Friday, 23 June 2017

To Foray or to Forage?

by Alison Pouliot

[Reprinted from Fungimap Newsletter 57. This article is the Introduction to a special issue of the Newsletter on the topic of edibility.]


Do we really want to see mushroom collecting
regulated in Australia?
Image Alison Pouliot.


According to Pliny, foragers seeking edible mushrooms should steer clear of serpents' dens as their breath renders mushrooms toxic. Despite his counsel, great flourishing crops of poisonous Yellow Stainer mushrooms (Agaricus xanthodermus) are becoming commonplace on urban nature strips, sans serpents. This special issue of Fungimap Newsletter addresses the germane yet contentious theme of foraging for wild edible mushrooms in Australia. What are the risks and benefits of foraging for wild edible fungi? What position should Fungimap take regarding the increasing number of requests for information about the edibility of fungi? And what can we learn from responses to the rapid rise of foraging in similarly traditionally mycophobic nations such as the UK and the USA in recent decades?





Since its founding in 1996, Fungimap has focussed on the scientific collection of fungus data with the aim to map the distribution of Australian macrofungi and contribute to knowledge about fungal ecology, life histories and conservation. A core part of the activities of Fungimap is identification of the numerous records that are submitted each year as part of the ongoing mapping scheme for Australian fungi, focussed on target species, but also covering other fungi that are recognisable in the field. All images submitted with records are checked, and data are also checked via inspection of maps to detect outliers that might be dubious records. In addition to records of fungi, Fungimap is increasingly receiving requests for identification in relation to edibility (a typical email is a couple of images with the request: ‘Can I eat this mushroom?’). In this special issue, various authors share their experiences and views on the potential perks and perils involved in foraging for wild edible fungi, and how Fungimap should respond to this growing interest.

People have been eating edible fungi for thousands of years – potentially tens of thousands of years – the first possibly being Aboriginal Australians. In dozens of developing countries wild edible fungi provides an important food source for alleviating hunger and poverty. In contrast, wild edible fungi are eaten predominantly as a gourmet speciality in the developed world including Australia. However, relative to many other countries (e.g. continental Europe, particularly Slavic countries, Russia and some African, South-east Asian and South American cultures) little is known about the edibility of Australian fungi.

Poisonings from the ingestion of toxic mushrooms do occur in Australia, most notably and lethally from the Deathcap (Amanita phalloides). Cultural issues also come into play here. Despite stronger foraging traditions in other countries, knowledge about the edibility of fungi does not always translate to Australia where foragers encounter different species and environments. Moreover, unlike European fungus field guides, it is only in the rare exception that Australian guides indicate the edibility of a species. The disparity between the level of public knowledge about wild edible fungi and that required for safe foraging is an issue of great concern to Fungimap.

In Australia, other than Aboriginal use of fungi for which records are scant, interest in fungi has predominantly been among field naturalists who mostly take a scientific approach. The Field Naturalists Club of Victoria (FNCV) has held fungus forays since its founding in 1880. Interestingly, early reports from the FNCV journal, The Victorian Naturalist, reveal that some field naturalists also collected fungi as food. However, given the unstable taxonomy of Australian fungi and growing awareness of conservation as from the 1970s, field naturalists today mostly only pursue fungi as a scientific interest. Nevertheless, in countries such as Sweden, foraying and foraging often occurs simultaneously and many folk consider them to be mutually compatible, encouraging a wide appreciation of the many values of fungi. Much can be understood about the compatibilities and conflicts between foraying and foraging by looking beyond our shores. The rapid increase in foraging in the UK and USA and the consequent environmental and social issues could inform an Australian response and protocol. Reviewing these situations could allow us to anticipate potential problems, hence minimizing environmental damage, social conflict and the need for regulation by fostering more sensitive and sustainable foraging practices.

Further to human health risks associated with foraging, potential conservation issues, particularly from the commercial exploitation of wild edible fungi, require informed discussion. Lack of knowledge about species distributions and life histories make it difficult to predict potential impacts on popularly harvested species and environments, hence the need for a precautionary approach. Australia currently has no guidelines or recommendations for the collection of wild edible fungi, although all fungi are implicitly protected on public land (being lumped under plants if not specifically mentioned in legislation). Biodiversity conservation in Australia, indeed globally, has focussed on the protection of plants and animals, with fungi being largely overlooked. All current conservation efforts in Australia stem from NGOs, community groups and interested individuals. Recent initiatives such as the Global Fungal Red List are making important inroads into the recognition of fungi in conservation. Could interest in wild edible fungi also stimulate greater interest in the ecology and conservation as has been the case with many hunters and fishers?

