Edible Mushrooms in my Worm Bin

Every single time Bagasse Mushrooms appear in my compost I am amazed. Mainly because these mushrooms are considered to be gourmet edible mushrooms, fetching high prices at markets worldwide, yet they have decided to volunteer in no less than 3 of my compost systems! Before these mushrooms, aka Paddy Straw Mushrooms (Volvariella volvacea), began appearing in my compost, I had never intentionally cultivated them; I have never introduced their spawn nor their spores to the land that I am stewarding. I have never even bought this species of mushroom from the market; so no parts of this species – neither tissue nor spores – have ever intentionally ended up in my compost after having been on my kitchen’s cutting board! And yet they have found their way to my compost systems. I suspect the wind has brought in their spores.

Bagasse Mushroom growing in a raised bed keyhole composting chute under fruiting tomato plants by Chase | Tropical Fungi Academy


Different mushroom species frequently pop up in my compost, most commonly different varieties of Inky Caps. Yet this mushroom species, no doubt due to its size, always elicits the “WOW factor” from myself & my roommates. Speaking of roommates, I can’t help but wonder if they are slicing-&-dicing Bagasse Mushrooms in the kitchen behind my back & surreptitiously sneaking pieces into our compost pails (they insist they are not though).

Bagasse Mushroom growing in compost tumbler by Chase | Tropical Fungi Academy


The Bagasse Mushroom is a hot weather loving mushroom that is widely cultivated in the tropics. Due to its extremely short shelf life, fresh specimens can only be purchased in locations very close to where they are grown. Most people around the world who eat these mushrooms get them preserved in tin cans labeled “Straw Mushrooms” from grocery stores. They are most typically eaten in soups & stir fries & are prized for their delightful aroma & umami flavor.

Bagasse Mushrooms growing in worm compost bin. Note the compost worm crawling in between them! By Chase | Tropical Fungi Academy


Distinguishing features of Bagasse Mushrooms are their compost habitat, a prominent & thick, sack-like egg at the base of the stipe, lack of a ring or skirt on the stipe, & pinkish brown to salmon-colored spores (as seen on the spore-dusted on the caps in the photo above).

We love using the log inoculation method for growing mushrooms. It is a technique to reliably grow mushrooms that mimics nature & has been used successfully for hundreds of years. Oftentimes, folks are cutting down tree limbs because the limb is threatening their house or a power line. Sometimes farmers need to open the canopy up to let more light in to grow their crops. At times, some tree species are introduced from other areas that can take over entire ecosystems & grow in an unwanted monoculture, as is the case with the Octopus Tree (aka: Umbrella Tree [H. actinophyllum / S. actinophylla]). In our tropical area, folks are regularly cutting this tree down because – without proper management – it can cover entire hillsides in short order leaving very little room for endemic species to thrive.

Umbrella Octopus Tree

Octopus Tree taking over an entire hillside
image by Forest & Kim Starr | PlantPono.org

In each of these cases, instead of sending the wood to the landfill, we can inoculate it with mushroom mycelium to grow food for our community. Octopus Tree has been a success story in tropical mushroom cultivation on logs. The wood myceliates quickly & produces large flushes of mushrooms after only 6 months of incubation time.

Oysters on Umbrella Tree bolt

Our most recent flush of Oyster Mushrooms on Octopus Tree logs in the food forest.
Inoculated in 2021, still flushing mushrooms in 2023!

With this success, we decided to try a stump inoculation. Stump inoculation is when, after the tree has been cut down to its stump, holes are drilled in it to introduce gourmet mushroom mycelium. The living mycelium will eat the dying wood & use the nutrients in the wood to grow tasty mushrooms. Generally, since there is so much woody material in the underground root system it takes quite a while for these stumps to completely myceliate & then start producing mushrooms. But when they do, oh WOW do they ever…

Oyster Mushrooms on stump

Stumps inoculated with mushroom mycelium have been known to produce mushrooms for decades!

