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Fungi and me

What are fungi?
What do they do?
What to look for
Identifying fungi
Reliability of identifications
Books I use for reference
Photography and image processing
Useful links on fungi topics
Index of display pages
Alphabetic species index

Fungi and me

Fungi became an interest for me in 1962, when I started post-graduate studies in organic chemistry at Melbourne University. Although my research project was not related specifically to fungi, my supervisor had other students studying plant pigments from various sources, and I developed a side interest in the chemistry of plant pigments and other compounds, including naturally-occurring substances originating from fungi, such as the penicillins. And so I started looking with some interest in the little toadstools that I could see in the bush.

They turned out to be quite difficult to identify, and they still are! In those days a newly-published book, "Victorian Toadstools and Mushrooms" (FNCV, 1957) by J.H. Willis, of the Melbourne Herbarium, was all that I had to go on, and that was quite difficult to use, (being now superseded). Having no friends with similar interests, I more or less gave up, but retained a curiosity in these fascinating organisms as well as a general interest in botany and other aspects of the natural world. However, fungi took a back seat to the weighty matters of family and career.

I retired in 1988, and some years later at last acquired a reasonable SLR camera. About the same time I heard a broadcast on ABC Radio National about an organization based on the new-fangled internet. Called Fungimap, it is centred at the National Herbarium of Victoria, administered by Dr Tom May, Senior Mycologist at the Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne. Fungimap aims to engage the interest of amateur enthusiastic like myself to spot any of a series of target species of fungi, with the aim of building a data-base of distribution in this country. Many fungi growing in Australia are found nowhere else in the world.

About 2003 I started photographing fungi and making contact with other people, particularly through the Fungi Foray group of the Field Naturalists Club of Victoria (FNCV), and I now count my "field nat's" fungi-hunting companions as among my best friends. They've helped me with my photography and fungi identifications. Several relatively recently published fungi books have been a boon, and and so I've collected hundreds of identified fungi images for display on this web site, from forays since 2003.

What are fungi?

There are probably hundreds of thousands of different species of fungi, most of them microscopic molds (also spelled moulds), such as the Penicilliums that cause grey-green spots to appear on rotting fruit, and the yeasts that are used in food production. My interest is in the larger ones easily visible to the eye, such as the gilled agarics, polypore fungi with pores, bracket fungi, cup fungi, coral fungi, etc.

These types of larger fungi are all examples of the "fruiting bodies" of fungi, the purpose of which is to aid the distribution of microscopic spores to grow more fungi. The main body of the fungus consists of a mass of thread-like structures called hyphae, making up a total mass called a mycelium which is usually out of sight in the ground or growing within the tissues, rotting wood, or even inside the living wood in the case of parasitic fungi. It is the fruiting bodies or sporophores that tend to attract the interest of mycologists, amateur or professional.

Fungi are thought to have evolved as early as 600 million years ago, and play a pivotal role in ecology, especially of the plant kingdom, with which they form mainly beneficial partnerships. They are unique in having cell walls made of a nitrogenous polysaccharide material called chitin, the same substance as the exoskeletons of insects, rather than cellulose, as in plants.

What do they do?

Unlike plants, fungi lack chlorophyll for photosynthesis, but play various roles in the web of life. Some form a codependent, symbiotic relationship with living plants by wrapping their hyphae around the roots of plants, entering inside the tissues. These are called mycorrhizal structures, wherein the plant receives soluble nutrients from the fungus, and the fungus receives sugars and other carbon-based products from plant photosynthesis. One particularly close relationship occurs between algae, which have chlorophyll, and a fungus, this pairing occurring in lichens.

Other fungi perform a quite different role, growing inside dead wood, breaking down the dark lignin and the white cellulose. All decay of vegetable matter arises mainly from these "saprotrophic" fungi, together with a few bacteria. If this didn't happen, we would be surrounded by dead vegetable matter! Some fungi do attack living plants, thus functioning as a parasite, ultimately destroying the plant. Agricultural products are all subject to various fungi parasites, such as rusts and smuts of grains, and heart-rots in trees. There are also fungi which attack living insects and animals, including human disorders such as tinea, ringworm, certain lung diseases, and so on.