Two of the more commonly foraged species,
Lactarius deliciosus and Suillus luteus
are both often sought from pine plantations.
Image Alison Pouliot.
The issue opens with two articles by fungus enthusiast and field guide author Patrick Leonard. He provides a fascinating historical summary of the various uses of fungi by Aboriginal and early European Australians. His humorous account of the development of the commercial mushroom industry that produced a mushroom (Agaricus bisporus) that tastes like "wet cardboard" might be a stimulus, he suggests, for a return to foraging. He lists several known edible Australian species, dispels some myths and provides some cautionary tips for foragers, and concludes by reminding us that despite the pleasures and benefits of foraging, there are "far too many of us to indulge in it regularly".

Leonard's second article focusses on the issue of whether foraging poses a conservation threat to fungi. As very few people forage for edible fungi in Australia it is unsurprising that there is little research to assess potential environmental effects. Hence, Leonard looks into research further afield – to China, the USA and Europe – to discover that commercial harvesting has led to a decline in fungus populations. Leonard addresses four major issues which he summarises as questionable sustainability, collateral damage, conflicts with local residents and habitat damage. While a commercial licensing system exists in Australia, Leonard outlines its failings particularly the challenge of determining sustainable yields and a lack of monitoring and policing. He concludes that regulation is necessary due to declining fungus populations .

Leonard provides a thoughtful assessment of many aspects of the argument while other contributors strongly represent a particular stance. A keen forager, Kim Nguyen insists that conversations about edibility need to be had among the mycological community. She discusses the various approaches to public queries regarding edibility among fungal studies groups and mycological societies in Australia and beyond. Furthering the argument for foraging, data administrator of the iFungi Au iPhone app, Gregg Cook, acknowledges the risks involved for uninformed foragers but considers that "is it is irresponsible or negligent" to withhold knowledge about the edibility or toxicity of a species.

Chef, George Biron writes of his passion for forging for wild edible fungi but also the dangers, noting that a "short half day foray" is not sufficient to train someone to safely identify edible mushrooms. Biron recognises the growing interest in foraging for wild fungi and encourages the production of an "ecologically sound" guide and accreditation courses. He suggests that accredited commercial foragers would not only become the preferred providers for provedores and restaurateurs, but that knowledge gained through courses would lead to greater respect for environments where fungi grow. In a more lighthearted article, self-confessed "boletivore-Biron" introduces the French notion of "terroir" as potentially influencing the flavour of Australian grown Boletus edulis. Like Nguyen, he also sees a link between foraging and conservation.

Representing the other end of the foraging spectrum, mycologist Genevieve Gates begins her article by stating the difficulty in defining any fungus as definitively edible due to the differing responses of individuals (e.g. allergic reactions) to other types of supposedly edible foods such as shellfish and strawberries. Further to poisoning risks, Gates strongly conveys her belief that that fungi exist for species other than Homo sapiens and human foraging would not be sustainable and could not be regulated in an Australian context.

There are various arguments against foraging that mostly centre around conservation concerns and poisoning risks. Mycologist, Tom May provides an insightful overview of his observations of the general public's poor ability to accurately identify mushrooms. As the senior mycologist at the Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria and an honorary consultant to the Victorian Poisons Information Centre, May is probably the most experienced person in the country in identifying specimens provided by the public and advising on cases of fungal poisoning. May cites several incidents of mis-identification where major identification features such as morphology, colour, spore colour, habitat and other conspicuous characteristics were overlooked. In reference to specimens brought to the herbarium by the general public, he comments, "Indeed, it is quite rare for the identification to be correct!". His concerns echo those of mycologist Ian Pascoe who commented in the 1980s that the public are often poor observers and unlikely to have the necessary skills to differentiate species. However, May is not steadfastly opposed to foraging but encourages a cautious and slow approach – an "apprenticeship" in learning how to accurately identify fungi.

