Winter Mushrooms

bracket fungi on Kunzea in bush at Karnup

I love it when mushrooms pop up in my garden but now winter’s over there’ll be no more until next year. I like looking through my friend’s copy of The Magical World of Fungi by Patricia Negus [1], to ID fungi I come across. Although it may be the drawing of a fairy sitting on a mushroom on the last page which makes me love this book. A Flickr friend told me about the Perth Fungi Field Book [2] which is free to download, so I had my own ID source. I had lots of fun IDing fungi I found and not so much fun realising how difficult it can be to ID fungi.

Fungi species often appear slightly different in different regions. [2]

edible black morel in my garden

In August I found some very unusual mushrooms growing in the pine bark mulch of my native garden. They had pointed caps which were intricately crenellated. I’ve had mushrooms with “ordinary” caps popping up in my lawn or vegie garden, but never something quite so alien-looking. The Perth Fungi Field Book came to the rescue and identified them as edible black morels (Morchella elata). The name confused me at first because the morels in my garden weren’t black until they started dying, but after picking one to give to my brother to eat, it turned black inside the crenellations.

In The Omnivore’s Dilemma Michael Pollan wrote about searching for black morels in a Californian pine forest the spring following a wildfire [3]. I thought my morels fruited in response to the fire a pine plantation receives prior to felling. Spores could have been caught in the bark and transferred to my garden when I put in the mulch. While the spores did arrive with the mulch, Morchella elata grows away from fires,

on non-burned soils, litter, and duff including non-burned islands in burned areas or on burned soils but then apparently no sooner than the second spring after an intense wildfire. [4]

The morel Michael Pollen searched for could have been Morchella tomentose (formerly Morchella atrotomentosa) which are

burn morels, fruiting the spring following a fire. [4]

As with many fungi, the taxonomy of the Morchellaceae family has not been worked out yet [4], so it’s all very confusing :)

earthball in my parent's garden

My parent’s garden grows some interesting fungi too (above). I tentatively IDed this as an Earthball (Scleroderma sp.). They burst like puffballs to release their spores and what’s left is a folded back star shape. This one never opened, just went squishy and rotted away so I’m not certain of my ID. This opened Earthball (below) is on a bush track in Karnup. Earthballs are in the Sclerodermataceae family as are Dog Poo Fungi (Pisolithus sp.) which are common on winter walks at Star Swamp, and look exactly like dog poo.

open earthball on a bush track in Karnup

My parents also had a massive rippling whitish-cream fungus growing at the base of a dead silky oak (Grevillea robusta). When the tree died most was felled, but 2m of trunk left. At first I thought this amazing fungus was Erupting Russula (Russula erumpens). Erupting was the perfect description for its growth, but the fungus seemed to be growing from the dead tree stump rather than stalks in the ground.

gills of the rippling white fungi

Other ID options were Fan Pax (Tapinella panuoides) or Southern Oyster Mushroom (Pleurotus australis), but I think it’s more likely Hohenbuehelia bingarra. Other Hohenbuehelia sp. have the rippling growth of this fungus. My brother wondered if it was edible, but it wasn’t listed in Recognizing Edible Field Mushrooms [5], so I didn’t think he should try it.

rippling white fungi growing from a grevillea stump

Whatever it was, it’s second in line, after black morels, for strangest looking fungi I found this winter. It was growing under the metal sheeting that protects the woodpile from rain. I broke the fungus a little when I put the sheeting back, but then piled the firewood up to lift the sheet higher. When my parents and brother subsequently took wood from the pile they weren’t quite so careful and next time I saw it, it was squashed.

Crepidotus growing on log seats

I had log seats on my front porch that get rained on and last winter they grew what I first thought were Scarlet Bracket Fungi (Pycnoporus coccineus). But bracket fungi don’t have gills and these ones did. Therefore I was slightly baffled. It could be Eucalypt Crepidotus (Crepidotus eucalyptorum). My friend made these seats and he may have used jarrah or another eucalyptus. They are parts of the trunk sliced into seat size and carved with a checkerboard pattern on top. The Crepidotus grew in the gaps between the squares. Before the rain began this year I realised a wet log seat sitting on a wet wooden porch probably isn’t a good idea if I don’t want a rotten porch. So the log seats moved to the paving out the back. They don’t get rained on as much out there and this winter fewer and smaller Crepidotus grew.

trumpets growing in a pot plant in my garden

Last winter I also found “trumpet” fungi growing in a pot plant in my garden. My name didn’t stick, they were probably Bird’s Nest Fungi (Cyathus sp.), which had lost their peridioles, the “eggs in the nest,” before I found them. Drops of water fall on the peridioles and they shoot out like cannon balls [6]. This photo of Cyathus sp. taken last winter in Canberra still has its peridioles.

bracket fungi growing on a eucalyptus at the park

For years there’s been two bracket fungi, which may be Wood-layered Bracket Fungi (Phellinus robustus) growing on a Bald Island Marlock (Eucalyptus conferruminata) in my local park. Earlier this year someone broke off most of the larger one. I was worried that was the end of it, but the wound healed and it seems to be surviving well.



