Fleeting fungi

You have to be quick to capture some fungi at their best. This beautiful, delicately stippled and pleated limey-yellow trio appeared one morning in my mint pot at the back door. The next day they had wilted to an unimpressive brown.

About a metre away these little Chinese-hatted soldiers had popped up in another pot.

In the manure/mulch fill around the pot a sprinkling of small milk coffee domes briefly ‘bloomed’.

Above them, several generations were making good use of a dead stump, frilling and flaring in stages, but remaining as they dried, unlike their more ephemeral ground-dwelling cousins.

On the back of the wet

April ended in soft showers and wild storms, sunshowers and sunny patches, gentle grey drizzle and roof-rattling torrents.

We needed the actual water to fill the tanks and keep the creek flowing happily — and to fill my new pond.

But we also received bonuses with this mix of elements. The most striking were the rainbows.

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This one had an echo, a fainter twin following it across the greyness of the watery sky, seemingly separated by a band of darker sky. Or is that an illusion?

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The other bounty is what I have been waiting for all Autumn — the arrival of fungi. Only one so far — and a spectacularly beautiful fungus.

It’s large (that’s my gumboot next to it) a lacy ladies’ parasol, frilled and flocked, white with cream and caramel appliqués on top. I have seen this one before, although not here: Macrolepiota dolichaula.

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Welcome!

Now the rain has passed on and the sun is out, I expect more varieties to pop up. I have my eyes on fungi alert from now on…

Home Fungi

This damp but still-warm weather is clearly enticing all fungi home and abroad to show themselves.

They are the most unpredictable natural phenomena here, along with the slime moulds. I never know what surprise will pop up or where. 

Like the little cluster above forcing its way out at the base of a pole set in concrete. Never seen anywhere here before! 

However, they are in my fungi book, so I  think they are Auricularia cornea, with the quite appalling common name of Hairy Jew’s Ear. Not hairy but velvety. Apparently the Chinese eat them.

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Not far up the hill were two pairs of these: fat and yellow, like Wettex-textured French toast, served with a smear of tomato sauce. They seemed to be flat-topped or even concave, but as they jostled each other for space to emerge, were rather misshapen.

I couldn’t find these in the book.

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But in my vegetable garden was one I had seen quite a few times here over the decades, usually solitary. It’s the appropriately named Red Starfish fungus, Aseroë rubra, belonging to a family with the most unlovely name of the Stinkhorn Fungi. It likes compost.

Foreign fungi

When away from home, I often see fungi that are totally foreign to me and my place. I can’t identify this lot but I’m quite pleased they are foreigners as I found them grossly unattractive, crowding together as if they were feeding on each other.

There were so many they were hard to avoid, and so fleshy that it would not be pleasant to step on one.

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Over two days a whitish substance (spores?) seemed to be eating away at the mass.

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I couldn’t say if nearby red ones were related, but they looked less gross when fresh and red, although they too soon were covered in white.

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The final stage looked like mouldy oranges; not appealing to have all over your lawn!

New slimy visitor

In my yard, amidst the green of grass, the brown of strips of windblown bark or fallen leaves, and the black of wallaby poo, you rarely see the colour yellow. Especially a yellow so bright as to resemble plastic.

Naturally it drew me to closer inspection, which revealed small blobs of desiccated plastic.

Aha! Weird things that suddenly appear out of nowhere? Slime moulds!

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Although I haven’t seen it here, this one appears to be the common Fuligo septica, ‘Flowers of Tan’, ‘resembling a solidifed mass of scrambled egg, often with a small whitish trail leading to it’ says my fungi book. Not that slime moulds are classed with fungi anymore, but I don’t have a book on them alone.

Unlike fungi, they get together on a chemical signal and move, to ingest food like an amoeba.

Curioser and curioser is this world.

This weird and wonderful world

I finally stole half an hour to pull out some old tomato plants and onions add a bit of compost to the vegie garden — and look what I uncovered. Damn, I thought, more plastic that got into the compost and didn’t compost.

But I couldn’t recall what on earth it might have been the framework of… and then I twigged.

I rushed inside and checked my fungi book; yep, incredible as it seemed, this was one of the really weird fungi. Of course the next step was to go to my website and click on the link for ‘Gaye’s fungi.’

Once there I clicked on her ‘White without gills’ category, scrolled down past some rather disgusting looking other fungi, and there it was:

Ileodictyon gracile (Smooth Cage) a stinkhorn fungus. 

Gaye gives a very detailed life story for it, with photos from egg (yes, egg!) to final free-rolling lattice or basket form.

Who would dream up such a strange organism? I am still having trouble believing it.

Woko fungi

While the Woko rainforest may be green, slow walkers and careful lookers can spot dashes and spots of colour as the fungi which love rotting wood and leaves display their amazing variety.

The flamboyant ‘flowerings’ of the orange coral fungi (Ramaria subaurantica) (left) were easy to see, unlike the single tiny orange cup (right) (Aleuria aurantia?).

I almost missed the strange grey groping fingers of what I think may be Clavaria zollingeri (left); another pointed out this solitary perfect dark chocolate sphere in its cracked wafer shell, which I first took to be some sort of Earthstar but think may be Scleroderma polyrhizum, although very dark?

