather bland, but with a light frying it takes on a slightly acidic taste that most closely resembles some sort of fruit.  So much so that I think it might reasonably be incorporated into a sweet dish.  I have given a sample to a friend who is a cooking guru to see what she comes up with.  In the meantime, I have left some in the fridge while I wait for a response.

This fungus has been brought into culture and I will see if I can persuade any of my friends with expertise in that field to attempt the same.

I will add to this post when I have investigated further.

19 June 2013

I cut the mushroom into thin slices and poached them in a sugar solution.   The resultant pieces were similar to apple which has undergone the same treatment.  With enough of these, one could perhaps make a sweet mushroom pie.

23 June 2013

Thus fungus is responsible for an effect known as black fleck in jarrah timber.  I have been told by a local tree faller that timber with black fleck  does not bend and warp in the same way that normal timber does.

8 July 2021

There are several mentions of this fungus in old records and I will try to list some of these here.  The first is a mention by James Drummond in a letter to the Perth Enquirer in May 1842.  An extract is shown below.

Boletus-Drummond-1

A decade earlier than this, May 1832, Alexander Collie went on an exploration to the land north of Menang country with a man named Manyat. He wrote;

I did not require Manyat’s services as an interpreter, for I did not meet with any Aboriginal people during the whole of my march of ten days, to the distance of 65 miles from King George’s Sound.[Collie doesn’t mention the direction he went in, but I expect it was to the west of the Stirling Ranges to somewhere in the region of Tambellup

Manyat performed the service of fire starter and carrier. This he did with the barren spikes of the banksia serrata (or mungat), the seeded cones of the banksia grandis, or the bark of the jarrah tree. The first and last require no preparation, but the second is placed in the fire till the outer surface is little burnt, then buried in a hole scraped in the earth with the pointed handle of the knife (taap), or of the axe (koit). The excursion seemed to make him very happy; it certainly supplied him with abundance of food, as he had the same rations as the other people travelling with us and whatever he could obtain through hunting.

The animal kingdom chiefly supplied him with kangaroo rats (wo-ail), bandicoots, possums and crows. One of the bandicoot species found is possibly a new species and has no tail. The vegetable kingdom occasionally furnished light and highly relished morsels in two sorts of fungus totally different from our mushroom or the French truffle. They are species of boletus; the one growing out of trees, of a beautiful crimson colour above. Its Aboriginal name is numar. The other grows out of the ground, of a greyish colour, and globular form: it is named mord. They are both eaten raw, are very juicy, and have a slight flavour of the chestnut.

There are other mentions of Numar in various dictionaries. An example is shown below.

It is interesting to note the spelling in this last case as I was fortunate enough today to speak with George Walley, a Noongar man from Mandurah who not only runs a business showing people about traditional culture (Mandjoogoordap Dreaming) but who was introduced to this mushroom by his grandparents. He advised me that the correct pronunciation is with the ‘u’ pronounced as in the word ‘book’. He also said that as a child he had eaten it cooked on a fire. That is different from what Collie described and shows that it was prepared in different ways.

The image below shows the spores of this species. In this case I used Quink ink as a simple substitute for lactophenol cotton blue as the stain. Seems to have worked ok. I haven’t got a scale for this at this stage. These spores are in-situ within the tissue.

The pore surface is composed of a series of tubes of circular cross-section. As the fungus ages, the tubes break apart from each other.

8 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    Keith said,

    Great post, thank you.
    Shared.
    Regards, Keith.

  2. 2

    Florian Popp said,

    Hi Morrie, we are heading to Pemberton this weekend (22.6.2013) after the Truffle Festival in Manjimup. I am coming down with Cris who grows Oyster mushrooms at Perth City Farm and we are hoping to look for some samples of edible oyster & morels while down your way. Is there any chance we might be able to visit you and pick your brain ? All the best, Florian

    • 3

      morrie2 said,

      Hi Florian,

      Sorry, but I only spotted your comment today, Sunday. It is highly unlikely that you will find examples of oyster mushrooms while you are down here. The native one is extremely rare. I haven’t looked at the local exaple this year, but I suspect that it has come and gone.

      Likewise, you are highly unlikely to find morels. It is the wrong time of the year.

      There are plenty of other edible species around though.

      Cheers

      Morrie

  3. 4

    Florian said,

    Hi Morrie,

    Tks for the reply. We weren’t to sure about any of the samples we found around pemberton so mainly took photos. We did find 3 beautiful specimens of oysters closer to Perth on Sunday. What is a better time for morels ? I can email some pics of the oysters which cris will try and grow out at Pcf. BR, florian

    • 5

      morrie2 said,

      Hi Florian,

      I would be interested to see pictures of your oysters. I will email you directly. Have you read my post about oyster mushrooms? If not, I suggest you don’t eat your specimens.

      Morels grow here in early Spring. You may find them growing elsewhere at this time of year. Have you read my post about morels?

      Cheers,

      Morrie

  4. 6

    dokmaidogma said,

    Your blog is a most valuable resource for Europeans to get a more global perspective on mushroom distribution. Providing pictures and personal comments on substrate is far more valuable than a statement in a book ‘Australia’. Kindly provide scientific names for your Australian trees,just so that we foreigners can see what you are talking about (eg. Eucalyptus emarginata for jarrah).

    Cheers, Eric Danell, Sweden and Thailand

    • 7

      morrie2 said,

      I am pleased to hear that you find the blog of use. The other substrate for Fistulina is Eucalyptus patens, aka blackbutt or Yarri.

  5. 8

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