Knowing that Octopus Tree is a very “vigorous” species & that it could possibly resist the mushroom mycelium’s vigor, we decided to drill A WHOLE BUNCH of holes in the stump & introduce A WHOLE LOT of mushroom mycelium in the holes so that the fungi would eat the wood before the tree tried to pounce back to life…

inoculated Octopus Tree stump

Octopus Tree with a TON of inoculation points all over & around it.

Well, like you, we are also very busy doing lots of things in life: growing mushrooms, waking up at all hours to change diapers, hiking & looking for mushrooms, washing diapers, creating new mushroom educational content, wiping baby bums, prepping & cooking mushrooms, etc.

As a result, we neglected to check up on this stump inoculation project. Plus, we knew it was a very big stump, so it would likely take quite a while to myceliate before it produced mushrooms. “Let’s just check up on it again in a couple of years”, we said to each other.

Well, that’s what we did… and here is what we encountered a couple of years later..

Octopus Tree GROWING BACK!


The tree not only survived, it is THRIVING, which is great for the tree, of course.
And we learned a lesson. We hypothesize that with a tropical tree species that is this vigorous that the best practice would most likely be to:

  • Cut the tree down to the stump,
  • introduce mushroom mycelium in a lot of inoculation points,
  • and then REGULARLY RETURN to the stump to prune back any new growth in order to aid the mushroom mycelium in eating the stump.

While we are not 100% sure that this pruning hypothesis will work with Octopus Tree, the next time we inoculate the stump of such a vigorous tree species we will be trying a more hands-on approach!

Do you have any ideas on how to grow mushrooms on the stumps of vigorous tropical trees like this one. If so, then please contact us.

And if you would like to learn how to grow mushrooms in the tropics the fast-track way by learning what works as well as what NOT to do – because we likely already tried that – then please check out our upcoming mushroom education offerings where we will show you the ways that have worked the best for us. 

Properly identifying mushrooms takes a few steps. Oftentimes it is difficult – if not impossible – to identify a mushroom just by looking at its top surface alone.

It is critical to also look underneath the mushroom to see what kind of fertile surface type it has. Different species of fungi can sometimes look very similar from above, but actually have vastly different kinds of fertile surfaces below. For example, with the classic cap-and-stem mushroom the fertile surface is located on the bottom side of the cap. There you will see the fertile surface on which the mushrooms spore’s (like plant seeds) are formed.

There are 3 different shapes of fertile surface types that you will most often find under the cap:

  1. Gills look like pages in a book.
  2. Pores look like a bunch of small – sometimes very tiny – holes.
  3. Teeth look like elongated, cone-shaped spines.
    […and some mushrooms have veins underneath.]

hymenophore types

Sometimes when identifying, we only want to know what type of fertile surface a mushroom has. To do this we actually do not need to pick it from the earth – or maybe the the mushroom doesn’t want to be picked! Perhaps it is still too young & we want it to complete its lifecycle by maturing & releasing its spores yet we still want to know what kind of mushroom it is. In this case, we can use a dental mirror to see what kind of fertile surface the mushroom has to help us with identification.

It’s easy. What we do is simply hold the dental mirror against the ground underneath the mushroom’s cap, & then angle the mirror towards our eyes so that we can see if the mushroom has gills, pores, or teeth. This step can either get us closer to identifying a mushroom to species or can sometimes even give us a definitive answer as to what the mushroom is.

Photo by Jason Youth | CC0 public domain | iNaturalist

Photo by Jason Youth | CC0 public domain | iNaturalist

Always be sure to see what kind of fertile surface the mushroom has. And if getting help from others by sending them your photographs of the mushroom, be sure to always include a photo of the fertile surface in addition to the top surface.

If you want to learn more about mushroom ID, then please join us for our next mushroom identification class by clicking here.

