Fungi Spotting

By Lee-Anne McKinnon, UNE Discovery


Have you noticed any more or less fungi growing in your area lately?  Here in the New England of NSW, where our UNE Discovery team reside, we’ve been spotting quite a lot of interesting and unusual fungi lately.

When we have prolonged periods of wet and warm, humid weather, which is what we’ve had recently, it causes the fungi to send up fruiting structures above the soil.  The fungi and mushrooms that we see above the ground are the fruiting bodies of the fungi that lives in the soil. The majority of fungal mass is below ground where we can’t see it, and they remain unnoticed until they emerge after ideal environmental conditions.

When the weather dries out, the fungi will disappear from view.  Remember that the fungi mycelia (the vegetative part) is still growing in the soil. The fungus will continue to grow and persist as long as there is plenty of organic matter to feed upon.

Fungi are the group of single celled and multicelled organisms that are nonmotile (ie. Not capable of movement). Fungi include microorganisms like molds, yeasts and mushrooms.  While many types of fungi may cause disease in humans and inflict losses on crops, others provide essential nutrients for the growth of plants.  Fungi are used in the production of chemicals and also in the drug manufacturing industries.

Fungi feed on dead organic matter which includes leaf litter, soil, dung, wood and dead animals. They recycle 85% of the carbon from dead organic matter and release the locked-up nutrients so they can be used by other organisms. This makes fungi vital for the ongoing health of ecosystems.

Sometimes it can be hard to find out information about the type of fungi we find, but there is a website that can help.  The website is an amazing place.  It is a joint initiative of the California Academy of Sciences and the National Geographic Society.  iNaturalist is a place where you can upload a photo of your interesting find, add in some details like date and location of the find, and then connect with experts who can identify the organism where you live. Pretty cool, right?

The fungi you see in the photos shared here were all found around the Armidale area, excluding the lovely white-stemmed one with the curled up black ‘skirt’ at the base of its hood, which was spotted in Gulgong, NSW.  We haven’t discovered all their names but we’ll be jumping over to iNaturalist in the coming weeks to report our finds.