This large mushroom (up to dinner-plate size) grows on living tawa and other trees, often appearing high up on the tree trunk in late summer to autumn. The mushroom has a long stalk with a hanging skirt that is coloured brown because it is coated with brown spores. When the mushroom is young in the button stage, this skirt is also attached to the edge of the cap covering the brown gills.
In addition to its use as a food, cooked tawaka was also considered to have medicinal benefit, reportedly being given to patients suffering fever and for health of expectant mothers. Tawaka was also given to invalids who were “recovering from poisoning by karaka or tutu”.
On the other hand, there was an alleged negative impact of those who had eaten tawaka who then entered a garden growing gourd plants, apparently causing gourds to decay or fail to mature. Fishing success was also reduced for those who had consumed tawaka.
If you are interested in growing tawaka yourself, cultivation kits are currently available. Infected wooden dowels can be purchased for inoculation and growth of tawaka on poplar and plane tree logs at Mushroom Gourmet.
Please see the references on the main interactive page for the sources referred to here.
IMAGE: Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research.