Mustard Yellow Polypore

One will stumble on Mustard Yellow Polypores (Phellinus gilvus) outdoors nearly anywhere there is dead wood. This fungus is everywhere, even possibly at the site of our next workshop. It is also known to be supremely medicinal and has been shown to have antioxidant, antimicrobial, anti-cancer, and wound healing properties [see references below].

I was excited to stumble upon log after log full of these mushrooms recently & ended up spending way too much time photographing them. This is how you identify them (I have de-coded the technical words from the identification literature into common language & left the technical words in parenthesis).

One can find Mustard Yellow Polypores growing out of dead logs laying on the ground or on standing, dead trees. They can grow as an individual conk, in groups (gregarious), or in a cluster of overlapping shelves (imbricate). Mustard Yellow Polypores form half moon-shaped (semicircular) shelves with a relatively flat (applanate) surface or they can be slightly convex.

The top surface of this fungus is dark yellowish brown with a mustard-yellow (tawny-olive) colored outer edge (margin) at young and middle age. The whole fungus turns dark brown in old age. Older individuals tend to have concentric (zonate) furrows which are of the same color (concolorous). Mustard Yellow Polypores can appear to have an irregularly lumpy and wrinkled (rugose) surface which is velvety (velutinous) at younger stages & becomes bald (glabrous) when older.

This fungus is broadly attached to the host, therefore it has no stipe (sessile).

Mustard Yellow Polypore pores

Pores on the spore-bearing surface

Underneath, Mustard Yellow Polypores have pores that appear purplish, light brown (ochre) to purplish brown. The round pores are very small and occur 6-8 per millimeter.

The next time you see this mushroom growing, say hello! 🙂


Antioxidant and Antimicrobial Activities of Fruiting Bodies of Phellinus gilvus Collected in Korea. Ki-Nam Yoon, Hyung Seok Jang. Korean J Clin Lab Sci. 2016;48(4):355-364. https://doi.org/10.15324/kjcls.2016.48.4.355 pISSN 1738-3544 eISSN 2288-1662.

Inhibitory effects of polysaccharides isolated from Phellinus gilvus on benzo(a)pyrene-induced forestomach carcinogenesis in mice. Jae-Sung Bae, Kwang-Ho Jang, Hyunee Yim, Seung-Chun Park, Hee-Kyung Jin. World J Gastroenterol 2005;11(4):577-579. World Journal of Gastroenterology ISSN 1007-9327.

Polysaccharides isolated from Phellinus gilvus enhances dermal wound healing in streptozotocin-induced diabetic rats. Jae-Sung Bae, Kwang-Ho Jang, Hee-Kyung Jin. College of Veterinary Medicine, Kyungpook National University, Daegu 702-701, Korea. J. Vet. Sci. (2005), 6(2), 161–164.

Polysaccharides isolated from Phellinus gilvus inhibit melanoma growth in mice. Jae-sung Bae, Kwang-ho Jang, Hyunee Yim, Hee-kyung Jin. Department of Surgery, College of Veterinary Medicine, Kyungpook National University, Daegu 702-701, South Korea. Department of Pathology, Ajou University School of Medicine, Suwon, South Korea. Department of Laboratory Animal Medicine, College of Veterinary Medicine, Kyungpook National University, Daegu 702-701, South Korea. Received 21 June 2004; received in revised form 31 July 2004; accepted 2 August 2004.

Whole-genome sequence of Phellinus gilvus (mulberry Sanghuang) reveals its unique medicinal values. Jinxi Huo, Shi Zhong, Xin Du, Yinglong Cao, Wenqiong Wang, Yuqing Sun, Yu Tian, Jianxun Zhu, Jine Chen, Lijiang Xuan, Chongming Wu, Yougui Li. Journal of Advanced Research 24 (2020) 325–335.

I’m so excited that the recent rains have brought out the turkey tail mushrooms. I love that when I happen upon these mushrooms they are nearly always fruiting in great abundance. And yes, they do really look like turkey tails, or as the Dutch say, fairy benches (elfenbankje)!