It appears that any given soil sample contains many different fungi, and we are all surrounded by a kind of soup of many different fungal spores, all waiting for the required conditions to germinate.

What to look for

The commonest fungi produce fruiting bodies that have the characteristics of the common edible mushroom, namely a cap (pileus), a stem (stipe), and perhaps a little bulb or cup at the base. Most commonly, underneath the cap are gills (lamellae). Gilled fungi are called agarics. The gills are lined with microscopic club-shaped cells called basidia; at the end of the cap grow several or more usually 4 microscopic spores, which mature then break off and become dispersed by air currents. There is a torrent of spores falling from the gills. If the cap is laid flat on some paper in an undisturbed place, this spore powder can be captured in the form of a spore print. The colour of this spore print is an important characteristic in fungi identification. Fungi with basidia are called the basidiomycetes.

Many agarics grow with a sort of veil covering the cap and gills, fragments of which remain, as they mature, in the form of scraps of tissue on the cap, and, most importantly, a ring on the stem.

The colour and texture of the cap, gills, stem and base are all taken into account in fungi identification. The casual observer can be quite successful in matching the look of a fungus by reference to several books on the subject, but beyond a certain point, microscopic investigation is necessary.

Some capped fungi have pores underneath, which are apertures from which the spores are released; these fungi are referred to as the boletes. Others form little teeth underneath the cap, from which the spores emerge. Many gilled and pored fungi grow with the stem very much on the side of the cap, giving a sort of kidney shape to the cap; sometimes the stem is almost non-existent.

Then there are the shelf or bracket fungi, which grow out of the sides of dead logs or living trees, with no stem at all. These usually have a finely pored spore-bearing (sporophorous) surface underneath; the cap or top of the shelf often has zoned patterns on it. Certain bracket fungi have a kind of ridged, maze-like surface underneath rather than pores.

Then there are the coral fungi, which look like anything from cauliflower-like to simple slender fingers, often brightly coloured, on the soil or on dead wood. As well, many fungi grow like little cups, with the spore-bearing surface on the inside of the cup. Instead of the club-like basidia bearing spores, they bear their spores inside little sausage-shaped structures called asci, often bearing 8 spores, which are released when the asci break open with ageing. Such fungi are called ascomycetes, and there are many shapes adopted by these fungi, including the edible morels.

Jelly-like fungi also occur in many shapes and colours. Others occur as puffballs, earthstars and stinkhorns, or as just flat sheets underneath rotting logs and twigs.

It is the endless variety of forms, colours and textures in which fungi are found, that enthuse the fungi forayers, and although some fungi are edible, I and my friends do not seek them out for that purpose, but rather for the sheer pleasure of locating them, describing them photographing them, and trying to identify them. It is a potent mixture of the fresh air, the thrill of the hunt, the aesthetic appeal and perhaps the scientific activity that gives so much pleasure for myself and fellow fungiphiles, who are active all over Australia.

Identifying fungi

The first thing is to make a proper description of the characteristics of the specimen; this should preferably be done in writing in a field notebook, and can often be done without disturbing the specimen. With experience, excellent mental notes can be done, too. It should be noted that it is a breach of conservation regulations to pick fungi unless one is on private property. For Field Nat's forays there is usually someone with permission to take samples from National Parks, etc. In group forays there is always a group clustered around the latest find, reference books open and an animated discussion happening.

Identification is probably most easily done by comparison with photos and descriptions in text-books. At present, there is no reliable, up-to-date systematic key to the identification of Australian fungi.

Australian fungi present a problem that there are always changes happening on nomenclature as more taxonomic studies are done, including DNA work. Consequently names can be changed, and books gradually become out of date. As part of this process, it has been found that many Australian species were given names in earlier years because they resembled known northern hemisphere species, but as herbarium data are reviewed, changes are needed.