How might restricted species such as Cyttaria gunni
be affected by increased interest in foraging?
Image Alison Pouliot.
Other authors relate their personal experiences of foraging. Sarah Lloyd and partner Ron have sampled various fungi that grow on their Tasmanian property with mixed reactions and lament the loss of knowledge about the edibility of fungi held by the Traditional Owners of the region. While not specifically focussed on edible fungi, in their article, Lloyd and mycologist Sapphire McMullan-Fisher reiterate the connectedness of nature including fungi and provide a set of codes for ensuring that the environment is not damaged through the collection of fungi. Masters of BioSciences student, Grace Boxshall, is conducting research on the poisonous species, Agaricus xanthodermus (and its allies), the species responsible for most poisonings in Victoria. The results of her work should provide valuable insights into the phylogeny for Australian representatives of the genus and a better understanding on variations in toxicity within the genus. Boxshall puts out a call to the public to assist in her research by submitting sightings of species of Agaricus, Chlorophyllum and Macrolepiota through FungiSight.


People seek and relate to fungi in many different ways. Mycologists study the ecological and evolutionary significance of fungi to situate them within larger schemes of life. Naturalists make lists of species to understand fungal ecology and geography. For visual artists and aesthetes, form and colour are the focus. Foragers seek edible mushrooms. All of these approaches contribute to the understanding and appreciation of fungi. The trick might be to focus on the common ground between them, so as to ensure a sensitive and sustainable approach that will minimise environmental damage, poisoning risk and ensure the ongoing flourishing of Australia's rich and unique mycota.

Friday, 9 June 2017

A virtual foray in Cool Temperate Rainforest

Most Fridays I sit down with Fungimap volunteer Graham Patterson in the Fungimap office and go through the week's emails, checking the identification of fungi records that have been submitted to Fungimap.

Each week in the Fungimap email in-box there is a mix of batches of records from long-time recorders, often with many records; but some emails with one or a few records. Long-time recorders usually supply a spreadsheet with locality and other details for the fungi they have spotted. There are also new contacts from people just starting to record fungi. These deliberate records are mixed in with enquiries about fungi from around Australia in relation to edibility, toxicity, beauty, weirdness and danger. Many of the latter enquiries do not have locality information. However, as well as providing brief answers to the enquiries, if an image is supplied, and we can identify the image and it is an interesting record, we request additional locality information.

Cortinarius metallicus growing under Nothofagus cunninghamii.
 Photo: Eileen Laidlaw, used with permission, all rights reserved.
Recently, one batch from Eileen Laidlaw stood out as an interesting set of species. Eileen's records came from the vicinity of the car park at Mt St Gwinear, including along the upper reaches of South Cascades Creek (Baw Baw Plateau, Victoria). There were a number of photos attached to the email. Even before reading the record spreadsheet I could see that some of the fungi were from Myrtle Beech (Nothofagus cunninghamii) Cool Temperate Rainforest - because I spotted the distinctive blue pileus of Cortinarius metallicus among the attached images. This species was originally placed in the genus Rozites, due to the presence of a distinct annulus (ring) on the stipe, but Rozites is now considered a synonym of Cortinarius. Closer inspection of the photo revealed a scatter of the distinctive small, crenate (scalloped-edged) leaves of Myrtle Beech, and the information in the habitat column of the record sheet confirmed the connection: 'On soil accumulated on a granite rock, surrounded by Myrtle Beech and Mountain Tea Tree'.

Cortinarius metallicus is a Fungimap target species, distinguished by the blue colour, the viscid (slimy) pileus surface and the stipe with annulus. So far, it has only been found in association with Myrtle Beech, in Tasmania and Victoria. The only species that it could be confused with is the widespread Cortinarius rotundisporus, which also has a blue, viscid pileus, but the stipe lacks an annulus.

Cortinarius perfoetens growing under Nothofagus cunninghamii.
Photo: Eileen Laidlaw, used with permission, all rights reserved.
Also in the batch was an unidentified species of Cortinarius. The photo showed the distinctive shaggy stipe and glutinous pileus of Cortinarius perfoetens. Like C. metallicus, this species was formerly placed in Rozites (as Rozites foetens) due to the presence of a distinct annulus on the stipe. The associated habitat information indicated 'Sub Alpine grove of Myrtle Beech and Tea tree, nearest tree Myrtle Beech', which is also in accord with the strong association between Cortinarius perfoetens and Myrtle Beech. Almost all records of the fungus are with this tree - with the exception of a well-documented collection by John Walter from the Wombat State Forest, under Eucalyptus and a long way from the nearest Myrtle Beech stands in the Otway Ranges and the Central Highlands of Victoria.