If you are curious about identifying this mushroom yourself, this is an easier one that is good for beginner fungi enthusiasts. One can easily tell when they are looking at turkey tails by observing that they are:

  • occurring in groups of overlapping clusters & rosettes on fallen wood,
  • half-moon / fan-shaped,
  • broadly attached to the wood (sessile),
  • thin & leathery,
  • feature concentric zones that vary in color from brownish, to buff to various shades of gray & which also vary in texture from matted-wooly to shaggy,
  • and finally, turkey tails have cream-colored pores underneath that are easily visible.

Turkey Tail Mushrooms

Turkey Tail Mushrooms

Turkey Tail pores

Turkey Tail pores

The closest look-alike fungus I most often see around my parts are Microporus mushrooms. These fungi often, but not always, grow either singly or scattered a few inches away from one another. Also, the pores of Microporus are much smaller & very difficult to see with the naked eye. Finally, they have a dark stipe (“stem”), unlike a turkey tail mushroom which lacks a stipe.

Tinypore Mushrooms

Tinypore (Microporus sp.) Mushrooms

Tinypore hymenophore

Tinypore (Microporus sp.) hymenophore

If you would like to learn more about mushroom identification, be sure to click on this link to check out our latest educational offerings.

One of the most common questions we get from participants of our mushroom cultivation workshops is: “Can I grow mushrooms on Guinea grass (Megathyrsus maximus)?” It is a great question given the abundance of this grass species. As we hadn’t yet tried it ourselves when previously asked, our response to participants was: “Possibly. Try it out. If you succeed then let us know so we can tell others!” After a couple of years of getting this question & giving folks the same response, we decided to try it ourselves…

Guinea Grass (Megathyrsus maximus) by Beth Addison-smith | CC0 public domain | iNaturalist

Guinea Grass (Megathyrsus maximus) by Beth Addison-smith | CC0 public domain | iNaturalist

Guinea grass, originally native to Africa, has been widely introduced throughout the tropics as forage & fodder for domesticated animals. Due to its tendency to displace native plants, Guinea grass is considered an invasive weed in many locations around the world.

Loss of native plant biodiversity is not the only concern related to invasive Guinea grass. According to HawaiiWildfire.org, Guinea grass is a fire-prone species. In a scientific paper published in Applied Vegetation Science, the authors warned that “once forests are converted to grassland there is a significant increase in fire intensity, which likely provides the positive feedback to continued grassland dominance in the absence of active fire management” (Ellsworth et al. 2014).

Given the invasive nature of Guinea grass here in the tropics along with the heightened curiosity of our mushroom workshop participants about this free, abundant, local resource, we decided to look more closely at using this grass as a substrate (food) for growing gourmet mushrooms on in order to help cut back on the spread of this invasive species. We were excited to uncover a recently-published scientific paper proving that oyster mushrooms can in fact be grown on Guinea grass (Somashekhar et al. 2020). This gave us an extra confidence boost & spurred us to action!

After reading the paper, we grabbed our sickles, cut down some Guinea grass that was growing in our back yard, laid it out to sun-dry, pasteurized it & then inoculated it with pink oyster mushroom spawn (mycelium). We decided to use re-usable glass jars as the container for incubating the mycelium as well as for fruiting the mushrooms from. After just over 2 weeks, we had pink oyster mushrooms growing from the Guinea grass out of our glass jar! Woo-hoo!

mushrooms on Guinea Grass

Mushrooms growing on Guinea grass by Summer, Dave, & Chase | Tropical Fungi Academy

Now, what do you do with the bare spot in the back yard where the Guinea grass was growing? How do we make sure that native plants will thrive there now? After cutting Guinea grass for use as a mushroom substrate or fodder, it is recommended to plant a diversity of native plant species in its place – as opposed to just planting a single native plant species – in order to achieve a higher success rate at having native plant species become re-established in the restoration habitat (Ammondt et al. 2012 & 2013).