However, most names are reasonably stable, and this uncertainty need not detract from the pleasure of fungi hunting.

For identifications that I have made in my photos, I am indebted to many of my expert companions on forays, who have often identified material in situ, and from which I have made notes. In some cases common names are available, especially for those that have been introduced into Australia from the northern hemisphere. Some Australian native species were initially given European names owing to understandable confusion, and these do persist. Some common names for Australian species were proposed by Ed and Pat Grey in their book "Fungi Down Under", and I have used these where appropriate, as well as others gleaned from the internet.

Reliability of identifications

Reliable identification of fungi in the field and from pictures can be difficult, but I have done my best; I am open to suggestions. In many cases the accuracy is obvious by inspection; in others I have relied upon on-the-spot identification by experts with me in the field during forays. But there are some cases where verification would have needed microscopic confirmation, but even then there can be uncertainty. Moreover, some species names will be incorrect owing to recent changes in taxonomy. I am happy to know of any needed name changes.

Books I use for reference

Many identifications have been made by reference to the virtually indispensable book by Bruce Fuhrer (2005), "A Field Guide to Australian Fungi", Bloomings Books (360 pp.), ISBN 9781876473518. This has a useful balance of excellent images and moderately descriptive text.

A useful book is the slim volume McCann, I.R. (2003), "Australian Fungi Illustrated", MacDown Productions, (128 pp.), ISBN 0 9750780 0 3, with a lot of good photos but minimal descriptions.

Although there is a slight emphasis on Western Australia, there is a book which is a work of art as well as a good fungi reference. This is Bougher, Neale and Syme, Katrina (1998), "Fungi of Southern Australia", University of Western Australia Press, (391 pp.), ISBN 1 875560 80 7. This contains useful scientific discussion plus beautiful water-colour paintings of fungi by Katrina Syme.

An occasionally useful reference book is Young, A.M and Smith, Kay (2005), "A Field Guide to the Fungi of Australia", UNSW Press, (240 pp.), ISBN 0 86840 742 9. This has excellent descriptions but fewer photos than Fuhrer, although there good paintings and line drawings.

Much earlier in this discussion I have mentioned Fungimap, based in Melbourne, and their web site displays details of some of the 100 or so target species, hence is an useful aid to identification. A useful CDROM of images can be purchased from Fungimap, and members receive some useful news-letters during the year.

In conjunction with Fungimap, the Royal Botanic Gardens (Melbourne), and the Field Naturalists Club of Victoria, an excellent book has been published which presents comprehensive descriptions and images specifically of the target species. This is Grey, Pat. and Grey, Ed. (2005), "Fungi Down Under: the Fungimap Guide to Australian Fungi", Fungimap, (146 pp.), ISBN 0 646 44674 6.

Recently published is an excellent paperback book by Sapphire McMullen-Fischer, Patrick Leonard, and Frances Guard (2014), "Australian Subtropical Fungi", (160 pp.), pub. by Suncoast Fungi (, ISBN 978-0-646-9-1552-4. This valuable resource contains good images, excellent descriptions, including spore information, and very valuable etymolological explanations for 115 species.

Also new is a very good paperback book with 600 species, by Gates, Genevieve and Ratkowsky, David (2014), "A Field Guide to Tasmanian Fungi", (249 pp.), pub. by the Tasmanian Field Naturalist's Club Hobart, ISBN 978-0-9578529-2-1. A very valuable resource.

There are some more professional books and monographs which I don't happen to have at hand, but I will leave these to be sought by the more dedicated reader.

