Magic Mushrooms!

Umm... a white mushroom!

A standard shaped beautiful white mushroom showing stem, cap and gills!

I’ve always loved mushrooms/fungi. Their fruits are so beautiful. I have always been fascinated by their delicate beauty and incredible diversity. Finding these ones on The GO was fun and trying to take these photos on a small camera – a challenge but when you have something so beautiful to photograph its inspiring trying.

I didn’t know this but mushrooms are a part of the fungi kingdom – not plant kingdom. I don’t know how to classify or identify them but I know fungi are really important to the ecoprocesses of the land. There are many types of fungi with the most common that I recognise being mushrooms, puffballs, bracket fungus or other fungal fruiting body such as the Stinkhorn below.

One thing I need to remember when I see one of these “fruits” is that I am only seeing the spore-producing part of the fungus. That there is a large amount of the fungus underground, out of sight, not visible to the naked human eye in the soil or wood or dung or whatever the fungus is growing from. (And I also need to rememeber that fungi is the plural of fungus – for some reason my head doesn’t seem to be able to retain this small spelling difference and associated meaning!!).

It seems as if this fungus is one of the Stinkhorn species. Aptly named - it stank!! The flies LOVED it.

It seems as if this fungus is one of the Stinkhorn species. Aptly named – it stank!! The flies LOVED it. Even the iridescent green flies were beautiful.

It appears from my reading there are literally millions of types of fungi (estimates are 1.5 million to 15 million), the majority of which are not yet classified or identified. Fabulous – this gives me the best excuse as to why I can’t identify our fungi!!! I can stick to “the little brown mushroom near the yards”, “the stinky one near the pine tree”, “the white one near where I checked my erosion control”, “the coral fungi near the bracket fungi near the rock pile at the end of the ridge”, “the fairy ring of edible mushies near the gate to the Dame Paddock”……. GO classification!!!

One large division of the fungi kingdom lives on decaying matter (and there are the ones that kill you or send you high but I’ll stick with the environmentally friendly ones!!). One large distinguishing factor between plants and fungi is that fungi can’t produce their own food ie they can’t photosynthesise. They need to “feed” off decaying matter and in the process break down the organic matter on which they are feeding. In this process they make carbon and nutrients available to the surrounding plants. This is why they are so important as they are able to break down organic matter. There are few organisms which can live in such a carbon rich environment. Plants need more nitrogen than fungi to survive. “The cellulose and lignin of woody plants is then made available for other organisms in the form of carbon dioxide, nitrates, phosphates and other nutrients. In fact research has shown that annually, fungi are responsible for recycling hundreds of billions of tons of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere.”. (Check out that website – great article. I learned lots!)

Maybe I should become a fungi farmer and go into carbon dioxide trading!!

It seems as if we will have gizillions of fungi in our soils which we can’t see. The more we have and the greater diversity we have, the faster all the rank (dead) grass and other organic matter which is present will get broken down and become bioavailable carbon and nutrients in the soil. Seems to me that fungi is a pretty important element of our landscapes. Billions of unknown, unseen workers all toiling away for us in the soil to help the growth cycles happen. I haven’t been looking for them but I will now. For their beauty and to know that they are there doing the important job of making it all happen.

A soft brown mushroom with a fairly flat cap, thin stem and radiating gills. We didn't try this one!!

A soft brown mushroom with a fairly flat cap, thin stem and radiating gills. We didn’t try this one!! Or maybe I should have and seen MORE mushrooms – flying or singing or………

I walked home from the Coolatai Pony Express. This meant cutting cross country to home. I was walking up one of the sections of the boundary fences which I hadn’t been along before. I wanted to check out how some erosion mitigation I had put in about 8 months ago was going, then continued up the fence line home. I was so busy looking at the beautiful lichen covered rocks and the lovely old fence (original hand hewn hard wood posts with drill holes for the wires – sooo much character), that I tripped on my high heels and stumbled towards this log. What a lucky trip!! (Would it have been better on mushrooms instead of high heels??) I  tripped over these three different species on the one log! What a great little find!!

The trunk I near tripped over and look what I discovered!!

The trunk I nearly tripped over and look what I discovered!!

The following three photos are of the species I found on this log:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I think this is what is called a coral or jelly fungus. It was growing like coral and it was jelly like – wobbly but firm!! The colour was so vibrant.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

A stunning orange bracket fungi. The photo does the colour justice!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Maybe another species of bracket fungi (I’m confused about bracket fungi and stereoid fungi – two different species) which was growing out the side of the same decaying tree. What looked like growth bands were exquisite – each perfect in detail and pattern formation.

I was reading an article about fungus’ role in the landscape and suddenly all those piles of wood and fallen trees on The GO took on a whole new meaning. Homes to gizillion, billions of fungi. If we destroyed them it would be like destroying billions of apartments for gizillions of workers!!

The article said:

“Recently the scientific communities of NSW, QLD and Victoria have recommended listing the loss of woody debris as a potentially threatening process under each state’s legislation.

The removal of woody debris means:

  • the loss of those fungi that break it down,
  • which means the loss of the insects that relied on the fungal fruit bodies for food and habitat
  • which means, in the those areas, the decline of woodland insectivorous birds, such as the Bush Stone-curlew, Hooded Robin and Spotted Quail, who relied on the insects as food and the wood for nesting material.”.

Obviously a good reason to leave all those wood piles hanging around rotting instead of burning them. Perhaps not neat and tidy but environmentally friendly and retains some good silent workers on the farm who won’t go to WPHS (Work Place Health and Safety) when its over 40C days and ask for no holidays and superannuation contribution are zero!! Obviously all those woodpiles help to support the biodiversity of the farm.

Mushroomus yummius!!

Mushroomus yummius!!

The best find was these edible mushies though. Check out how good these mushrooms look. Pinkies popped up seconds ago!! The taste was …… i-n-d-e-s-c-r-i-b-a-b-l-e. They tasted as delicious as they look – totally flavoursome.

I am so keen now to try and encourage at least these yummy mushrooms to grow near The GO Palace or along the track so I can see them and harvest them for eating. Wow – to have mushrooms like this available when it rains….. Heaven popping up from the earth.

So – my conclusions were:

a) to have a diversity of fungi on a property is an excellent thing – an indicator of how healthy our soil processes are

b) if I don’t know what it is don’t eat it – there are sooooo many deadly ones.

c) cultivate mushrooms so they grow closer to home so I can easily harvest them for mushroom risotto or mushroom omelette and

d) leave all those wood piles lying around to support the ecosystems.

GOOOO mushies!! I can’t wait to find more as they really are very, very beautiful. Time to observe and interact on a micro scale.

Hasta pronto…….

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One response to “Magic Mushrooms!

  1. Pingback: You Know You’re In The Country When….. | Fiona On The GO·

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