Arrhenia chlorocyanea.
Photo: Eileen Laidlaw, used with permission, all rights reserved.
Another of the attached photos stood out due to the small, rather dark greenish-blue pileus in combination with decurrent lamellae. This had been correctly identified by Eileen as Arrhenia chlorocyanea, a very uncommon species. Another of the unidentified fungi matched a rather large white Lactarius that is similar to the Northern Hemisphere L. piperatus, but will not be the same species, and so for the moment we are refering to it by the tag name Lactarius sp "austral piperatus". A multicoloured Russula with a red pileus and yellow lamellae and stipe matched an illustration in Gates & Ratkowsky A Field Guide to Tasmanian Fungi (p. 143) - we are denoting this species Russula sp. "red-yellow". Further fungi reported from the vicinity of Mt St Gwinear included Leotia lubrica and various other species of Russula.

For a few minutes we were transported to the gloomy depths of a rainforest in a 'virtual' foray as we flicked through the images. I thank Eileen for the chance to accompany her 'real' foray

Data from records such as these are entered in the Fungimap Records Database. Records eventually find their way to the Atlas of Living Australia, as dots on maps. You can submit records to Fungimap (info@fungimap.org.au) using the records spreadsheet.

Tom May
Fungimap / Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria

Friday, 27 November 2015

Beyond the Seed

Review by Vanessa Ryan

Donna Davis, QMS member and Brisbane Botanic Gardens artist-in-residence for 2013-14, recently held her Beyond the Seed exhibition at the Richard Randall Studio, Mt Cootha Botanic Gardens. The mixed media installation creatively explored the complex symbiotic relationships between native plants and fungi.

Donna uses a mixed range of materials and media to represent connections and relationships within the natural world in a way which evokes curiosity and reflection. She believes that the art/science field provides a powerful catalyst to challenge our discourse, raise environmental awareness and promote the conservation of our ecology; by providing new ways of 'seeing' and creating new 'connections' in the mind of the viewer.


Beyond the Seed was a continuation of her 2013 residency project, The Plant Room. This time she investigated the hidden connections beneath our feet that impact the soil, and in turn, seed germination and plant health. It was a visual and tactile exploration of the fascinating world of fungi, with their mycelium networks and mycorrhizal associations that provide vital nutrient exchange between fungi and plants.

The exhibition featured large-scale, soft sculptures of fungus species which grow in similar conditions to the native plants that were the focus of The Plant Room. Boletellus emodensis, Amanita pyramidfera, Amanita luteolovelata, and Clavaria miniata have each been thoughtfully and carefully recreated in a manner which best represents key aspects of those particular species. To someone who knows a bit about our local fungi, the species are instantly recognisable – for example: the classic pyramidal warts of the Amanita pyramidfera and the wonderful shaggy cap and golden pores of Boletellus emodensis. Donna's choice of fabrics for these soft sculptures alludes perfectly to the colours and textures of the fungi they represent. The immediate impulse is to touch the sculptures and explore their structure and, on doing so (yes, you can touch them!), some of the complexity of the fungus organism is revealed.

The free-standing sculptures filled the central display area of the intimate gallery area. The exhibition also included large-format digital images projected on one wall in a continuous loop. Donna created these digital images by merging and manipulating photographs of small, highly detailed sculptures she had crafted from resin and other materials.





A tube of woven copper wire (Viking Knitting) features in a number of the digital works in the exhibition. Donna uses a technique she describes as ‘digital crochet’, where she digitally replicates, resizes and positions images of the tube to form an intricate design strongly suggestive of a plant root or fungal mycelium system. A large, printed image of this complex structure was hung in pride of place on the main exhibition wall.

Also mounted on one of the walls was a series of four sculptural elements representing native plant seeds. As with all of Donna's creations, this piece was made primarily from recycled materials.

Donna is an imaginative and highly skilled artist. Her works are carefully designed and crafted, with many layers of research, experimentation and development behind them. This results in pieces which I find to be a successful and thought provoking fusion of art and science.