The FNCV Fungi CDROM 3rd Edn. 2012

A very useful CDROM of Australian fungi has been created by amateur mycologist and photographer Jurrie Hubregtse, a member of the FNCV Fungi Group and a friend of mine. This contains about 300 species of fungi, with multiple pictures of each species for comparative purposes, a total of 1100 colour photographs. The 3rd edition (2012) of this is available as follows:-

FNCV Fungi Group (2012)
'The Fungi CD 3rd Edition' [CDROM]
Field Naturalists Club of Victoria Inc.
1 Gardenia Street
Blackburn 3130
Postal Address: Locked Bag 3,
Vic 3130
$15.00 plus $5.00 postage
Tel/Fax 03 9877 9860

Photography and image processing

I started photographing fungi in 2003 with a film-based Canon EOS 300 with a standard zoom lens, which was satisfactory until 2007, when I bought a modest compact digital camera, a Canon Powershot S3 with excellent close-up performance, which made all the difference. However, it is difficult to do manual focus, which is often needed to avoid autofocus focussing on the foreground or background.

The above mentioned Canon Powershot S3 suddenly stopped working and was deemed to be irreparable. So recently I have purchased another three digital compact cameras, namely a Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ200, and a Nikon Coolpix P7800, and a smaller camera, a Canon S110. The first two have a swivelling viewfinder, which is almost essential for low-down photography of fungi. The Canon doesn't but we use it as a general purpose camera. NB: All three cameras give excellent HD movies.

My cameras are modest in performance. Photographing fungi in the forest usually involves reduced light levels, and the need for as great a depth of focus as can be obtained, together with as low an ISO film speed rating as is possible to avoid film graininess/noisiness. My experience is that the use of on-camera flash flares out the subject, but that using natural light gives a much better shot, with best rendition of form and colour.

I also found that with my equipment the upshot of all these requirements means that one needs to shoot with quite slow shutter speeds, which in turn means that the camera must be stabilized on a small tripod or bean-bag. I use a small adjustable tripod for low work, and often work with it laying firmly down on the soil, with the camera at a 90 degree angle. Autofocus often suffices, but manual focus is generally better.

One of my friends gets really professional results from a high quality digital SLR with a good macro lens, a right-angled view-finder, a custom-made tripod and a couple of flash units separate from the camera, using slow shutter speeds during the flash firings. Only my modest income separates me from my dream camera outfit! Nevertheless, I feel I can offer reasonably acceptable images on this web site.

I shoot everything at the highest digital resolution possible, and from the film camera I have scanned in at 300 dpi or obtained the best images on CDROM. My image-processing software is Corel Paint Shop Pro X7, which I find adequate for all my needs. My general approach is to use and maintain an image aspect ratio of 4:3, crop the image, adjust gamma and curves as required, tweak brightness and contrast if necessary, and finally adjust sharpness by the Unsharp Mask facility, if necessary. Finally the pictures are saved with jpg compression about 30% (or 70% for photoshop, I think), which is a good trade-off of jpg artefact distortion and file size for quick loading. I have standardized most of my large images at 600x450 pixels, or 413x550 pixels for portrait, although some images are different.

Index of display pages

Page A - Agaricus xanthodermus to Amanita xanthocephala
Page B - Amauroderma rude to Bolbitius vitellinus
Page C - Boletus barragensis to Clavulina miniata
Page D - Clavulina cristata to Coprinus comatus
Page E - Cordyceps cranstounii to Cortinarius sinapicolor
Page F - Cortinarius aff violaceus to Dermocybe cramesina
Page G - Dermocybe kula to Fistinella mollis
Page H - Flammulina velutipes to Gloeophyllum sepiarium
Page I - Gymnopilus allantopus to Hygrocybe lewellinae
Page J - Hygrocybe miniata group to Hypoxylon rubiginosum group
Page K - Inocybe australiensis to Lichenomphalia umbellifera
Page L - Limacella pitereka to Melanoleuca sp. Fuhrer No. 183
Page M - Melanophyllum haematospermum to Mycena cystidiosa
Page N - Mycena fumosa to Mycoacia subceracea
Page O - Nidula emodensis to Phellodon niger
Page P - Phlebopus marginatus to Podoscypha petalodes
Page Q - Podoserpula pusio to Pseudocolus fusiformis
Page R - Pseudohydnum gelatinosum to Russula flocktoniae
Page S - Russula integra to Stereum illudens
Page T - Stereum ostrea to Trametes versicolor
Page U - Tremella encephala to Xylaria polymorpha

