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Fungi - overlooked beauties

A period of heavy rain and still-warm soil temperature this autumn has resulted in splashes of colour and interesting forms popping up from the soil or organic debris. These are the fruiting bodies of fungi and are only a very small part of the fungus which is visible – the rest is hidden in the ground or in rotting organic matter, logs, or branches.

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Fungi, moss and lichen grow on fallen timber and other organic matter and help with the decaying process, returning valuable nutrients back to the soil. Fungi are also a valuable food source for many invertebrates and native mammals, such as bandicoots and bettongs.

Few people know the value and beauty of the variety of fungi species we have. They can be vibrantly coloured or have incredibly beautiful shapes and forms. Many have also been given great common names because of their appearance, such as Dog vomit slime mould, Orange ping pong bats, Lawyer’s wig or Pancake stack!

A good web site to learn more about fungi and their shapes and forms can be viewed at the ‘Fungi Down Under’ web site www.rbg.vic.gov.au/fungimap. See for yourself the beauty of these often overlooked living organisms.

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