And then there were the pretty ‘fairy’ sorts of fungi, like these mini red ‘parasols’, which I didn’t check if they were velvety or slimy, so could be Hygrocybe miniata or Mycena viscidocruenta? I must take the fungi book with me on such trips!

The elegant beauties on the right were growing on a fallen log high up in front of the waterfall; no idea what they are and I guess you wouldn’t normally be looking up into them.

This unknown creme caramel trio took my fancy because they were so determinedly offset, trying to keep their caps level — caps which were definitely slimy —  ‘viscous.’

This enormous colony seemed to be dying, as the host tree already had; half of the trunk had snapped off and lay on the forest floor, where the delicately flushed fungi fans were turning dark and papery. This reminded me of marine platform rocks covered in shells, so dense was the population.

Winter browns

Brown is not a favourite colour for me; I never wear it. I don’t even particularly like chocolate.

My dad — and many others — was fond of a paint called Mission Brown. He also grew beans for market, of a variety called Brown Beauty, which I was allowed to help plant when I was little, and felt obliged to help pick when I was older.

Lately I have seen some fungi that could come under the category of brown beauties.

These little helmets shot up in the leaf litter of a non-indigenous tree by the Goulburn River. Two days later I went back to see how they had opened but  they had disappeared, eaten I assume. Cappuccino brown, with an overly-eager barista shaking the chocolate over the centre, leaving the frothy edge untouched?

As for their name, I can’t say, given they didn’t open — but at a guess, Macrolepiota clelandii??

Back home, with 295mm in the rain gauge, I’d say it’s been pretty wet. The perfect time for this solitary little Earth Star fungus, Geastrum triplex, to appear.

They depend on raindrops for spore dispersal, the downwards sloped rays of the star increasing the chances of the central ball getting wet. Not that with 295mm it had much chance of being missed!

 A Field Guide to the Fungi of Australia by A M Young describes an event I’d love to see:

‘Large, mature colonies of this species can be spectacular in light showers of rain; the falling raindrops produce an obvious cloud of ejected spores floating in the air several centimetres above the colony.’

Riverside homes

The weathered sandstone cliffs by the Goulburn River offer shelter to a variety of creatures. Those who aren’t winged must like easy access; I fancied these caves had steps — foot and hand holds — cut into the face below.

Closer to ground level, smaller winged creatures — like native bees? or? — had chosen the underside of the ‘plates’ in a severely eroded sandstone cave roof. Unoccupied summer residences?

Walking back along the clifftops, I spotted this large Angophora hollow home with its beautifully rounded edges of bark slowly grown around it. I am sure some animal or bird has claimed such a desirable residence.

Underfoot was both crunchy and cushioned; the lichens and mosses on the rock base were dazzling in variety and intensity. Miniature forests and coral gardens.

On the path, a few tiny fluted fungi had pushed through the thin soil and brightened the bush with their golden trumpets. I think these are Cantharellus concinnus, Australian Chanterelle.

In this sort of dry country, the treasures are often shy and small, needing an observant eye, and worth it.

Fashion fungi

Under the big stringybark tree the leaf litter is deep. It is home to a whole world of bugs and grubs I am sure, but also an incubator for some astonishingly beautiful fungi. The winter colours in vogue this year are striking — and both are new to me.

This solitary smart purple number poked its head through the other day. It is quite small.  From my book I can only guess it might be a Cortinarius, but is it C. archeri or C.aff.violaceus, or another variety not in my book? Is the stem pale lilac really?

There’s only one so I’m not going to break it to check its gills or flesh to be able to get the name right!

Under the same spreading tree, about three metres away, I spotted several of these; elegantly coloured two-tone, olive-green above a subtle amber yellow. In the surrounding leaves, more are getting ready to make their debut.

Green is not a common colour in our fungi, so I hope I am right in guessing this is Dermocybe austrovenenta.

Damp surprise

You have to keep your eyes wide open around here, for you never know what oddity nature will toss about unannounced.

It’s been wet and cold and i’ve not been outside much, but at least there are some breaks today.  Dashing out to the woodpile during one of them, I squinted at a pale dab of colour beneath the leafless birch tree.

It could well be an autumn leaf blown from a more distant tree — or, more exciting, it could be a new slime mould!

I squelched closer, noting the rapid growth in the bulb leaves since I last checked. Nope, not slime mould, but an overly populated clump of fungi.

I remember that there were several clumps here one other year, although not in this exact spot. I didn’t recall them being so ‘toothy’, almost like sea anemones. I didn’t identify them then, and still can’t, despite trying anew.

I’ll have to settle for my usual admiring and ignorant astonishment at the complexity of life if we let it be.

Autumn flower

There’s little flowering right now in my forest, but this pink one caught my eye. Hadn’t seen it before, and there was only one. 
So, naturally, I got the camera and went closer.

Which is when I realised it was a fungus, fleshy rather than flowery, fat-stemmed, the cap splitting into ‘petals’, lightly frilled, with a gill-fluted white petticoat.

And I have tried to find out what it could be called, but failed. Neither my books, nor Gaye’s Fungi site, nor the web, have revealed its identity.

One of the mysterious aspects of fungi is how a single specimen can appear, delight and confuse me, and disappear, never to return in that spot– or not for the decades I’m around.

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