5 more fungi to look for in the Adelaide Hills

Are you a fungi fanatic? Many of you loved the first batch we dished up, so here are some extras to look out for.

If you’ve got a keen eye for spotting fungi, you might have already encountered the collared earth star, the jelly baby, or some of the other weird and wonderful types of fungi we showcased in the first part of this series.

But don’t despair, there’s plenty more where those came from. Before we give you five more fungi to look out for, let’s take a closer look at what fungi actually are and how dangerous they can be.

What’s all the fuss about fungi?

Fungi are important in all ecosystems, from your backyard to the local park.

Many species of fungi return vital nutrients to the soil by breaking down organic matter, which in some cases is dead animals. A fancy name for this ability is ‘saprotrophic’.

Others help plants grow by supplying them with essential nutrients that they have drawn out of the soil – something they are particularly good at.

Of course, some of them are eaten by animals too.

Don’t make a fatal mistake

Just because they might look interesting, it doesn’t mean fungi are safe to touch or eat.

In fact, it’s largely unknown which native fungi are edible and which are poisonous, so don’t eat any you come across and wash your hands if you accidentally touch one.

While we’re at it, don’t assume you know what a regular edible mushroom looks like either. You’d need an expert to help you tell the difference between the poisonous yellow stainer (Agaricus xanthodermus) and the mushrooms you buy from the supermarket. And some fungi, such as the death cap fungi (Amanita phalloides) can kill you if eaten, so it’s best not to take the risk.

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Yellow stainers – an introduced fungus in the Adelaide Hills (image courtesy of David Catcheside)

But don’t let this discourage you from looking at and photographing these fascinating organisms.

Here are five you might spot around the Adelaide Hills this winter:

1. Turkey tail (Trametes versicolor)

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(Image courtesy of David Catcheside)

Turkey tail fungi come in a variety of colours, and are often striped. They are shelf-like structures and can be found growing on wood of all descriptions, sometimes even fence posts.

Some of the brown turkey tail varieties can actually look a bit like wood, so they blend in with their surrounds and can be hard to spot.

2. Bird’s nest (Cyathus olla)

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(Image courtesy of David Catcheside)

This intriguing greyish yellow fungus resembles a little nest filled with eggs. These egg-like structures are called peridioles, and are actually packets of microscopic spores.

Raindrops splash the ‘eggs’ out of the nest so the spore packets are spread. The spores germinate and eventually new ‘nests’ may be produced.  

3. Green skinhead (Cortinarius austrovenetus)

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(Image courtesy of Phil Bridle)

Green is a rare colour for fungi. So with its green-coloured top or cap, the green skinhead is somewhat unusual.

It’s known as a gilled fungus, because of the plate-like structures (gills) on the underside of its cap where the spores are produced. 

Green skinheads are mycorrhizal, which means they have an essential relationship with the plant they grow on. The fungus collects nutrients and water which are then used by the plant, and the plant provides energy to the fungus in the form of sugars.

4. Ghoul fungus (Hebeloma aminophilum)

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(Image courtesy of David Catcheside)

Do you think ghoul fungus sounds creepy? Anything that grows on or next to rotting flesh or bones is bound to seem that way.

Not only will ghoul fungus grow on something dead, it can also be found along areas where people have urinated. Charming. In fact, the ‘aminophilum’ part of this species’ name actually means ammonia-loving.

Ghoul fungi often grow in a mass and can reach a height of about 12 centimetres.

5. Pixie’s parasol (Mycena interrupta)

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(Image courtesy of David Catcheside)

Pay close attention to tree trunks and logs to see if you can spot this species. It’s uncommon in South Australia, so if you find one, count yourself lucky!

With a blue cap perched on a white-coloured stem, pixie’s parasols look as pretty as they sound. This species is saprotrophic.

Here’s what you’ve found

Check out this selection of fungi found by park-goers in our national parks, including at Morialta, Cleland and Scott Creek conservation parks.

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(Images courtesy of: [top left to bottom right] Rosemary Goland, Bridgette Doudy, Bridget Fox, Bridgette Doudy, Southern Ocean Retreats, Cindy Leary, Adam (jermin8), Sarah Bray, Sarah Bray, Sarah Bray, Sarah Bray, Sarah Bray).

You’ll find our five featured fungi plus many others in the Fungi of the Adelaide Hills identification chart, produced by the Natural Resources Adelaide and Mount Lofty Ranges’ Natural Resource Management Education team and the Adelaide Fungal Studies Group. For more in-depth information, check out Bruce Fuhrer’s book Fungi, or the field guide, Fungi down under.

(Main image courtesy of David Catcheside)

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