I think Beyond the Seed can best be summed up, however, by the simple and honest reactions of an elderly lady and a young child who entered the gallery just as I was leaving. At first they were hesitant, curious, unsure. This quickly turned to exclamations of wonder and smiles of delight.

The Beyond the Seed exhibition ran from March 21-29 and has now been demounted from the Richard Randall Studio. Hopefully this installation will have a few more exhibition opportunities over the coming year.

Donna will soon be starting on a new project with the working title: "Ipswich Fungi". This project will involve regular visits to the Purga Nature Refuge, home of the endangered Swamp Tea-tree, to document the fungi that grow in and around this species. The physical documentation she collects will be passed onto the Qld Mycological Society and Qld Herbarium and the visual stimulus and research will form part of a concept development for a new body of artworks. So watch this space!

Donna's website and blog.

Update Nov 2015


We are all delighted that Donna Davis has won Donna Davis the Sunshine Coast Environment Art Award 2015

Monday, 19 October 2015

Lichens of Morwell National Park

By Simone Louwhoff


For those interested in lichens, there is now a brochure on the Lichens of Morwell National Park with 83 images of common and/or conspicuous lichens including Peltigera dolichorhiza, Xanthoria parietina, Usnea and Cladonia species, Pertusaria pertractata, Ramalina celastri and many others that people will recognise in the field.

The brochure is 10 x 22 cm and is printed on glossy, high quality paper. It consists of 12 panels of which 9 have photos of lichens, grouped according to growth form and/or colour (crustose, fruticose, light foliose and dark foliose). These are interspersed with text boxes containing facts about some of the lichen groups mentioned.

       Xanthoria parientina         
   (Ken Harris)      
A map of the park, showing tracks and vegetation categories (EVCs) takes up two panels and the last panel has general information on lichens, terminology and useful websites. The brochure is suitable for other areas with similar habitat to that found at Morwell National Park (Ecological Vegetation Classes: damp forest, herb-rich foothill forest, swamp scrub, warm temperate rainforest and wet forest).


Usnea inermis 
      (Ken Harris)   
   

Text is by Simone Louwhoff, photos by Ken Harris and Helga Binder was the graphic designer. The brochure is for sale in the Fungimapbookshop for $5 and proceeds go to Fungimap, South East Australian Naturalists’ Association Inc. (SEANNA), Latrobe Valley Field Naturalist Club Inc. and Friends of Morwell National Park Inc. We hope you enjoy using it!

The brochure is a culmination of fieldwork undertaken from 2007 to 2012 at Morwell National Park. The park is situated in the foothills of the Strzelecki Ranges, 8 km SE of Churchill in the Latrobe Valley, Gippsland (South-eastern Victoria). It was declared in 1967 and extended in 1987 and is now close to 500 hectares in size. Despite its small size, Morwell National Park contains a range of different habitats including wet fern gullies, dry eucalypt ridges and steep hillsides with tall eucalypt forest.


     Cladonia humilis (Ken Harris)   

The overall aim of the project was to identify and record all macrolichens and the more common and/or conspicuous microlichens and to publish this information. Thirteen tracks intersect the Park, which were divided into sections for ease of surveying. All vegetation, as well as rock and soil in each of these sections were examined for lichens and these were either identified on the spot or collected for identification with a microscope back at the laboratory. Lichens on trees were surveyed up to a height that was accessible (approx 2 m) and in addition any fallen trees in sections were examined to look for canopy lichens. 

Pertusaria pertractata (Ken Harris)

Lichens were recorded photographically for each section and entered into a database which is accessible via a website maintained by the Friends of MorwellNational Park. It is estimated that the surveying method has resulted in the recording of almost all macrolichens and up to 75% of microlichens occurring in the park. The latter are often inconspicuous and also more difficult to identify and hence it is likely that a number of these lichens will remain unidentified for now. 
          Peltigera dolichorhiza (Ken Harris)          


Tuesday, 29 September 2015

New Fungimap Patron - Prof. Tim Entwisle (Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria)

Fungimap is delighted that Professor Tim Entwisle, Director and Chief Executive of Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria has agreed to take up the role of Patron of the organisation.

