fungi

Can’t help myself

I know that this website is about the natural wonders of the Flowerdale region in the King Parrot Creek valley but a recent trip over to the nearby Yea River valley in the Toolangi State Forest yielded fungi of incredible form and colour. The fungus featured below, found on the side of the Kalatha Giant Tree Walking Track is a case in point. Blue is such an unusual colour in nature.

Pixie’s Parasols, Mycena interrupta

Pixie’s Parasols, Mycena interrupta

So as not to confuse readers with what is in the King Parrot Creek valley and what is not I have started another blog to include the wonderful fungi and flora outside our amazing valley (click HERE to view).

Brains, butter and boletes

DSCN8050It is not just the disparity in size and form that makes fungi so fascinating. It is their names. Some names are simply descriptive, such as the coral fungus or the Golden Jelly Bells, but others borrow from the anatomical, the mystical, even the historical. Winter has come, the temperatures have dropped and the fungi are appearing in large numbers. I think that it will be a great fungi year.

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DSCN8086One group of fungi is the jelly fungi, so called because of their gelatinous appearance. The White Brain (Tremella fuciformis) jelly fungus pictured above is one of the earliest to appear. Another goes by the wonderful name of Brown Witch’s Butter (Tremella fimbriata), pictured right.

Another group of fungus is the boletes, characterised by a spongy surface of pores on the underside of the cap, rather than gills. The name is derived from boletus, the Latin word for mushroom. After the recent rains, our ridge DSCN8303top has seen the appearance of a group of Giant Boletes (Phlebopus marginatus) (pictured left). As the name suggests this species is large. In fact the Giant Bolete is Australia’s largest terrestrial fungus with some weighing in at over 20 kg. The specimen photographed is nowhere near that big but big enough when it is compared to the five cent piece. In a week or so this large mushroom will be a large pile of ooze (click HERE to see why).

DSCN8181On the other end of the size spectrum are these mushrooms from the Mycena genus (pictured right). The word Mycena comes from the Ancient Greek for mushroom shaped. An alternative derivation to the naming is that the mushroom resembles the helmets the soldiers wore in the Ancient Greek kingdom of Mycenae.

Either way, in my next life I am going to get a job naming fungi.

Symbiosis. We’re likin’ it

Leafy and flat lichen together

Leafy and flat lichen together

A feature of our landscape we tend to take for granted, yet is found everywhere (in the world), is lichen. Lichen is an organism resulting from a symbiotic (mutually beneficial) relationship between a fungus and either an algae or a particular bacteria. Like all good partnerships each contributes something to the union. The fungus part extracts minerals from the rocks or vegetation to which the lichen is attached, and it retains water. The algal part is photosynthetic and provides sugars by converting carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

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DSCN7654Simplistically, lichens can be grouped by their form. These include leafy (foliose), hair-like (filamentous), flat (crustose) and powdery (leprose). Just as other fungi are now starting to produce spore-bearing fruits (mushrooms) in the cooler weather, the fungi part of the lichen is doing the same. In the photos (right and below) a close look will reveal saucer-shaped bodies projecting from the lichen body. The inner surface of these saucers is lined with spore-bearing cells. When the spores are ripe they are ejected from the saucer and combine with an algal partner to form another lichen.

DSCN7801Like most things, when you are aware of them you find them all over the place. So when you are outdoors next, check out the lichen. They truly are everywhere.

Beware the giggling wildlife

 

DSCN7244For the past two weeks I have been watching bright orange/brown mushrooms growing out of a dead pine stump (pictured left). This species is known as the Spectacular Rustgill (Gymnopilus junonius) and occurs in groups feeding on dead conifers and other exotic trees. The scientific name comes from the Greek words Gymn meaning naked, pilus meaning cap and juno being the statuesque goddess of Roman mythology.

 

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DSCN7546Today I came upon the mushroom half eaten. The Spectacular Rustgill is toxin to humans. Subspecies of this fungus can contain hallucinogenic compounds hence its alternative common name of Laughing Jim.
In the next few days if I hear giggling from the local kangaroos, wallabies or wombats I’ll know who’s be tucking into the mushrooms.