Brisbane Rainforest Action & Information Network

BRAIN Fungi Workshop—13 June 2009

Report by Marina Novak and Shealagh Walker

We were unsure how many people would be interested in fungi as we thought it was a specialist area. We had 15 people book and this seemed an ideal number. On the day, a dozen people showed up, then another few came and the 15 chairs were soon occupied. Then a few more people strolled in, and a few more and I kept adding chairs. Eventually 22 people turned out for the workshop. Who knew fungi would be so popular!

Patrick Leonard was a terrific presenter. He took the pressure off right away by pointing out that only a small proportion of fungi have been described and named. So, while that might make identification somewhat difficult, you have the chance of having a new species named after you!

Patrick went on to describe what a fungus is and how it differs from other living organisms. He described the different categories of fungi and their key points of difference. Some have pores, others have gills, some are fleshy, others are woody, some live on dead wood, others on leaf litter, some even live inside rainforest tree roots. All play a crucial part in the ecological cycle of life in breaking down dead and decaying matter and making it useable to new growth.

Patrick pointed out that you need a permit from the EPA to collect fungus. The Queensland Mycological Society has a permit for its members, so join them if you’re keen on fungus.

After a spot of morning tea, it was time to collect some specimens for identification. Although we had had some wet weather, the storms and creek flooding had washed away specimens from the track through the remnant rainforest adjacent to the SOWN Environment Centre. However, plenty of excellent specimens were collected from around the border of the open field.

Back in the meeting area, Patrick handed out some books and participants set about identifying the fungi using different methods such as various keys or checking photographs listed in alphabetical order of Latin names. The photo ID group was lucky as their specimen’s name started with an ‘A’!

One of the specimens found was a deceptively innocuous small dove grey fungus that grows on local tree branches but if you smell it and breathe in the spores, they can start to grow inside your lungs! So be warned, don’t smell the wild fungi unless you are an absolute expert, they can kill! Don’t eat them either, for the same reason – just stick to the supermarket ones.

Quite a few positive ID's were made and from the burble of conversation around the room, the participants had an enjoyable time trying.

Many thanks to Patrick for a fantastic introduction into the world of fungi and thank-you to all the participants for your enthusiasm. We hope to see you at more workshops and excursions.