Alphabetic species index

Agaricus xanthodermus
Aleuria aurantia
Aleuria rhenana
Aleurina ferruginea
Amanita armeniaca
Amanita farinacea
Amanita grisella var luteolovelata
Amanita muscaria
Amanita ochrophylla
Amanita ochrophylloides
Amanita umbrinella
Amanita xanthocephala
Amauroderma rude
Anthracophyllum archeri
Armillaria luteobubalina
Artomyces austropiperatus group
Ascocoryne sarcoides
AseroŽ rubra
Auriscalpium sp.
Austroboletus lacunosus
Austroboletus novaezealandiae
Austropaxillus infundibuliformis
Barya agaricicola
Beauveria bassiana
Beenakia dacostae
Bisporella citrina
Bolbitius vitellinus
Boletus barragensis
Boletellus emodensis
Byssomerulius corium
Boletellus obscurecoccineus
Calocera sinensis group
Calostoma fuscum
Calostoma rodwayi
Campanella olivaceonigra
Cantharellus cibarius var. australiensis
Cantharellus concinnus
Ceratiomyxa fruticulosa
Chalciporus piperatus
Cheilymenia raripila
Cheilymenia coprinaria group
Chlorociboria aeruginascens
Chlorovibrissea melanochlora
Clavaria amoena
Clavaria miniata
Clavicorona colensoi
Clavulina cristata
Clitocybe clitocyboides
Clitopilus hobsonii
Collybia eucalyptorum
Coltricia cinnamomea
Comatricha nigra
Conocybe filaris
Coprinellus disseminatus
Coprinellus truncorum
Coprinus comatus
Cordyceps cranstounii
Cordyceps gunnii
Cordyceps hawkesii
Cordyceps robertsii
Cortinarius archeri
Cortinarius areolatoimbricatus
Cortinarius australiensis
Cortinarius austroalbidus
Cortinarius austrocinnabarinus
Cortinarius fibrillosus
Cortinarius rotundisporus
Cortinarius sinapicolor
Cortinarius sp aff violaceus
Craterellus cornucopioides
Crepidotus nephrodes
Cudoniella pezizoidea
Cymatoderma elegans var lamellatum
Cyptotrama aspratum
Cystolepiota sp 70 fuhrer
Cystolepiota sp aff sistrata
Dermocybe austroveneta
Dermocybe canaria
Dermocybe cramesina
Dermocybe erythrocephala
Dermocybe kula
Dermocybe splendida
Descolea recedens group
Dibaesis arcuata
Dictyopanus pusillus
Discinella terrestris
Entoloma moongum
Entoloma viridomarginatum
Exidia glandulosa
Fistulina hepatica
Fistulinella mollis
Flammulina velutipes
Fomitopsis lilacinogilva
Fuligo septica
Galerina hypnorum group
Galerina patagonica group
Ganoderma applanatum
Ganoderma australe
Geastrum triplex
Gloeophyllum sepiarium
Gymnopilus allantopus
Gymnopilus austrosapineus (?)
Gymnopilus ferruginosus
Gymnopilus junonius
Gymnopilus penetrans
Hebeloma aminophilum
Hebeloma crustuliniforme
Helvella villosa
Hemimycena species
Hemitrichia calyculata
Hericium coralloides
Heterotextus miltinus
Heterotextus peziziformis
Humidicutis lewellinae
Hydnellum species
Hydnum repandum
Hygrocybe austropratensis (?)
Hygrocybe chromolimonea
Hygrocybe lewellinae
Hygrocybe miniata group
Hygrophoropsis aurantiaca
Hymenophyton flabellatum [liverwort]
Hyphodontia australis
Hyphodontia flavipora
Hypholoma australe
Hypholoma brunneum
Hypholoma fasciculare
Hypholoma sublateritium
Hypocrea sulphurea
Hypocrea victoriensis
Hypoxylon aff chrysoconium
