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Conifers redux (pine and fir)

Neil Layton
Posts: 632
Location: Edinburgh, Scotland
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This question keeps coming up, and never seems to be satisfactorily answered. Maybe there are no satisfactory answers, but there's an expert around, so here goes again. Edible mushrooms and conifers.

There seems to be a good chance at the moment that I may have access to a patch of mixed conifer (from photos I would say Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris) and what I think is probably Douglas fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii)) woodland. The proposed long-range management plan (still up for discussion, I think: it's a long way from clarified) is to convert it over to oak (Quercus spp) woodland, but this seems likely to be something that will take place over decades rather than years.

I can find any number of species that will grow on hardwood logs, but fewer that will grow on conifers. As far as I can make out, the resins are in part a defence against fungi that will break down the lignin. Is it correct that I should wait a few weeks to allow antifungal agents in the wood to break down? Will this just allow colonisation by unwanted fungi species?

I'm interested in suggestions that would fit into three categories.

* Edible fungi that will grow on fallen or standing deadwood, needle litter and chipped mulch from these two species
* Edible mycorrhizas that will associate with these two species
* Potentially, and I would love to hear some views on the wisdom of introducing such, edible fungi that will grow on living members of these two species.

I'm not sure about the wisdom of introducing parasites, however, especially ones that could do a lot of damage when they escape the site.

I have a short list. This includes:
* Cantharellus cibarius (chanterelle) (I'm not sure of the best way to inoculate: how straightforward is this?),
* Cortinarius caperatus (formerly Rozites caperata) (gypsy mushroom) (which in my experience seems to be popular with fly larvae)
* Hypholoma capnoides) (conifer tuft, which I have no experience with)
* I've seen reports that the lung oyster (Pleurotus pulmonarius) grows on conifers, but this may be subspecies dependent. Does anyone know anything about this? Would I need to source the right subspecies? I see that it's seen as a threat to the forestry industry in New Zealand. Does this mean it will grow on live conifer wood? The same applies to P. ostreatus, but growing true oyster mushrooms is the least of my worries.

I must be missing something!
Peter McCoy
Posts: 81
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Hi Neil,
Several thoughts..

The main issues with softwoods is that some do have anti-fungal properties and many have a low nitrogen content compared to hardwoods. In Asia, many mushroom farms use softwoods. To counteract these issues, they ferment the sawdust for a month, add extra N supplementation, and then treat and inoculate the substrate as normal.

If you cant do all that, the species that are known to grow on softwoods and are edible and/or medicinal include:

• Hypsizygus ulmarius
• Laetiporus conifericola
• Lentinus lepideus
• Pleurotus pulmonarius
• Hypholoma capnoides
• Schizophyllum commune
• Stropharia ruggosoannula
• Wolfiporia extensa
• Auricularia spp.
• Ganoderma spp.
• Fomitopsis pinicola

See my other posts on mycorrhizal fungi..

I would not intentionally introduce parasitic fungi. These species fill a delicate niche that I would not recommend experimenting with.

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