Christmas Bells

Christmas Bells
Christmas Bells - Blandfordia nobilis

Friday, May 23, 2008

Introduced Fungi in Robertson

Robertson is a moist-climate zone on the top of the coastal escarpment, behind the Illawarra Region (35 KM south-west from Wollongong, and 100Km south of Sydney). It is an area of rich red basalt soil. See my early blog posting: "Where the hell is Robertson?"

The early settler's (God bless their ignorant souls) did what early British farmers did elsewhere in Australia, and cleared the "scrub". In this case they cleared the dense cool temperate rainforest known as the "Yarrawa Brush" - a combination of tall trees, growing together very densely, with vines and Tree Ferns, and then ground dwelling low ferns.
Below the rainforest lies the answer to why the settlers wished to clear the rainforest - rich red basalt soil. Here is my daughter, Zoe, celebrating a big day of planting. Note the rich red soil.Having cleared the native forests, (in the 1860s) the settlers discovered the need for windbreaks, and they planted the Monterey Pine (Pinus radiata).

In the process they created a wonderful environment for the various introduced fungi which thrive in association with these Pine Trees.

And that is the subject of this blog entry.

The Fly Agaric (Amanita muscaria) is the most common "Pine Toadstool" in Robertson, in Autumn. I have written about these previously. Local kids go around kicking the heads off these fungi. I have a plate of these, preparing them for dissection, NOT FOR EATING (I stress).
These were being prepared for dissection for educational purposes, to compare the structure of boletes against gilled fungi.
Amanita Muscaria (young specimen) cut in half,
to reveal the cap structure, and the gills.
Note how the bright red colour penetrates into the cap.
The Boletus edulis shows the pores (not gills) underneath. It has a smooth, sticky brown cap on the top. Slugs, snails and small animals routinely eat the top of these caps.When the bolete is dissected, it reveals that the sponge-like structure actually is not a random series of holes, as in a marine "sponge", or even the domestic plastic washing-up device of the same name, but rather the pores are the external tip of very long narrow tubes. In cross-section you can clearly see these long tubes, almost resembling the structure of a gilled fungus (except when viewed from underneath). Below is the less common Lactarius deliciosus the "Saffron Milk Cap" or "Red Pine Mushroom". I have a local friend of Russian origin who delights in cooking these, although I have the typical Australian suspicion of anything other than a bought mushroom (when it comes to eating them).I love the bright saffron colour of these mushrooms, which is immediately obvious if one breaks even a small section of the gills, or cap. It is really obvious when the entire cup is dissected.

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