Where there any mushrooms yesterday?
To my great surprise, given the short notice, 35 people showed up for the Dokmai Garden mushroom excursion yesterday.
We began indoors briefly discussing Thai, Chinese, Japanese, European and American mushroom books. I demonstrated a mushroom drier and a dried specimen of the cultivated mango bolete (Phlebopus (Phaeogyroporus) portentosus), its tissue samples on nutrient medium and a 16th century Ming plate ornamented with the ‘long-life’ mushroom ‘ling zhi’ (Ganoderma lucidum).
The current Thai mushroom book is: Chandrasrikul et al. (2008) Diversity of Mushrooms and macrofungi in Thailand. Kasetsart University. It can be ordered from Kasetsart University (firstname.lastname@example.org) or bought at the Suriwong Book Centre downtown Chiang Mai. It is written in both English and Thai.
After this introduction we walked outdoors. Although many of last weekend’s mushrooms had disappeared during the past two days’ sunshine, we still found a few mushrooms to discuss:
1. Mature Thai truffle, Astraeus hygrometricus, (hed top or hed por), an earthstar normally collected when young and subterranean in May. We saw the mature stage puffing spores like smoke. I explained that our dog Ruben who later joined the excursion, had been trained as a truffle dog. A participant asked if pigs ate this species, and so we threw one to the wild boar. They were distracted by the crowd of people, but suddenly a piglet found the treat and inhaled it like a labrador.
2. We checked a site for the Indian termite mushroom (Termitomyces indicus) but they had already disappeared.
3. We admired the New Guinea Creeper (Mucuna bennettii) and on a fence post we saw some jelly mushrooms (Auricularia sp.). These woody ears are related to the European Judas ear, Hirneola (Auricularia) auricula-judae. We concluded that this mushroom mainly provides texture rather than taste, and it can be eaten raw in salads. We discussed nutrient contents and mushroom cultivation, as this wood degrader is commonly cultivated in Thailand.
4. Behind the tool shed we found several inedible but ecologically interesting fungi: A black and inedible Xylaria sp. had formed many fingerlike, stiff ‘fruitbodies’ (more exactly they are coral-like structures with many tiny fruitbodies, perithecia) on a piece of bamboo. Another wood degrader was the bird’s nest fungus (Cyathus striatus). This cosmopolitan species is commonly found in gardens on wood chips, bamboo and twigs. It looks like a basket with breads, or a bird’s nest with eggs. The ‘eggs’ (peridioles) contain many spores and they disperse thanks to rain drops. We also found a wild relative of the common white button mushroom (Agaricus sp.). We compared the differences between Agaricus (pink or brown gills, ring but no sac-like volva) and sometimes deadly Amanita mushrooms (never brown or pink gills, ring is present and often a volva too). Although we concluded this was an Agaricus, we agreed that this is a difficult genus and some Agaricus are poisonous and should be left alone. We also discussed the low biodiversity of fungi in the tropics, blaming the termites for taking the mushroom substrate.
5. Walking northwards we passed a Hexagonia polypore growing on a branch in a longan tree, we mentioned that lichens are overlooked fungi in mutualistic symbiosis with algae, and then we got to a stump with real growing ling zhi mushrooms (Ganoderma lucidum). We discussed how to make tea on this mushroom and although we left the question open whether or not it promotes health, it is still a harmless drink. We also discussed dung mushrooms and concluded that the magic mushroom Psilocybe is uncommon in northern Thailand, although I and one participant previously found a Panaeolus mushroom on water buffalo dung. We then visited the decomposing remnants of once (a couple of days ago) proud Termitomyces mushrooms. They have typical elongated stems and they live in mutualistic symbiosis with termites. We dug into the termite mound to look at the comb-like structures containing wood and mycelium. We also looked into a simple mushroom shed, and concluded that mushroom cultivation is very cheap in Thailand.
6. We then left Dokmai Garden to make a short walk to a nearby stand of dipterocarp trees. These trees live in ectomycorrhizal symbiosis with chanterelles (hed kamin, Cantharellus minor). The chanterelles were a familiar sight to many participants, although most participants were used to much larger chanterelles from their home countries. In the vicinity we also found another Ling zhi mushroom, a white and probably inedible Pholiota sp. growing on a tree stump, a brown mushroom with a tall thin and stiff stipe which is depicted in the Thai mushroom book as ‘Inocybe sp.’, although it could be another genus, and an Entoloma sp. We also discussed ways of growing mycorrhizal mushrooms. Although we were many participants, everyone who wanted got a handful of chanterelles, and there were many more left, and so I shall make another dog walk there tomorrow morning.
Later in the afternoon we had British guests. After closing hours we received 32 mm of rain from a cloud that hovered above Dokmai Garden only, blue skies all around us. Since we need to fill up the quarry before the dry season, we were most grateful for this shower.
Walking towards trees of Dipterocarpus tuberculatus and D. obtusifolius in a quest for chanterelles (Cantharellus minor). As a precaution against spitting cobras we all walked through the tall grass in a line with Ruben the truffle dog first.
A Dipterocarpus leaf can be formed into a basket when chanterelles are around.
Text: Eric Danell
Photo: Andrew Bridge