Professor Tim Entwisle
Professor Entwisle is a highly respected scientist, scientific communicator and botanic gardens director. Tim's scientific expertise is in freshwater algae but he has broad interests across all plants and related life forms. During his time as Manager of the Plant Sciences Branch at RBGV in the 1990s, Tim actively supported fungi research at the Gardens. Since then he has held senior roles at Royal Botanic Gardens Kew and Royal Botanic Gardens and Domain Trust in Sydney, before returning to Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria as Director in March 2013.



Tim's recent book Sprinter and Sprummer: Australia’s Changing Seasons, challenges the use of the traditional four seasons in Australia (and includes a section on the time of appearance of fungi, utilising data from Fungimap). Tim is a frequent guest on Australian radio and television, hosting ABC Radio National’s first gardening show, Talking Plants, and contributing regularly to RN’s Blueprint for Living.

Tim takes a very wide view of 'plants' in his informative and entertaining Talking Plants blog, including posts on algae and fungi from time to time, such as:
Tim presented a fascinating talk based on his fungi blog posts at the Rawson Fungimap VII Conference in 2013. We look forward to seeing him at future Fungimap events.

               Fungimap's first Patron, Professor Jim Ross            
We'd also like to pay tribute to Fungimap's first Patron, Professor Jim Ross, who commenced in the role when Fungimap was set up in 2005 as an incorporated association. Prof. Ross was a long-time Chief Botanist and Director of the Plant Sciences & Biodiversity Division at RBGV, and was invited to be the inaugural Patron in recognition of his steadfast support of Fungimap from the inception of the fungi mapping scheme in the mid-1990s to emergence as a national community group for Australian fungi. In particular, the establishment of the Fungimap office at RBGV was critical for the development of the organisation, and the national office is still hosted there today. At RBG Victoria, Prof. Ross was visionary in placing mycology firmly within the science program, recruiting not just one but two Mycologists (Dr Tom May and Dr Teresa Lebel). We thank Prof. Ross for all his efforts on behalf of Fungimap and wish him well in his retirement. 

Tuesday, 4 August 2015

Fungi infiltrate Landcare – a few Landcarers' impressions

by Alison Pouliot

            Fistulina hepatica. Image: Alison Pouliot            


Next year Landcare Australia celebrates its 30th birthday. Since the first Landcare group was founded by farmers near St Arnaud in Victoria in 1986, over 4000 Landcare groups have sprung up across the country. The concept has also caught on in over 20 other countries. During that time Landcarers have addressed various land degradation issues by fencing off waterways, eradicating weeds and feral animals, creating windbreaks for livestock protection, controlling erosion and planting hundreds of thousands of trees.

The Landcare website states 'Landcare is a grassroots movement that harnesses individuals and groups to protect, restore and sustainably manage Australia’s natural environment and its productivity...The keystones of Landcare are that it is community owned and driven, it is bi-partisan in nature, it encourages integrated management of environmental assets with productive farmland and a more sustainable approach to private land management'. Landcare is a great success story. However, despite the enormous efforts of Landcare to restore ecosystems, something is conspicuously missing from concepts of biodiversity. Fungi. A foray back through the history of Landcare reveals that fungi have been almost totally overlooked in efforts to understand ecosystem function and in the restoration of landscapes. That is, until now. It seems that things are gradually changing and fungi are slowly creeping into the Landcare paradigm.

This autumn, over 200 Landcarers participated in a series of fungal ecology workshops and forays across Victoria and NSW. Participants were keen to understand the role of fungi in maintaining soils and their relationships with plants. In particular, they were interested in understanding the ways in which they could actively incorporate fungi into their land restoration projects. Landcare members were especially interested in the Aboriginal use of the beefsteak fungus (see Fistulina hepatica above).

