Fungi and Slime Mould can be your Healthy Winter Addiction
By Gabrielle Pither
In late July, Friends of Jirdarup Bushland hosted a sold-out guided walk and talk, delving into the mysterious world of fungi and slime mould. Led by three leading experts in the field, over 100 dedicated enthusiasts braved wintry conditions to unravel the secrets of these intriguing organisms.
The 10.87 hectare Kensington Bushland in Jirdarup Precinct, Victoria Park, is home to numerous species of native fungi and the curious slime mould.
“Fungi perform 3 essential functions within our ecosystem; they recycle dead material, provide essential nutrients to trees, and also provide the trees with water in times of drought,” Roz Hart, mycologist and co-author of the 2005 Kensington Bushland Fungi Report explained.
Fellow mycologist and President of Fungimap, Laurton McGurk, highlighted the importance of protecting pieces of urban bushland, like Jirdarup.
“Some varieties of fungi have only been found growing on certain flora, such as Banksia Grandis, which is why it is vital that records are kept and precincts such as this are preserved,” she said.
Fungimap are an organisation consisting of both professionals and volunteers, who record and map fungi in Australia to help advocate for fungi conservation.
Anyone can become a part of the ‘Fungimap Australia’ project by downloading the iNaturalist app on their phone and uploading images, including a top, side, and underneath view of the fungi specimen. Walk and talk participants loved being able to use Fungimap mirrors to easily identify species within the Jirdarup Bushland. The mirrors are available for purchase through their website https://shop.fungimap.org.au.
“Fungi are addictive. When you start seeing them you’ll see them forever.
Record keeping by citizen scientists such as yourselves is vital in showcasing where fungi live and reinforcing why it is so important that bushland is preserved,” said Laurton.
Not only will you be contributing to important research, but you’ll also get to experience the weird, colourful, and beautiful world of fungi and slime mould firsthand. Mycologists and slime mould experts have a unique sense of humour, giving common names to species such as witch’s butter, ghost fungus, dog poo fungi, chocolate tube slime mould, and dogs vomit slime mould.
“Slime moulds are the prettiest organisms in the world,” Karina Knight, slime mould researcher at WA Herbarium, fondly stated.
Like fungi, slime mould plays an important role in the ecosystem, eating bacteria and other organisms. Karina also explained how slime moulds are neither an animal, plant nor fungi, they are in a phylum all of their own known as Mycetozoa. Fascinatingly, researchers have also discovered slime moulds can navigate their way through mazes!
“We believe in teaching people to be observant – to learn how to identify fungi and slime mould in their own backyards,” Roz emphasised.
And to those asking if the mushrooms are edible…Laurton offered one last piece of cheeky advice.
“We like to say every fungi is edible once.”
Copies of the presentations are available here.
Find out more about Jirdarup Bushland at www.fojb.org.au and the council website under Kensington Bushland.
The Friends of Jirdarup Bushland are also calling for new recruits at their winter weeding sessions held twice a week. Follow them on their socials or contact email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Fungi are only out for a couple of months during winter so head down and see what you can find!