Christmas Bells

Christmas Bells
Christmas Bells - Blandfordia nobilis

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Weird Fungi in Nature Reserve

A few days ago, the Sydney Fungal Studies Group visited the Robertson Nature Reserve for their annual visit to this fungal treasure trove. I should add that the SFSG is a scientific study group, and had permission to collect a limited number of specimens of scientific interest. Private individuals can admire the varied fungi of the Nature Reserve, of course, but not collect them. It is dark in there - take your camera, and use the Flash, as I do.

My personal favourites were the Cordyceps, which are a parasitic fungus which infect the larva of an insect, in this case the caterpillar stage of an Oxycanus (Swift) Moth (apparently).

Swift Moths are large, and relatively common moths in Robertson. Their crysalises are sometimes found half out of the ground, or a hole in a tree, where the moth has emerged from the pupal stage. These plastic-like "shells" are frequently the size of a large finger.
Cordyceps gunnii
In the case of the caterpillar (top photo), it has become mummified, by the effect of the fungus, which has absorbed the fluids of the moth, and then developed its own "fruiting body". In that case (and somewhat unusually) the fruiting body is split into two separate bodies. The unusual nature of that specimen warranted it being collected as a Scientific Specimen, by the SFSG.

In the case of the greenish "head" of the Cordyceps gunnii, it is a regular single head, which we found poking out from the leaf litter.

Another oddity is this long "finger-shaped" fruiting body, which is in the "Stinkhorn" group. This one is Mutinus boninensis. Although I did not notice these fungi having much of a smell, many of their relatives do. They fall within the "stomach fungi" group as their protrusions develop from within an egg-like cell structure.

That group include the well-known reddish stinkhorns and also "Lattice Fungi" which produce ball-shaped cells which emerge from within a bag, and if disturbed, physically, or by wind, can roll around independently - a truly un-nerving sight if you are weeding and knock the top of the cell, and the "ball" or lattice fungus emerges suddenly. One would swear it is an animal, not a fungus.

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