We are so stoked that this worked & hope you will try this method too. We will definitely continue to be open to recommendations on which invasive species to grow mushrooms on. So if you would like us to try growing mushrooms on another species, please let us know which species & we’ll give it a shot!

If you want to learn more about growing gourmet & medicinal mushrooms on invasive species & other abundant substrates, be sure to check out our upcoming educational offerings by clicking on this link.

We officially have a new successful tropical invasive tree species to add to the list of woods that WORK for growing gourmet mushrooms on!

Oyster Mushrooms on Invasive Wood

Oyster Mushrooms on invasive wood

Octopus Tree (Schefflera actinophylla) is “without question, one of the worst weeds currently invading the wet forests of the Hawaiian Islands” and “the Division of Forestry and Wildlife of the Hawaiʻi Department of Land and Natural Resources has designated this species as one of Hawaiʻi’s Most Invasive Horticultural Plants”, according to PlantPono.org. As a result, people are constantly removing this tree in order to control its invasive spread. Its cut wood is therefore a waste stream that can be closed to successfully grow edible mushrooms on.

Thank you to everyone who attended our mushroom log inoculation workshops & participated in this wood species experiment with us. As a result, one of the smaller 2-inch diameter logs has already finished myceliating & has fruited a beautiful flush of gourmet, medicinal oyster mushrooms in only 6 months! The larger diameter bolts will need some more time to finish myceliating and will not likely fruit until next rainy season. However, if you took home a Schefflera bolt as a party favor from our workshop, be sure to keep a watchful eye for fruits, especially right now if you have a smaller diameter log.

Thank you all for attending our last identification & low-tech mushroom cultivation workshop last month! We were so stoked that participants found over a dozen different species of fungi at the workshop even after such a prolonged dry spell!

Culinary & medicinal fungi found included: Snow Fungi, Paddy Straws, Cloud Ear, & Fan-Shaped Jelly Fungus.

Fan-Shaped Jelly Fungus

Fan-Shaped Jelly Fungus

Medicinal fungi found included: Bloody Polypores & Northern Cinnabar Polypores.

Bloody Polypore on wood

Bloody Polypore

Poisonous fungi found included Flowerpot Parasols & Onion Earthballs.

Onion Earthabll

Onion Earthball

Curious & beautiful fungi found included: Tinypores, Bird’s Nest Fungi, various Stinkhorns including Sea Anemone Stinkhorns, Split Gills, & Spring Polypores.Stinkhorn Egg

Stinkhorn Egg

An update on our low-tech project we created together: several of the spent coffee grounds & used cardboard oyster spawn jars have fully myceliated & have just now been set up for fruiting mushrooms!!!

jars myceliated

oyster myceliated spent coffee ground jars

Thanks to Chef Nicot for slicing & dicing that mountain of cloud ear fungus!

cloud ear fungus meal

Cloud Ear Fungus meal by Chef Nicot

See you all at our next workshops!

We would like to thank everyone that came to our first few workshops & participated in a mass scientific experiment to find out which of our local invasive wood species would be best suited for growing gourmet & medicinal mushroom species here in the tropics. We’ve spent years researching & practicing mushroom cultivation & one thing that we’ve encountered over-and-over again is that the great majority of how-to information out there only describes how to grow mushrooms in cold, temperate climates. We’re going to change that starting right now.

We have many goals for our workshops: getting more locally-grown functional foods into the bellies of those around us, skilling-up our local community, & collectively honing our local mushroom cultivation skills to find out what local best practices are in our bioregion. While there have been many successful highs in this process, we would also like to share the lows so that we can help our community become better mushroom growers.

