Over 60 species of fungi have been observed at Westgate Park. Astoundingly varied in form and colour, their spore bodies (the mushrooms) include gilled, cups, brackets, jellies, slime moulds, sacs, puffballs and stinkhorns.
Autumn/winter is the best time to see fungi especially after rain. From time to time we conduct public fungi forays and report our observations to Fungimap and the Atlas of Living Australia.
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- Fungi evolved ~1.5 billion years ago as a group of living organisms separate from plants and animals but highly interrelated; an integral part of the web of life.
- Fungi exist in ecosystems worldwide – from north to south pole, rainforests to deserts, in streams and in oceans, even in urban areas.
- Scientists estimate that 25% of the world’s biomass is fungal
- There are estimated to be 2-3 million species, of which just 80,000 have been studied and described.
- Of >50,000 species of fungi in Australia, just 24% have been named.
- Fungi are the primary decomposers of organic matter – especially wood leaves.
- Fungi do not photosynthesise so must break down complex carbon for sugars or exchange nutrients and water with plants, receiving sugars in return.
- Many species have highly symbiotic relationships with plants and algae – eg. 90% of Eucalypt species depend on them.
- Fungi are food and shelter for fauna, they promote disease resilience, conserve and build soil, even facilitate communication between plants.
- Fungi, like plants and animals, are threatened by habitat clearing, fire, flood, weeds, disturbance, fertilisers, pesticides and climate change.
In 1995, the Royal Botanic Gardens and the Field Naturalists Club of Victoria initiated Fungimap to improve knowledge about Australian fungi and to map their distribution. See their website: fungimap.org.au
There is a paucity of knowledge about Aboriginal use of fungi but here is the webpage of the Australian National Botanical Garden on the subject: http://www.anbg.gov.au/fungi/aboriginal.html
* Fungi Down Under – the Fungimap Guide to Australian Fungi, FNCV and Royal Botanic Gardens, 2005
* A field guide to Australian Fungi, Bruce Fuhrer, Bloomings Books, 2005
* A Field Guide to the Fungi of Australia, AM Young, UNSW Press, 2010
* Australian Fungi Illustrated, IR McCann, Macdown Productions, 2003