Christmas Bells

Christmas Bells
Christmas Bells - Blandfordia nobilis

Friday, April 12, 2013

Cordyceps in Rain Forest at Robertson.

Today I was included in a Land for Wildlife seminar organised by Dr Karen Guymer of the Wingecarribee Shire Council. It was very informative, and well organised. It was hosted at the Robertson CTC.

However, for me the highlight was a guided tour of the Robertson Rainforest patch on Tony and Anna Williams "White Birch Farm". This rainforest is significantly different from the Robertson Nature Reserve, in the dominant plants being dense stands of Lilly Pilly trees Syzygium smithii (formerly Acmena smithii). In the Robertson Nature Reserve, the dominant trees are more varied, being Sassafras, Blackwood, Coachwood. It was a lovely forest walk, with fantastic ferns and, of course, beautiful patches of moss on the rocks and tree trunks.

While on the walk I noticed two small black fungi points sticking out of the ground. I called to Tony and pointed them out and explained what I thought they were, and sought permission to dig it up.

As I had expected, it revealed the mummified body of a large caterpillar, with a fruiting body of the Cordyceps gunnii growing out of the top of the caterpillar's original body.

Fruiting body of Cordyceps gunnii
The red line indicates the original ground level
The Caterpillars of the large Swift Moth which have been buzzing around my windows and perching on my front Verandah, are the main local insect which become infected by the Fungal Spores of Cordyceps gunnii.

This shows the entire body of the Caterpillar
and the Fungal Fruiting body
A dual 'head" is unusual, but not unknown,

This is a clearer image (taken on a previous occasion)
you can clearly still see the lumpy "prolegs" of the Caterpillar.
The fruiting body (in this case grey in colour)
grows out of the head of the caterpillar.

I often say to people that when you see an entire organism taken over by a Fungus and then to have a fruiting body grow out of the head of the organism which has been "taken over" by the fungus, it makes one not worry about a small case of tinea between one's toes.

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