Dorrigo details

Rainforests are often majestic and always green worlds of their own. Dorrigo National Park has a two-hour walk that takes you through such a world.

While focal points like the Falls are spectacular, it’s the details along the way that fascinate me.

Conical hanging birds’ nests? Or accidentally arranged lichen?

Vines reach for the light way above, and lichen hitches a ride on most things, decorating bark to green furriness.

Different lichens decorate in different ways, here trailing like delicate green feather boas.

This walk is on a steep hillside, where the very large trees need all the earth hold they can get, so buttresses are common, but not often as narrow as these.

The bark of the tree varieties is interesting enough, but some bore strange markings like moon craters or excrescences like foetal creatures.

Fascinating details that I wanted a guide to quiz.

I saw many more varieties but could not photograph them as halfway round the walk I was caught in a thunderstorm, with heavy rain and stinging hail. I had to stow the camera in my bag and don the emergency plastic poncho. The camera survived the long wet trip back, my boots and trousers and the poncho didn’t.

Wood blooms

On stumps of felled or fallen trees and logs from such, this last week of rain has brought forth a cornucopia of fungi blooms of the strangest shapes. These ones look more like tiny shells and amber bluebottles.

Others have the more expected ‘ear’ shape, when not being bubbles, so I can only assume that they are Auricularia Sp. 1; definitely one of the ‘jelly’ fungi.

Yet others are so discoloured and distorted that they look like something regurgitated.

On a similar log in my mini rainforest these more ‘ordinary’ white fungi are what caught my distant eye in the first place.

They are tough and solid, with tiny pores underneath, and also appear to have bubble babies. However, I wasn’t able to identify what they are called.

Not on wood but in the leaf litter was this cute little glistening orange cup, that I think is Amanita xanthocephala.

I find it astonishing that my village backyard just keeps producing surprise treats for the observant eye.

Toxic tempters

On a visit to my friend Sharyn’s rural property, she showed me these cartoon fairytale fungi under the windbreak of introduced fir trees.

No fairies or elves were sitting on these ones, but perhaps they missed the boat when the species (Amanita muscaria) was introduced to the NSW Blue Mountains for its undeniable decorative qualities.

While vivid and pretty, as tempting as a toffee apple or strawberries and cream, this fungus is toxic.

Sometimes unromantically called Fly Agaric, it’s been used as a fly poison. It has now spread to all Eastern states and Tasmania, where problematically it seems to have adapted to the native beech trees (Nothofagus cunninghamii) and may replace the native fungi.

But here the brilliant domes and their expanding plates have also naturalised under the chestnut trees. Note the many fallen spiky, hairy chestnut pods.

My boot gives an idea of the large size as the fungi caps open, fade to brown, and split into fleshy ‘flowers’.

One other foreigner, also brought in for pine trees, lives here with Sharyn’s chestnut trees. Slippery Jack, as it’s known in England, or Suillus Luteus, is visibly slimy and not pretty, but actually is edible. Commonly eaten in Europe, where they peel off the glutinous skin before doing so.

From swamp to stream

Normally I have a view of a swamp, algae covered except where ducks forge a path. It’s the most permanent of a deliberately created wetlands complex of often dry depressions, built for flood mitigation with metal traps to catch debris.

I don’t usually get to see white water or hear it rushing through the forest, yet after a few days of welcome heavy rain, my swamp is transformed as it does its job of moving water.

Weedy sinks are pools, low-lying parts of the forest are semi-submerged and a small creek has found a path through the bottom of my garden.

And I know you’ve probably seen enough of these fungi, but I love that they are so prolific, with new colonies appearing every few days in this wet weather.

Water is Life!

Moisture marvels

We’ve had lovely rain, which caused my garden plantings to literally lift up their heads in gratitude — and to visibly grow, instead of barely surviving.

In between actual wet days, we’ve had damply humid ones, where rain promises/threatens, but remains undelivered. The perfect warm moist weather for fungi.

I love these very visible clumps of fleshy ‘cappuccino’ fungi, so generously clumping through my backyard grass.

But I am delighted to also find this solitary umbrella, minute and almost translucent, nestled amongst some dry thyme stems.

The grass is long, but it’s been too wet to mow. My first fungi have disappeared, and the sun is out, so I mow. Next day I spot three of these caramel crusted drumsticks defiantly claiming pride of place in the shorter grass.

Far less showy are these shy little fungi, soft blobs of cream hiding in the leaf litter.

I welcome them all, these marvels of moisture that seem to come out of nowhere to surprise the observant eye.

It’s nature, it’s life!

Soil surprises

Somewhat disgusting? Totally amazing!

The first slime mould sighting in my new place.

Filaments and networks forming a weird yellowish mass on the woodchip pile.

The colour caught my eye, but only after I’d been stopped by another more familiar slime mould nearby.

