Fungi

Vital part of the ecosystem

Fungi are probably the largest group of living organisms in the Edward Hunter Heritage Bush Reserve and also one of the most important to the ecosystem.

They form beneficial relationships with eucalypts, wattles and orchids, for example, in symbiotic mycorrhizal relationships. Basically, the fungus gains access to carbohydrates and the tree gains access to essential nutrients through their connection. This symbiotic relationship means that maintaining healthy green plants results in conserving diversity in fungi and vice versa. About 90% of plants form mycorrhiza.

They do cause disease in plants and there are parasites that consume insects and plants. Fungi also recycle nutrients into the ecosystem by breaking down wood. Different fungi have a preference for different wood types – which is why it’s important to maintain a diversity of wood types and ages – and fungi are among a very small number of species that can break down the cellulose and lignin in wood.

The wood decay function of saprophytic fungi has an important role in providing habitat for other creatures; for example, creating hollows for birds and arboreal mammals in living trees or leading to coarse woody debris on the forest floor that can create microclimates for ground dwelling species.

Fungi also provide food for mammals, insects and birds. In turn, fungal spores are spread elsewhere.

Shows action of brown rot fungi, which degrades cellulose, Edward Hunter Heritage Bush Reserve

Action of brown rot fungi. Cellulose has been degraded, leaving lignin. Produces a blocky, crumbly structure.

Shows remains of rotting wood, illustrating action of white and brown rot fungi, Edward Hunter Heritage Bush Reserve

Action of white rot which removes lignin: bleached, stringy wood remains – and action of brown rot which degrades cellulose: blocky, crumbly wood remains

Fungi foray

A survey of the various larger fungi appearing in the Reserve this year (2013), mainly between May and June and into July, is presented below.

Fungi have been sorted into types in order to recognise and identify them in the field. The various forms of fungus – that is, cups and discs, boletes, brackets, leathers, tooth fungi, corals, jellys, puffballs, and gilled agarics– are the fruits of spreading roots or threads (hyphae) into a mass (mycelium) in the soil or the wood in which the fungus is growing.

This typology follows that established by various authorities to help people recognise fungi. See, for example, the Australian National Botanical Gardens and Australian National Herbarium fungi site, Bill Leithhead’s Fungi site as well as the publications below.

Field Naturalists Club of Victoria (2012) The Fungi CD: Fungi in Australia, 3rd Ed. FNCV Fungi Group: Blackburn
Fuhrer, B. (2009) A field guide to Australian fungi. Bloomings Books: Melbourne
Grey, P. & Grey, E. (2005) Fungi down under: the Fungimap guide to Australian fungi. Fungimap: South Yarra

Identification of the fungi has been conducted by amateurs, with the guidance of Bill Leithhead and others as they were able, as well as reference to the publications above. All errors, however, remain the responsibility of this site.

Please Contact Us to advise where errors have occurred and if you might offer identification.

To see the images more clearly, simply click on them.

Types of fungi

Cups/ discs

These fungi are ascomycetes, one of two divisions in the fungi family (eumycota).

In these cases, spores are produced from the top surface of the fungi. These are saprotrophic.

Pins

Spores are produced on the head of the fungi and these are also saprotrophic.

The following fungi are basidiomycetes, the second division in the fungi family (eumycota).

Boletes

These fungi have a fleshy texture and have pores underneath from which spores are produced. They’re also referred to as polypores. These are generally saprotrophic.

Brackets

These have a woodier texture, and are polypores. These are generally saprotrophic. ‘White punk’, though, for example, is parasitic, growing on live wood and leading to heart rot.

Leathers

These fungi have a tough, leathery surface and the spore producing underside is usually smooth or wrinkled. These are saprotrophic.

Tooth fungi

These have a leathery texture with spines or teeth on the under surface, as illustrated in the first image below. Spores are produced from these teeth on the under-surface. These are saprotrophic. The final images show fungi with caps and a toothed undersurface.

Corals

These fungi are coral shaped and fleshy. Their spores are produced on the entire upper surface. These are generally mycorrhizal but some are saprotrophic.

Jellies

The texture of these fungi is jelly-like or rubbery. The spores are produced on the outside surface. These are generally saprotrophic. However, some are also parasitic with other fungi using rotting wood.

Puffballs

In these fungi, spores are enclosed in a sac and released when they are mature. These below are mycorrhizal with eucalyptus species (with the exception of Morganella pyriformis, which is saprotrophic.)

Gilled agarics

These are fleshy, mushroom-shaped fungi with spore-bearing gills under their caps. These are mycorrizal, saprotrophic (usually growing out of wood) and parasitic.

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