I have refrained from calling this Fungus "weird" as I have used that adjective too many times - I think.
This Fungus is Septobasidium clelandii
|Septobasidium clelandii on Tea Tree stem.|
The first thing I noticed was not the dark "stems" of the fruiting body of the fungus, but rather, the black stained bark of the Tea Tree Branch. It reminded me immediately of the kind of "mold" one sees in the corner of a very old bathroom.
|Black stains on the Tea Tree bush - and Fungal fruiting bodies|
In this photo you can see a grey tip of the fruiting body - presumably the spores.
The fruiting bodies - the little black spikes - are about 12 mm long.
|Septobasidium clelandii with spores showing|
This fungus has an interesting lifestyle, somewhat reminding me of the lifestyle of the Cordyceps group of Fungi. According to the usual sources, these fungi are not related in any way to the Cordyceps (Basidiomycetes versus Ascomycetes). Both fungi parasitise the body of a larval insect - in this case a gall-forming Coccid bug called Callococcus leptospermi. That insect is a relative of the Scale insects, so I have sent the photos and notes to Dr Penny Gullan of the ANU in Canberra, a specialist in Scale insects (and their relatives).
As you can tell from the name, the insect favours Leptospermum shrubs. This was the case with my fungus/gall-forming insect. I confess to not being sure of the plant species, yet, as it was not in flower.I collected a small branch to show to my friend Joan Freere who is very experienced with Fungi. We found it in Bruce Fuhrer's book "Field Guide to Australian Fungi". That book told us that the fungus attacks a coccid bug, which forms galls on the host Leptospermum plant. Sure enough there were lumps wherever the fungi were appearing. I had not noticed them at first, until we read Fuhrer's book.
|Tea Tree branch swelling where the fungus is.|
|The swellings are caused by a bug which has burrowed into the shrub|
|A good example of the gall forming (on the right of the stem)|
|Leaves of the Tea Tree (Leptospermum) host plant|
|close-up of the Leptospermum leaves.|