Christmas Bells

Christmas Bells
Christmas Bells - Blandfordia nobilis

Monday, April 19, 2010

Fungi of the Robertson Nature Reserve

I have been delayed in processing the photos I took on the day the Sydney Fungal Studies Group came to the Robertson Nature Reserve (over two weeks ago). Hopefully when you realise the work involved in processing the images, and trying to find names for them you will forgive me.

I will do my best to name these Fungi, but in many cases, the names will be approximate, or at best "descriptive". Any assistance with naming would be greatly appreciated. I will give an alphabetical code to assist with re-naming any wrongly named images.

Image A - Pseudocolus fusiformis
This is a form of "Stink Horn" - a gastromycete, which means "stomach fungus" - so named for the fact that they grow out from a kind of "egg" which people thought resembled a stomach. These fungi and their close relatives tend to smell foul, and they do so in order to attract flies to carry their spores away. They are very soft and short-lived. This one was broken in transporting it back to the sorting table, after the walk.
Image B - A Puffball growing on wood. A shrivelled one to the right.
To the left, the star-shaped item is a fallen "seed capsule" from a Coachwood tree above. These seeds litter the ground in autumn in Robertson's cool temperate rainforest. Seedlings coat the ground - each awaiting the death of a tree nearby so it might get a few extra shafts of light, and scramble towards the sky. Judging by the vast number of seedlings, it must be a one in a million chance. But Nature is patient!
Image C - A type of Jelly Fungus - Calocera sp. To me, they look like little white Leeches, but I do tend to be a bit obsessive about Leeches, as you know!
Image D - unknown, but presumably related to the Jelly Fungus (Calocera). I have never seen such a small or fine needle-like structure. I have a feeling this specimen was lost before the SFSG "experts" got to review the day's finds, as I did not see it spread out on the table, after the walk. Hopefully I am wrong, in which case it will eventually get a name. Failing that, one of the Readers of this Blog might be able to assist with a Generic or Family name.Incidentally, as you will realise, the fingers are too fine and too elegant to be mine. They belong to one of the young lady who was on the walk with me, and she found this delightful specimen.

Image E - Talking of fine and elegant, I just love this "Hair Fungus", so named because of the dark, strong stems which are nearly invisible. Marasmius capillaris is as close to an ID"fit" as I can come. Better than the more general Horse-hair Fungus, which has long black fibrous stems which trail around over great distances, unlike my specimen..My specimen is growing out from a dead leaf, as is the one in Wikipedia. It also gathers the name "Pin-wheel Marasmius" from the fine lines in the cap, which you can see in the older specimen, half fallen over (on the right).

Image F - Here is another fine Fungus. Not sure of the type. But it made a very pretty picture, reminscent of an imaginary minature Japanese Garden, complete with seedlings (miniature trees) and the Fungi as Umbrellas. Image G - For a bit of light relief, here is a creature which I have only ever known as a "Flat Worm". I discovered it feeding in some rotten wood in the side of an upright tree stump. A Google Search failed to show any match to what others call "Flat Worms", but I persevered, and found a link to Planarium Worms. Apparently in my photograph, I missed the distinctive bit which is the "hammerhead" shaped head. It is buried in the detritus of the rotting tree. By all accounts, the Planarium Worm would be looking for other tiny creatures to eat. There is no shortage of them in the Robertson Rainforest.

Image H - Back to the Fungi.
The trouble with Fungi experts is that generally they have a hard-enough time working out what they are looking at. When it gets like this, many lose interest. Too small to see with the naked eye.
Image I - These are a variant on the theme of Bracket Fungi. They may be juvenile Brackets, I am not sure. In the Robertson Rainforest there is so much dead timber and so much moisture that the idea that Bracket Fungi are large things sticking out the sides of tall Gum Trees is irrelevant. We do "brackets" in all shapes and sizes and all levels of development.
Image J - I had to save J for this Jelly Fungus. This is not just a bad case of sputum. Frankly it looked like something so disgusting, it would make me rush off to see the Doctor.
The fingernail is there as a scale measure. The hand was holding some bark from a rotten tree branch. I find that fact vaguely reassuring.
Image K - a Cordyceps (or two) in situ - on the forest floor. One is dying and has been invaded by tiny white creatures called "Springtails" (although they do not all look like fleas, as some do). Technically they are called Tetrodontophora. More generally, they are known collectively as "Collembola" and they come in all shapes and sizes, it seems.
All you need to note is the dark colour of the head of the tall Cordyceps gunnii, and how that is all you see sticking up out of the ground.
More will be explained after the next image.