Hypoxylon sp. aff. fuscum
Hypoxylon rubiginosum group
Inocybe australiensis
Inocybe violacecaulis
Laccaria sp
Laccaria sp A
Laccocephalum tumulosum
Lachnum pteridophyllum
Lactarius deliciosus
Lactarius eucalypti
Lactarius wirrabara
Laetiporus portentosus
Lanzia lanaripes
Lentinellus castoreus
Lentinellus tasmanicus
Leotia lubrica
Lepiota aspera
Leratiomyces ceres
Leucoagaricus ooliekirrus
Leucocoprinus birnbaumii
Leucopaxillus eucalyptorum
Leucoscypha catharinaea
Lichenomphalia chromacea
Lichenomphalia umbellifera
Limacella pitereka
Lycogala epidendrum
Lycoperdon pyriforme (old name)
Macrolepiota clelandii
Macrotyphula juncea
Marasmiellus affixus
Marasmiellus candidus
Marasmius alveolaris
Marasmius crinisequi
Marasmius elegans
Marasmius species 'angina'
Melanoleuca sp 183 fuhrer
Melanophyllum haematospermum
Merulius tremellosus
Morchella elata
Morganella pyriformis
Mucronella pendula
Mycena aff epipterygia
Mycena albidocapillaris
Mycena albidofusca
Mycena austrofilopes
Mycena austrororida
Mycena carmeliana
Mycena cystidiosa
Mycena fumosa
Mycena interrupta
Mycena kuurkacea
Mycena minya
Mycena nargan
Mycena nivalis
Mycena subgalericulata
Mycena vinacea
Mycena viscidocruenta
Mycena yuulongicola
Mycoacia subceracea
Nidula emodensis
Omphalina chromacea
Omphalina umbellifera
Omphalotus nidiformis
Panaeolus sp.
Panellus pusillus
Panellus stipticus
Parasola plicatilis
Paxillus involutus
Peziza repanda
Peziza tenacella
Peziza thozetii
Phellinus sp.
Phellodon niger
Phlebopus marginatus
Pholiota communis
Pholiota malicola
Pholiota squarrosipes
Phylloporus clelandii
Pilobolus species
Piptoporus australiensis
Pisolithus albus group
Pisolithus arhizus
Pleurotopsis longinqua
Pleurotus purpureo-olivaceus
Pluteus atromarginatus
Pluteus cervinus
Pluteus lutescens
Podoscypha petalodes
Podoserpula pusio and hyph fasc
Podoserpula pusio
Polyporus melanopus
Poronia erici
Postia pelliculosa
Psathyrella asperospora
Psathyrella echinata
Psathyrella sp.
Pseudocolus fusiformis
Pseudohydnum gelatinosum
Psilocybe subaeruginosa
Pycnoporus coccineus
Ramaria filicicola
Ramaria gracilis
Ramaria lorithamnus
Ramaria ochraceosalmonicolor
Rhizopogon luteolus
Rhodocollybia butyracea
Richoniella pumila
Rickenella fibula
Russula aff. rosacea
Russula clelandii
Russula flocktoniae
Russula integra
Russula iterika
Russula kalimna
Russula lenkunya
Russula persanguinea
Ryvardenia cretacea
Schizophyllum commune
Scleroderma cepa
Sphaerobolus stellatus
Stereum hirsutum
Stereum illudens
Stereum ostrea
Stereum rugosum
Stropharia aurantiaca
Stropharia semiglobata
Suillus granulatus
Trametes versicolor
Tremella encephala
Tremella fimbriata
Tremella fuciformis
Tremella mesenterica
Tricholoma aff terreum group
Tricholoma eucalypticum
Tricholomopsis rutilans
Tubaria rufofulva
Tulostoma sp Fuhrer 353
Xeromphalina leonina
Xerula australis
Xylaria aff filiformis
Xylaria castorea
Xylaria hypoxylon
Xylaria polymorpha

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