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 ( using the records spreadsheet.

Tom May
Fungimap / Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria

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