           Cordyceps robertsii. Image: Alison Pouliot         
     




At a workshop held in Stanley in northern Victoria, Regional Landcare Facilitator from the North East Catchment Management Authority, Kelly Behrens explained 'We want to expand people’s knowledge of the ecological importance of fungi, so they are better equipped to manage their properties in a more sustainable way that considers the complexity of ecosystems'. Workshop participants included farmers, horticulturalists, arborists, Landcarers and others who came from far and wide to learn about the significance of fungi in forest, woodland and agricultural ecosystems. Despite the dry start to autumn, various fungi were found on the field trip through Blue Gum Gully and Stanley Recreation Reserve. The old eucalypts around the oval sported various bracket fungi including the curry punk, Piptoporus australiensis and the beefsteak fungus Fistulina hepatica. The vermillion coloured scarlet bracket Pycnoporus coccineus was found on fallen wood. Several large Phlebopus marginatus and Phylloporus clelandii were also found among the eucalypts. Richard Ahearn from Albury Environmental Crown Lands commented, 'The workshop provided valuable understanding of the role of fungi in the natural environment. In my role as a Natural Resource Manager responsible for both the restoration and maintenance of habitat for threatened species in the Albury area, I will now look for opportunities to enhance habitat for fungi around valuable old trees as well for new plantings of trees and shrubs. The workshop opened my mind to a whole new field in environmental management.'

Following a well-attended fungus field day at Lankey's Creek last autumn, Kylie Durant from Holbrook Landcare organised two further fungal ecology workshops this autumn at Tumbarumba and Mullengandra, NSW. Participants viewed and handled various fungus specimens and learnt the basics of identifying fungi in the field. Participants were especially interested in various Cordyceps species including Cordyceps gunnii, C. robertsii and C. hawkesii.

Despite the dry conditions at Mullengandra, Landcare members
keenly spotted various wood-decay fungi. Image: Kylie Durant.



At the Mullengandra workshop, Stephanie Jakovic recalled collecting fungi in her homeland of Slovenia commenting that 'Collecting fungi is one way of getting back to nature. It includes walking through the forest and being in touch with nature.' This sentiment was shared by many and despite finding only a few fungi, all enjoyed the wander through the woodland thinking about and discussing the importance of fungi to ecosystem function. Sam Niedra from the Nature Conservation Trust of NSW said 'The workshop made me better appreciate the diversity of fungi and their ecological function, and made me realise how little attention I’d been paying to them.'  Despite the dry conditions at Mullengandra, Landcare members keenly spotted various wood-decay fungi including Pycnoporus coccineus, Trametes versicolor, Piptoporus australiensis and Schizophyllum commune.

Identifying Suillus granulatus in the Wagga Wagga Botanical  Gardens.
Image: Kimberley Beattie
Further north, landcarers at a workshop in Crowther organised by Young district Landcare and Mid Lachlan Landcare were keen to understand fungi in the context of their squirrel glider conservation project. Penny Gibson from Young district Landcare commented, 'It was the great variety of fungi that we have seen here over the last nearly three decades that prompted me to enrol in the Fungi Workshop. What I learned both shocked and thrilled me. What I heard about the beneficial role that fungi play in the overall health and vitality of the natural world may only be a tip of the iceberg'.

Favolaschia calocera - Orange Ping-pong Bats
This exotic species was recorded for the first time in the
 Otways on the recent Southern Otways Landcare foray.
Image: Alison Pouliot

The dryness didn't deter forayers attending a workshop run by Murrumbidgee Landcare at Bowning, NSW. Landcarer, Kathryn McGuirk said 'I often see white fungi branches when I hand dig a hole when planting a new tree - when I see this in the future I know that I am putting my new tree in a good growing environment'. Leslie Instone commented, 'I was particularly fascinated by the way fungus makes complex relations with trees, algae as well as humans and other animals, and the many beautiful and interesting forms it takes. The emphasis on the importance of fungi for biodiversity made me think about the hidden worlds just below the surface, and the importance of small things.'

Murrumbidgee Landcarers who participated in a foray in the Wagga Wagga Botanic Gardens were excited to discover several specimens of Aseroe rubra growing among the woodchips. The Gardens presented a variety of native and exotic fungi including the introduced species Suillus granulatus and Leccinum scabrum. Sue Chittick-Dalton from the Murrumbidgee Field Naturalists said 'The workshop opened up a brand new world in my life. Being a bird watcher, my eyes have always been ‘upwards’, but the amazing new world will necessitate a change of head-axis. I had no idea of the network beneath our feet and the symbiotic nature of the plant...'.