Image L - a cleaned up Cordyceps gunnii specimen. It is approximately 8 inches (20 Cm) long. These things used by known as "Vegetable Caterpillars", but that is an appalling misnomer. There is not now, nor ever was, anything "vegetable" about this Fungus. I have written about their lifecycle previously.
Click on the image to see it properly.
In case you are wondering, the odd shaped part of the "Fungus" - the bit on the right - is the mummified corpse of a large wood-boring grub, the larval stage of a Swift Moth - see below. The larvae of the Swift Moth bore into the roots of the Acacia melanoxylon, the Blackwood Wattle, which is one of the dominant trees in the Robertson Nature Reserve. Hence the Cordyceps fungus is a "regular" find here, at this time of year. But interewsting, none the less.

Image M (for Moth). And what a big fat one it is, as well.
We do serious Moths here. This one escaped being mummified by the attack of the Cordyceps fungus. When you see what that fungus can do to an insect, it makes one never want to worry about Tinea again.
These huge Moths love bright lights, and at this time of year, come beating on my new "Laserlite" awnings, with the spotlights I have out there. I only have to run them lights for a few minutes till I get more moths than I wish to photograph. But that is another story!

Image N - This is a classic Bracket Fungus, but I am not sure of the species (or genus). It has a classic "ring" formation, showing the age of the Fungus, which is quite hard, and nearly permanent (unlike many Fungi which are truly ephemeral - such as Slime Moulds (which technically are NOT fungi I now recall) and Ink Caps, which simply "dissolve themselves" down to slush over the length of a day.
Image O - from this white-pored underneath side image, I have been told one can tell that it is not the more common "Beefsteak Bracket Fungus" Stereum sanguinolentum.
The difference is the way in which that other species stains red when touched underneath. Exactly which species it IS, I cannot say. But its pores did not mark red.

Image P - Finally, here is a double clump of Coral Fungi (Ramaria sp) growing out either side of a rotten log on the ground.
And in all these Fungi, there is a not a classic "Mushroom" or Toadstool to be seen.
My Blogging Colleague, Martin, has raised the issue of the Fungi being animals or plants (or "other") in the comments.

As the Wikipedia answer is too long for a "comment" I will add it here:
  • A fungus (pronounced /ˈfʌŋɡəs/) is a member of a large group of eukaryotic organisms that includes microorganisms such as yeasts and molds, as well as the more familiar mushrooms. The Fungi (pronounced /ˈfʌndʒaɪ/ or /ˈfʌŋɡaɪ/) are classified as a kingdom that is separate from plants, animals and bacteria. One major difference is that fungal cells have cell walls that contain chitin, unlike the cell walls of plants, which contain cellulose. These and other differences show that the fungi form a single group of related organisms, named the Eumycota (true fungi or Eumycetes), that share a common ancestor (a monophyletic group). This fungal group is distinct from the structurally similar slime molds, (myxomycetes) and water molds (oomycetes). The discipline of biology devoted to the study of fungi is known as mycology, which is often regarded as a branch of botany, even though genetic studies have shown that fungi are more closely related to animals than to plants.
  • extract from Wikipedia - Fungi


mick said...

An astonishing variety of fungi! I have no knowledge at all of these things but I can say that most of them are very beautiful! Some simply look 'weird'!

Denis Wilson said...

Thanks Mick
I accidentally hit "publish" in a blind panic, when I could not see the text of my blog - half way through.Silly me, with so many images I was "cutting and pasting" them from the top of the page, and that left the top of the draft page blank.
You may have seen it when it was still a jumble. I now have completed the story, and have names for most of them.
Feel free to go back and check out the finished item.
Weird! Sure, we do "weird" pretty well, but it is not us, but the several hundred million years of evolution of these ancient life forms which accounts for the Weirdness.
Remember, without Fungi, plants could not be broken down into compost, and we would all be buried in dead tree trunks.
And we would have little to eat, for decomposed plant life is the stuff of new plant life (food for us).
Fungi rule the world.

mick said...

Hi again Denis, I came back for another look this morning and found the post looking quite different. I've done the same thing on occasion - ie hit the wrong button and posted a partially finished post! I agree we need the fungi for all of the reasons you say - unfortunately I haven't taken much notice of the beauty of these - mostly - tiny forms.

Denis Wilson said...

Hi Mick
Thanks for coming back.
I hope it made more sense once completed - I had a feeling you might have seen the half-finished product. That made it too hard to understand.
Yes Fungi are not only important, but vital in the forest, especially.
And then there are the medicinal uses which we are only just learning about.
And then there is Chinese cuisine, as well, not to mention what the French and Italians do with various weird Fungi.

Mosura said...

Nice collection! I like the flatworm too. I don't see them very often although I found this nice yellow one at Rocky Cape.

Mosura said...

Oh...and by the way that's a neat looking moth. Not one I'm familiar with. I tried to figure it out but have a scoobie.

Denis Wilson said...

Hi Mosura
Re the Moths, I will send you some images, the better to see than that one which really just shows the fat body and the underwing colour.
You had a nice Flat Worm - good colour, but mine had racing stripes! It must be faster than yours!

Flabmeister said...