First the good news, the invasive silky oak (Grevillea robusta) logs that we inoculated with gourmet & medicinal mushroom spawn have been robustly fruiting mushrooms all rainy season long.*

shiitakes on Silky Oak

shiitakes on Silky Oak by Adam Hicks

Now for the not-so-good news, the hyper-invasive guava does not work for the traditional log-style of mushroom cultivation. The traditional drilled-hole bolt & standing totem methods require tree bark that is sturdy & robust, as this bark protects the mycelium that grows just underneath it from deadly sunlight, wind, & critters. Unfortunately, the bark of the guava tree is just way too thin & brittle & comes apart before the mycelium can finish running its life cycle to the mushroom fruiting stage.

guava bolt

Guava bolt by Helena Berg

In other good news though, the technique of layered, used cardboard fruited a second flush. This inoculated cardboard crate has now yielded a couple of pounds of mushrooms off of FREE discarded cardboard!


oyster mushrooms fruiting on cardboard

Oyster Mushrooms growing on cardboard

In our upcoming workshops, we will continue to work with multiple wood species so that we can learn & teach more about mushroom growing in the tropics. We will continue experimenting with new wood species while increasingly phasing in wood species that we know will fruit so that we can be confident that more mushrooms will be fruiting at the same time that we are doing our scientific experiments to improve our collective knowledge about mushroom growing in the tropics.

Hope to see you at our next workshop soon.

* Caution: wear a respirator when harvesting the silky oak (Grevillea robusta) wood as some folks are allergic to the inhaled sawdust. Luckily, the mushroom mycelium denatures any toxins in the wood through their natural decomposition process. All reports coming in are confirming that the mushrooms grown on this wood are very flavorful & are being eaten without any ill effect. Remember to always properly 100% identify & always thoroughly cook your mushrooms before eating so that you can benefit from all that they have to offer you.

As I look down where my red earth stained boots tread I see it! A rubbery, dark brown fungal growth emerging from the side of a twig no larger than the width of my index finger. I crouch down to the tree-shaded ground to have a closer look. Soft, velvety fuzz adorns the top of the emerging growth that looks nearly identical to the ear of a small, brown mammal. I pick up the twig and turn it slightly revealing the smooth underside of the mushroom. With a smile I glance towards the cloudy sky where I gaze upon the signature canopy leaves of the iconic tree whose nuts provided light to the people of this region for roughly a thousand years.

I close my eyes and extend my heart in all directions, connecting with all around me to share my intentions and to humbly request their permission for the harvest.

Five years earlier:

I raise a 16-pound iron digging stick straight up into the air, stab it down into the soil, and swirl it in a circle to create a conical cavity as Dr. Art Medeiros excitedly speaks of the interconnectedness of the species in this endangered forest he helped to revive. He carefully places a young native tree’s taproot into the narrow hole created by the digging stick and lovingly packs the soil back around it. I eagerly ask him about the cloud ear fungus I often see in forests during the cool, wet months and he excitedly talks about its important role in decomposition of fallen wood and how this species is a native mushroom to the Pacific islands.

Being native to the Pacific islands means that this fungus could have only arrived here by one of three ways: either by the winds, the wing of a bird, or by a wave. Did some mushroom spores get swept up and away in a storm system from a far away continent and amazingly land on fallen wood here? Did an exhausted golden plover, escaping the seasonal frigid cold of a temperate land, have touched down here with spores in its feathers? Could a mushroom – or its mycelium – have survived thousands of miles of open ocean waves on a log to land on these shores and upon maturity eject its spores here? I have seen cloud ear growing on a driftwood log sitting upon a windward beach. I think about all the cloud ear mushrooms I often see on fallen candlenut twigs and logs… could it have even first arrived here on a canoe centuries ago? All possibilities, I suppose.

Today, people are filled with the excitement of all that fungi offer to us and to the ecosystems upon which we have emerged, shape and rely on. Their excitement renews my passion for fungi as well as my passion for finding, propagating and caring for the native mushrooms here in these Pacific islands.