For the seventh consecutive year Southern Otways Landcare ran a foray and survey, organised by coordinator Libby Riches. Despite having to wrangle two weddings, which descended on our field site at Paradise (but whose guests quickly got shy of the torrential rain) over 40 species were recorded including a first record for the introduced species, Favolaschia calocera. Other Fungimap target species recorded included: Cortinarius persplendidus, Cortinarius austrovenetus, Ascorcoryne sarcoides, Plectania campylospora, Cordyceps gunnii, C. hawkesii, Pseudohydnum gelatinosum, Tremella mesenterica group, T. fuciformis, Macrotyphula juncea, Stereum ostrea, Mycoacia subceracea, Hericium coralloides, Podoserpula pusio, Omphalotus nidiformis, Mycena interrupta, M. nargan and Marasmius elegans.

Cortinarius austrovenetus. Image: Alison Pouliot
Cortinarius persplendidus. Image: Alison Pouliot

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Bellarine Coast fungus workshop

by Alison Pouliot

Fungi workshop report #2

Workshop participants observe the fungus display
 Image: Maddie Glynn
Maddie Glynn works at the Barwon Coast Committee of Management and her days involve all sorts of activities from monitoring seals, untangling pelicans caught in fishing line to patiently convincing some beachgoers of the importance of retaining seaweed on beaches.

Maddie has also been actively involved in coordinating the Bellarine Peninsula Coastal Moonah Woodland project with the aim of enhancing biodiversity values. Fortunately she also recognises the role of fungi as a vital part of biodiversity and recently organised a fungal ecology workshop that attracted participants from far and wide including representatives from -  Barwon Heads Golf Club, Bellarine Catchment Network, Breamlea Coastcare, Bellarine Bayside Committee of Management, Friends of Edwards Point, Gordon TAFE and Barwon Coast Committee of Management.




Bolbitius vitellinus. Image: Alison Pouliot
The workshop was held at the 13th Beach Surf Club and participants arrived armed with specimens for identification including Agaricus xanthodermus, Chlorophyllum brunneum and Volvariella speciosa. Following an introductory session on the role of fungi in terrestrial ecosystems we spent a hands-on session looking at the main features used to identify fungi in the field. 

After lunch, Barwon Heads Golf Course Vegetation Manager and keen fungus hunter Steve Wilkie guided us through the Moonah woodlands of the 13th Beach Golf Course, which backs onto the Barwon Heads coastal dunes. The main EVCs of the area include Coastal Alkaline Scrub with patches of Coastal Dune Grassland, Coastal Saltmarsh and Coastal Dune Scrub. Steve is one of thirteen people who manage the course. The other twelve focus on the bits the golfers are interested in – fairways and greens – and Steve does the exciting stuff, that is, the 'rough', or the part where there's biodiversity including fungi.
Specimen table. Image: Alison Pouliot

Ducking in among the scrub we found Amanita xanthocephala, Coprinus comatus, an immature orange-yellow coloured Cortinarius sp., Agaricus austrovinaceus, Bolbitius vitellinus, Scleroderma cepa, Piptoporus australiensis, Geastrum triplex and various lichens including Lichenomphalia chromacea, Flavoparmelia and Parmelia spp. While our list is not extensive, Steve enthusiastically reported that some decent rains a few days later "set the joint off and the course exploded with fungi"! 



Lichenomphalia chromacea. Image: Alison Pouliot
While golf courses typically don't make ideal habitat for fungi due to intense manicuring and chemical use, the course is located in the vicinity of Ramsar-listed wetlands that provide significant habitat, refuge and feeding grounds for threatened and endangered migratory bird species. Swan Bay, Lake Connewarre and Reedy Lake form part of the Port Phillip Bay (Western Shoreline) and Bellarine Peninsula Ramsar Site. The course includes the eastern extension of the Ramsar-listed Murtnaghurt Lagoon. While the section on the golf course is not Ramsar-listed, it is covered by covenants that essentially require that it be managed in the same way as the listed area. Steve has been instrumental in influencing course management and especially the limitation of chemical application in wetland areas. While something is known of the birds that visit the wetlands, the fungi of these coastal ecosystems are not well documented and we hope to develop further surveys in the future to record the fungal diversity of the region.

While reconnoitring the field site with Steve the day before the workshop, I was secretly delighted to see that the immaculately-maintained clubhouse lawn had been colonised by Marasmius oreades, which had formed three giant conspicuous fairy rings comprised of hundreds of fruitbodies, to greet the golfers as they climbed the clubhouse steps....