  1. Negus, Patricia (2006) The Magical World of Fungi. North Fremantle, WA: Cape to Cape.
  2. Bougher, Neale L. (2009) Fungi of the Perth Region and Beyond: A self-managed field book Perth, WA: Western Australian Naturalists’ Club.
  3. Pollan, Michael (2006) The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals. New York: Penguin.
  4. Gibson, Ian (2009) Morels & False Morels of the Pacific Northwest: An Introduction South Vancouver Island, BC: Pacific Northwest Key Council.
  5. Hoffmann, Bougher & Wood (2005) Recognizing Edible Field Mushrooms (Gardennote no.47) Perth, WA: Dept of Agriculture.
  6. Lepp, Heino (2005) Birds Nest and Cannonball Fungi Canberra, ACT: Australian National Botanic Gardens.

12 thoughts on “Winter Mushrooms

  1. I didn’t know we could get morels here!!!! Having grown up in Illinois (USA), every spring I looked forward to hunting morels, and the location of them was often a closely guarded secret! I’d love to develop an area in my garden to grow them, but they’re pretty fickle!

  2. This is fascinating! I’ve never seen anything but the standard plain white types growing on lawns along my street, usually just after the middle of winter.

  3. Thank you guys for reading. I used to only see the ordinary field type mushrooms until I started looking closer in my garden and other places. And winter walks in the bush always provide weird and wonderful fungi. Wherever you live in Perth there’ll be a bush reserve nearby, even if its tiny like my closest & fav one. And if you put a log of some native plant (bark and all) in your garden where it’ll get rained on, I’m sure something will grow on it next winter :)

    Kara, I think you should get some pine bark mulch and see if you can grow your own morels. I put the pine bark mulch on my garden in November last year, so now’s the time to do it!

  4. The morel doesn’t look like a black morel to me, and they are certainly native to Australia. They grow right through our Karri and Jarrah forests. See Fungi of Southern Australia, by Bougher and Syme, p101.

    I have found huge numbers of morels growing in pine bark mulch in the new estates south of Perth.

    The large white bracket fungus looks very much like Ompholotus nidiformis. If it is, it will come up year after year. The simplest identification is to break off a piece and put it in a jar and keep it by your bedside. When you wake up during the night, you will see it glowing brightly!

  5. Thank you for this info. Everyone is so helpful in sharing their knowledge.

    I’m landscaping my neighbours garden with pine bark mulch and native plants (when the rains come) and I hope morels will pop up in the mulch. The devasting storms last monday* didn’t count as the start of winter, although they caused so much damage. I was lucky to have no damage to my house or car but my rainwater tank filled one third. We have a lot more sunny weather until the season breaks for real.

    Do you know if the ones that come up in pine park mulch are the same that come up in marri and jarrah forests. I thought they would have arrived from N. America with pine plantations. I will have to look at “Fungi of Southern Australia” by Bougher and Syme, p101.

    Some one on flickr also said the white fungus under the dead silky oak was Ompholotus nidiformis, so I will have to investigate this winter when it comes up again – very easy cos its at my parents house in the nxt suburb. My brother wanted to know if it was edible and it’s not. My brother wants to eat every fungus he finds and good thing i recommended he didn’t.

    I hope the morel, whatever species it is, comes up again this winter, so he can try it. I didn’t work out it was edible last year until it was past its prime. Altho I will check with Bougher and Syme to see if its edible before i give it to him.

    *The storms also killed 30 endangered Carnaby’s Black Cockatoos and injured many others, as well as other birds.

  6. I found that the morels were loaded with sand, due to the nature of the soil and the surface crenulations. So copious washing was required. Personally, I prefer some of the other fungi, as mentioned in my blog.

    I also found that they were best eaten fresh. Attempts to dry them and eat later led to a severe case of the squitters! Perhaps that is because they occur when drying is most difficult.

    The morels from down Mandurah way got stuffed with crab meat and sauteed in a cream sauce. That made a pretty nice dish!

  7. Pingback: Morchella – The morel, a worldwide favourite « Tall trees and Mushrooms

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