April was pretty dry, up until just recently anyway! As I am writing this, the last week has been rather a soggy trek around the Cairns Botanic Gardens to say the least.
I am hoping that once this rain passes we will have some nice opportunities for the last bout of shroomin probably for the year, until the rains kick in again in December. Due to these and other factors, this will be a short entry as the timing has not been a friend to the fungi kingdom, or for this blog.
I was able to find some of these tiny Eyelash Fungi on a recent trek up to the Atherton Tablelands and one of my favourite rainforest paths. The tiny fungi, each flattened cup reaches a maximum of about 6mm across. It exhibits tiny eyelash-like hairs (hence the name) around the circumference. Spotting these is difficult…you need to be low to the ground and very slow as they will easily just blend into the surroundings.
This particular species is called Scutellinia scutellata, and the colour can range from this burnt orange tone if the soils pH is alkaline or neutral, or a red tone if the soil is acidic.
Eyelash Cup Fungi (Scutellinia scutellata)
I recently purchased a magnifier attachment for my camera kit allowing me to get up closer to some tiny species of slimemoulds. These tiny morsels are only about 3mm tall but make great subjects for photography. Just a few examples for you.
One genus of fungi that I find truly fascinating is the Cordyceps family of fungi. Ever since I saw a David Attenborough documentary that showed how this fungi took over the brains of many insects, manipulating their behaviors to climb to a high branch before encouraging it to bite down on a leaf or stem before killing its host and then exhuming outwards through the limbs and eventually the whole body of the victim.
It seems as though there may be a different type of cordyceps fungi for each type of genus in the insect world, and some affect spiders as well.
Here is a collection of some of the examples I have found around the Cairns Botanic Gardens over the years.
The first image is a Bull Ant just a couple of days after I saw it acting strangely on the top of a leaf. The ant is still in its death grip with its mandibles on the leaf, and the emergence of the fungi coming through its joints.
The next photo shows a jumping spider that has succumbed to a species of cordyceps called Gibellula, which affects spiders. I’ve seen a number of spiders being a victim of this fungi, but this is the best example.
This third image shows yet another spider that has been a victim. This is a fairly advanced example of cordyceps fungi. The last image is an ant with cordyceps, notice the long spire extended from the head, where the fungal spores would be dispersed from.
Thanks for reading and I look forward to seeing you out on some Shroomin Tours soon! I’ll do a Shroomin Time wrap-up for the 2020/21 season at the end of May.