Collection location: Kalaheo, Kaua’i, Hawaii, USA [Click for map]
Huge mushrooms found in Kalaheo
By TOM FINNEGAN – TGI Staff Writer
Kalaheo resident Randy Silva admitted he thought about eating the huge mushrooms he found between his tool shed and his boat last month. The white mushrooms with an almost merengue texture looked tasty, but he decided to make sure it was safe first.
“It looks so good,” Silva said. “I’d throw it on a barbeque and cook it with some butter and garlic.”
But he decided to call someone first, just to make sure, he said. And his call prompted Dr. Don Hemmes, chairman of the biology department at the Univesity of Hawai‘i at Hilo, to make a trip to Kaua‘i Tuesday to collect samples.
And to tell Silva not to eat it just yet.
“I called him on Monday. He was here Tuesday,” said Silva, adding, “I’ve seen all types of mushrooms. But I’ve never seen anything like this.”
The mushrooms, which appeared out of nowhere about a month ago, are about 10 inches wide, said Silva. They have a milky complexion and have grown in a stump two feet high by two feet wide, with the stalks as wide as a man’s forearm. There are also other clumps in varying degrees of growth within a three-foot diameter area in Silva’s yard.
“The species on Randy Silva’s lawn is Macrocybe spectabilis,” said Hemmes via e-mail.
“Macrocybe spectabilis has been found in Mauritius and Japan, always associated with sugar cane,” the biologist said. “Here in Hawai‘i it has been found in lawn grass, on the ground in banana patches, and even in Randy Silva’s tool shed!”
He added that he had taken another sample of the mushroom from another yard in Kalaheo a mile away from Silva’s yard around two years ago. There have also been sightings on Oah‘u recently.
“It has possibly been associated with sugar cane in Hawai‘i and has now moved out into lawn areas,” Hemmes said. “The spores of this species may have been brought in on sugar cane stock, machinery, who knows,” but he is in the process of finding out.
“The mushrooms spread by spores (a good mushroom produces at least a million spores a day and these giant fellows probably produce a lot more),” wrote Hemmes.
But unfortunately for Silva, Hemmes advised him not to eat the huge fungus.
“The most important point may be that if you smell the mushrooms, especially when you break them open, there is an odor of cyanide. Most people would probably not recognize that odor,” the biologist said.
“M titans and M. spectabilis have more cyanide than all the other members of the genus,” he said, but people do eat them.
“In India and Africa, the people boil the mushrooms for a while and throw off several changes of water,” Hemmes said. “This is a common trick used with wild ‘edible’ plants such as polkweed to get rid of water-soluble or volatile toxins.”
But as for barbequing them, Hemmes said it is not a good idea.
“My advice is not to eat this mushroom appearing on Kaua‘i. As the saying goes, there are old mushroom eaters and bold mushroom eaters, but there are no old, bold mushroom eaters,” he said.
Staff writer Tom Finnegan can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 226)
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Created: 2013-10-07 19:41:10 CDT (-0500)
Last modified: 2013-10-07 19:41:14 CDT (-0500)
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