Smell the Fungi
1 Jun 2011
I like to walk in the bush after a spell of rain.
By slowing down and taking the time to observe, I often come across the fruiting bodies of fungi, most are mushrooms, but a few are unusually shapped and have bright colours.
These fungi are very useful and are critical to the health of the forest.
Saprophytic fungi feed on dead matter and is responsible for recycling the nutrients back into the soil.
Without these, we will have piles of dead plant and animals in the bush.
Mycorhizal fungi live in symbiotic partnership with plant roots.
The plant provides energy (sugars and starches) to the fungi in return for water and nutrients.
Fungi can grow more threads and collectively contains more surface area than plant roots, thus is better able to absorb water and nutrients from the soil.
It is estimated that nearly 90% of plants have some sort of mycorhizal associations.
Basket fungus (Ileodictyon cibarium) is a saprophytic fungus native to New Zealand.
Basket fungus (Ileodictyon cibarium)
Basket fungus is actually a stinkhorn, so don't try to smell this.
The fruiting body starts out as a white ball and is edible at this stage.
As it matures, the ball puffs out into a foul smelling "basket".
This often becomes detached and can travel some distance.
Earthstar (Geastrum saccatum) is a kind of puff ball fungus.
Rain drops falling on the central pore forces a jet of spores out through a small opening in the middle.
Earthstar (Geastrum saccatum) is another saprophyte.
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