I am afraid I am a believer in traditional values with two Kingdoms - Plant and Animal! I'm certain Fungi aren't animals!

Apparently everything has changed since I did A level sciences in England and the 1960s. Someone did try to explain the current structure to me but I am afraid it didn't stick!


Denis Wilson said...

Hi Martin
I didn't even enter that debate here (I have previously) but plants have chlorophyll and cellulose, and Fungi have neither.
As for them being "animals" they are not the usual definition thereof, I agree. They cannot sit on your lap while you watch TV.
But they do have Chitin as a structure, which is the stuff of insect shells, etc. So that might make them closer to animal;s than you feel comfortable with.
I will add a first para from Wikipedia entry on Fungi which states the current position fairly succinctly.
Incidentally, they mention Slime Moulds as a separate Kingdom, along with Bacteria.
Animal, Vegetable. Mineral?
Sorry, but the world is not as "neat" as we all grew up thinking.

Cheer Up, Martin.
At least you aren't being taken over by a Cordyceps.

Anonymous said...

This is a great collection of fungi pics! They are such important organisms, but sooo hard to ID, and there's not much info around on them. BTW I can empathise with the confusion over the taxonomic status of the fungi. I was at school/uni recently enough to learn that they were separate to the plant and animal kingdoms. But, taxonomies are always changing and being updated - perhaps at school they don't teach us that fact well enough! I find it very hard to get used to changes in plant names. We just have to keep in mind it's all a work in progress....

Mosura said...

"They cannot sit on your lap while you watch TV."

LOL - An interesting definition of an animal. While eating dinner in front of the TV recently I found a mushroom on my lap but that's just because I'm a messy eater :-)

Denis Wilson said...

Hi Mosura
Glad you liked my little "sit on your lap" reference.
One of my better lines, I thought.
Hi Lynds
Taxonomy is the bane of my life, or rampant taxonomists, at least.
The plant people are just learning how to use DNA, and some say there are huge differences between seemingly related plants, and others go the other way.
In the case of Fungi they started out using the electron-microscope images of spores, then DNA. The DNA tells them very confusing things, for some native truffles appear to be closely related to some gilled fungi, which just doesn't make sense.
I always suspect reported DNA evidence, for I wonder if they had looked at different parts of the chain, would that tell a different story?
I think there is a long way to go on all that, yet.
The one thing they should teach is that there is no such thing as certainty.
"That is the latest hypothesis" should be the last line in all treatises.

Sylvana said...

I have accidentally posted to my blog and posted comments to others' due to panic. And then there is the red X out when you get done instead of hitting "Post" or "Send" (for email). All that work down the drain!

I love fungi! I especially love the edible varieties.

Denis Wilson said...

Hi Sylvana
Your comment came up here, just fine.
I liked your Tulips, especially the blue one. Never seen that before.
There were some "edible" fungi in there, but ones one is not allowed to have, so I did not photograph them, or publish them.
Under the Pine trees, (which of course are not native to Oz) we do get some genuinely edible types (Suillus and Lactaria) both "Pine Mushrooms".
But most of this weeks Fungi I could not imagine even tasting.
Cordyceps has medicinal uses.
Best wishes.

Flabmeister said...


Many thanks for the response to my post. I am glad it isn't just based on the DNA sequencing approach. I regard DNA sequencing as the biological equivalent of string theory.

I was also most remiss in my original post in not saying how great your photos are.


Mark Young said...

What a great variety of different fungi! I have to admit, unless it's an obvious fungi I don't ever pay them much notice. I'll have to have a second look next time.
Nice images Denis.

Denis Wilson said...

Hi Mark
I am sure that gully where you found the Powerful Owls would be great for Fungi.
As with your Waders, the more you look, the more you see - in this case, it is simply a question of looking more closely. Look and look again, at different levels of magnification, preferably.
Even the naked eye will do it, I just mean looking at closer levels, and at a smaller scale.
Lots of surprises in store for all of us.

Sue Catmint said...

thank you Denis for this informative and fascinating post. The comment about the cell walls of funghi being chitin instead of cellulose is fascinating, since I know chitin is a component of the shells of sea animals and insects. I adore funghi, never know what is what. but they are certainly varied in shape and colour.

Denis Wilson said...

Thanks Catmint.
Certainly is great variation in the world of Fungi.
The plant/animal/fungi division has people either confused, or angry (in some cases).

Unknown said...

Hi Dennis,

Excellent post mate. thank you very much.

Have I told you lately that you are a legend?



Denis Wilson said...

Hi Steve
Thanks, but please stop. My head is already too swollen ;-)
I like the fact that with Blogs, people can search back for ages, if they "miss" a particular post when it first goes up. I get comments from people about Blog posts sometimes two years old. That's fine with me. It means people are able to find answers to questions, using their favourite Search Engine. Terrific.
Hope your visit encouraged you to do more with Fungi.