An unexpected fungal paradise

Alison Pouliot & Becky McCann

Driving along the Princes Highway through the highly modified agricultural catchments of Victoria’s western district, one might not be expect to find a fungal paradise.

Tucked away among treeless, rocky paddocks of the Victorian Volcanic Plains, a 400 acre (160 ha) property adjoining the shores of Lake Corangamite harbours some of the most diverse fungal habitat in the district. An overstorey of manna gums (Eucalyptus viminalis) along with blackwoods (Acacia melanoxylon), cherry ballart (Exocarpos cupressiformis) and other tree species have contributed a rich organic layer of wood from leaves to logs, all providing fantastic fungus habitats and food sources. A healthy understorey and numerous rocky outcrops all create diverse microhabitats and microclimates that favour a diverse mycota. The first rains had brought an astonishing array of lichens and other bryophytes to life.

The property is an exceptional example of the importance of conservation on private land. By reducing pressures such as stock grazing, the native flora, fauna and fungi are all regenerating. The property is also a ‘hollow haven’ with an astonishing number of hollow-bearing old trees, all providing vital habitat for a great range of birds, mammals, reptiles and invertebrates. And not to forget the important role of fungi in the creation of hollows.

Our group of 20 keen forayers were attending the “In the field among the fungi” foray and survey as part of a weekend of fungus events, hosted by the Mt Leura and Mt Sugarloaf Reserves Management Committee, Friends of Mt Leura as well as the Central Otways Landcare Network’s Stony Rises Focus Group. Despite the long dry summer and late start to the ‘fungus season’, the attentive forayers had soon discovered an array of fungi from boletes to brackets to agarics and more. Participants learnt the basic skills and protocols for conducting fungus surveys and fungus identification in the field and uploading records to the Atlas of Living Australia. Further training is planned to develop these skills further. Everyone was thrilled to find the ghost fungus (Omphalotus nidiformis) and 10 year old Elijah Taylor had the keenest eyes of all, spotting a beautiful specimen of the golden splash tooth (Phlebia subceracea).

The group plans to continue training and surveying in the coming years to develop an inventory of fungi for the property.