The Fungi Season in Western Sydney and the Blue Mountains
Story and images by Lachlan Penninkilampi
Our patron, Professor Tim Entwisle, once proposed that Sydney has not four seasons, but five: sprinter (August, September); sprummer (October, November), summer (December, January February), autumn (March, April, May), and winter (June and July). This he proposed because of Sydney’s local climate and the phenology of its biota (ie, how native Sydney biological life cycles interact with our local weather and climate). It is quite different to the seasonal calendar we imported from Europe.
Where I am, in Western Sydney near the Blue Mountains, the blooming of the wattles has signalled the arrival of sprinter. But it has also signalled that our main fungi season has come to an end.
This year’s fungi season was excellent. The weather has been mild, the soils have been moist, and there weren’t any floods or bushfires to spoil the fun!
The chanterelles seemed particular abundant this year. In early March, I spotted a troop of smooth chanterelles (Cantharellus aff. lateritus) along one of the fire trails near Bowen Mountain, in the Blue Mountains National Park. I stooped down to take in that distinctive, fruity aroma, and copped a leech on the neck because of it!
In early April, I went on a few forays through Mitchell Park in Cattai National Park, in Western Sydney. There were plenty of fungi, but what I noticed even more was the diversity of slime moulds. This was auspicious as Steven Stephenson’s Secretive Slime Moulds book had just arrived in the mail. Using that, and my trusty field microscope, I was able to key out one of my finds and identified it, with relative confidence, as Arcyria insignis.
Late April seemed to be the best time for fungi this year. There were sporing bodies of every colour, shape, and size. On ANZAC Day, I found a rhubarb bolete in the Blue Mountains. It is one of my favourite fungi—few are so proud and majestic in the bush!
Fungi continued to be relatively easy to find throughout May and June, and into the start of July. I was (audibly!) pleased when I saw in the Agnes Banks Nature Reserve in Western Sydney a flush of hedgehog mushrooms (Hydnum spp.). Their distinctive spines were easy to spot with my trusty Fungimap mirror.
I also spotted in the mosses a very interesting asco, Byssonectria fusispora, which only has a handful of observations on iNaturalist in Australia:
With a dry July (and not the noble kind), our fungi season to came to an abrupt end. But I have my fingers crossed that we will have enough rain that our spring-fruiting fungi will give us a last hurrah before El Niño settles in this summer.
Lachlan is a Committee Member of Fungimap Inc. He is also writing a thesis on fungi in Australian environmental law and policy—more details on that here.