Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Australian Fungus Forayers in France

Text and images by Alison Pouliot

Autumnal forests of the French Jura
Driving rain and wild winds did little to deter over 30 participants who attended a fungus foray in the French Jura last weekend.

France, the home of the world's first mycological society is of course also famous for its prized truffles.  These long scientific and cultural connections have embedded fungi deeply within the consciousness and knowledge of local folk.

Last Sunday's forayers, however, originated from further flung lands including a mob from Downunder.  The mainly expatriate group was keen to see what fungi inhabited the hills beyond the NGOs in nearby Geneva that had brought many of them to Europe.

Mt Mussy provided an idyllic foray location complete with falling leaves swirling through shafts of soft autumnal light.  Forayers wended their way through chestnut and oak, birch and beech as well as various conifers, eyes glued to the ground

Fungus forayers at Mt Mussy.

Although many of the larger fleshy fungi had disappeared by this late stage in the season, the abundance of large old wood proffered an interesting array of saprobic species. Among the highlights were various Helvella species and Thelephora anthocephala. The mycophagists in the group were excited to discover Hydnum repandum.

A helluva lot of competition seems to exist among the Helvella genus to maximise the kookiest mophological manifestation. Helvella lacunosa, H. crispa and H. macropus.

Hypholoma sublateritium busily decomposing a log.

A French echidna?  No, but Thelephora anthocephala is also an extremely interesting organism.
Even the slime mould Lycogala epidendrum braved the cold to decorate this fallen log.
Some lovely specimens of Hydnum repandum kept the mycophagists happy.

It was inspiring that half our group were children, whose young minds and memories retained the names, knowledge and curiosity from the previous autumn's foray. Our canine companions however, proved less helpful with none managing to unearth a single truffle.

The foray finished around the fire with vin rouge and afternoon tea at the home of Aussies, Bron and Nico Lay who generously hosted the event and also organise the annual Australia Festival.  As we left the darkening forest, a conversation arose among the Australians about Abbot's war on science.  A young voice chipped in, 'How silly!  How are we supposed to discover the world without science'.  Oh for the refreshing wisdom of a six-year old and a new science minister in the making perhaps?

Australian fungal advocate, Roman (Banjo) Lay Clark demonstrates how well a tree can grow if accompanied by its mycorrhizal fungal partners.
Time to head home....


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