I think this is what is often called the Dog’s Vomit slime mould.

Slime Moulds are an extraordinary group of organisms called Myxomycetes — neither plant nor animal nor fungi. There are more than 1000 species of these ‘intelligent slime’ identified.

Apparently they suddenly get together in a mass of protoplasm and ooze along very, very, very slowly, feeding until ready to start producing spore.

The species are all different, but all equally incredible. Nature at its most strange.

If you’ve never come across these ephemeral ‘creatures’, take a look here and here at my Mountain posts when I first met them, where there is more information and links.

And then I spotted these.

Tiny orange fungi, sticks like popsicles with chocolate coated tops, albeit slimy ones.
Around them were dried-up versions of the same, so it seems they do not transform or open out.

I’ve been so focused on what’s in the trees here that I’d forgotten the secret surprises that can arise from the soil.

Winter blooms

Kind of creepily flesh-like, with its pairs of pointy-toed pink ‘legs’ and that gaping orifice;  kind of disgustingly gooey, with those red wet lumps, which yet are almost like the secretions of raw wounds.

The pink fleshy stems add to the plant or animal dilemma (hence the ‘phalloid’ species). But the ‘yuck’ factor increases at this stage of its life, as its spore-slime glistens in the centres, like faecal flowers.

And indeed, from a distance, these fungi do look like red flowers scattered amongst the grass in the paddock. But flies, not bees, are attracted to that brown goo by the ‘rotting meat odour’ of this stinkhorn fungi, Asero? rubra,  commonly called Red Starfish, for obvious reasons. The flies obligingly carry away some spores on their feet to deposit elsewhere and spread the species.

Interestingly, this was the first fungus recorded for Australia, collected by Labillardière in 1792 beside Recherche Bay in Tasmania. He named it for its stellar shape, so why not Astero?? Typo?

The paddock is also blooming with lilac, or mauve if you prefer, in the brief beauty of this fungus before it fades to beige.

It is also plentiful.

My winter wildflower meadow is a wild fungi paddock.

Watery wins

The delicately feathered lilac curls of the native Melaleuca thymifolia are a relief as well as a delight to see, as these swamp-loving small shrubs have only been in for about six months.

They will only grow to about 2 metres and will hide my shed from view for verandah sitters.

Willows love water and my little willow is now taller than me. I did plant it to help soak up a wet spot, and so it does. It will be a magnificent summer shade tree in years to come.

I had bought the cheapest ($30) little fountain I could find online, as a tester. I am amazed at how much it enhances my little pond, adding sparkles and ripples and splashes, varying its spray height with the strength of the sun. I have come to regard it as a little creature, part of the pond life, and I enjoy watching its varied moods. It even works in a sun shower.

The mosses are thick and glowing like furry jewels, with tiny golden fungi flowers bringing bursts of sunshine on a grey day.

While appreciating the bonuses it brings, I am as sick of the rain as this Willy Wagtail, who may not be able to see the watery wins as I do.

But of course with the sort of showers and sun roundabouts we’ve been getting, we are at least blessed with a rainbow now and then.

The Big Wet

In one week, another 416mm of pounding rain fell, flooding the creeks and closing the roads, strewing logs and stacking beaver dams at fences and bridges and crossings that got in its way.

The skies cleared one evening and the moisture began to separate into creeks and clouds, as they should. It heralded the dawning of our one fine day… which just happened to coincide with our village Fair!

But the wet returned with soggy monotony, more of the driveway gravel came down the hill to visit … and even more fungi appeared, so large and so many that they were obvious even from a distance.

They popped in gold flushes out of palm tree stumps, in pale lilac ripples out of grass.

Parasols opened in pure white profusion while on the opposite side of beauty, two sole fat white drumsticks turned black and crusty overnight.

Daintiness returned with tiny white pinheads on an exposed dead root.

Mysterious red moss-like filaments on a long and alive casuarina root caught my eye… but is this fungi?

Post-deluge fungi

Wet, wet weather and just enough warmth still in the air to cause a whole new aspect of life to come forth and blossom … fungi.

This beauty unfurled out of the top of a palm stump that has sat there unadorned for two years.

Way down in the paddock, a smattering of white glimpsed from the house, demands investigation. Up close they are cinnamon coated narrow domes as babies, maturing to large cream umbrellas still carrying their cinnamon, as flakes.

Walking back up to the house level, a very large single white blob proves to be one that I know, the stunning parasol, Macrolepiota dolichaula.

Its pure delicacy and detail still amazes me, as does the charm of that faint toasted marshmallow blush on top.

On the soggy house lawn there are drifts of smaller lemony circlets that turn up their edges and flash their gills as they age.

I thank Nature for the unexpected flashes of fungi of whatever colour, size or quantity!

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.

wet-2

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?

wet-3

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.

wet-4

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…

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