Fungi in Tasmania Can Be Addictive!

Ramblings of a Fungi Junkie

by Carol Haberle

Yes, I confess, I’m a Fungi Junkie!  Now before you have visions of me smoking, eating or making weird concoctions from our rainforest fungi, I wish to just clarify my meaning of ‘junkie’.  Put simply, it just means I’m hooked on fungi. Though I do confess, I have eaten fresh field mushrooms. Yes, they’re a fungi.  But, if I see fungi, I’m the type who has to study it, make notes about it, both mental or with pen and paper.  Though that truly depends as to whether I have pen and paper with me, or just my brain!!!

Fungi - Stereum and Pholiota

Left: Stereum species, a rainforest fungi ~ Right: Pholiota species

I then photograph it from every angle, even if it means lying on a wet, cold rainforest floor in the middle of winter.  Anything to get a good shot.  Then as soon as I get home, the photos are downloaded onto my computer, notes all ready, webpages opened and the reference books come out.  Part of the thrill of being a Fungi Junkie is in being able to identify those shots I have captured.  Part of the problem though, is in the fact that Tasmania has so many unidentified varieties of macrofungi (as opposed to microfungi, mould and mildew, the type that grows in your bathroom etc), which makes it impossible to name them all.

A Love of the Outdoors…

Growing up in Tasmania, plus my love of the outdoors has always given me opportunities to experience and explore nature; and all my life I’ve had a fascination for the details of fungi.  Memories of autumn days trudging through damp fields with my father, bucket in one hand and knife in the other as we searched for field mushrooms.  Then with buckets full we’d return home where my mother would proceed to peel the soft skin from the fleshy top, ready to place them in waiting hot pan, a knob of butter, pepper and salt and all too soon the house would be filled with the aroma of fresh field mushrooms cooking!

Fungi - Dermocybe and Gymnopilus

Fungi ~ Left: Dermocybe species ~ Right: Gymnopilus species

Enough Rambling Carol; Time to get Serious…

Tasmania is a paradise for fungi.  One can wander through our fields, forests, or around our lakes at any time of the year and see fungi growing somewhere (though the best time to witness the magic of this unique creation is during the autumn or winter months). Now I hear you ask, “Why does she call it a unique creation?  Well, fungi IS a unique creation.

Fungi - Tasmanian Fungus

More fungi photos taken by Carol Haberle of Haberle Photocards

Virtually overnight, these unique pieces of vegetation seem to appear as though from nowhere, just popping up in grasslands and forest floors.  From rotting fallen trees… or if you look up towards the treetops you’ll even see them growing out from thick sturdy trunks.  Every colour conceivable can be found: reds, whites, yellows, browns.  Even purples and blues.  Many different shapes and sizes, and in total there are estimated to be well over 5000 species alone in our rainforests.

Fungi is NOT a Plant…

The uniqueness of fungi does not stop there though.  Fungi DO NOT belong in the kingdom of plants, they have a kingdom all their own.  Unlike plants, fungi do not possess chlorophyll, therefore they do not need sunlight to grow.  They do not produce their own food, so are ‘scavengers’ or ‘parasites’ absorbing their nourishment from the substrate in which they grow.  When the ‘fruit body’ (that part which we see), is mature, fungus spores are released and dispersed by many sources (the wind, water, animals, people etc), providing the fungus with a way to spread and form new colonies.

Fungi - West Coast & Hygrocybe Astalogala

Left: West Coast Fungi ~ Right: Hygrocybe Astatogala

The ‘fruit body’, that ‘toadstool’ or ‘mushroom’ we see is only a small portion of around 25% of the fungus. The unseen, or main part of the fungus, is made up of microscopic threads called ‘hyphae’, which weave their way through the soil, wood or other substrate which provides their nourishment.  It is these unseen, creeping microscopic threads that are the main recycling agents of our rainforests, busily decomposing dead plant material and returning nutrients to the soil.  When conditions are favourable, a single mass of hyphae (a mycelium) may send out a reproductive organ, which is the fungus fruiting body that we see and admire.

Wander with the Fungus…

So, in our unique Tasmanian rainforests, fungi are a very vital part of the sensitive ecosystem.  Autumn and winter are the best times to visit areas such as The Tarkine, Mt. Field National Park, the West Coast State Forest Reserves and Cradle MountainLake St. Clair National Park (to name but a few), to see the varied and wondrous forms of fungi that are so unique to our state of Tasmania.  Take the time to wander through our forests looking for fungi (be warned, you may well become a Fungi Junkie like me), and you will find that fungi grows in many forms, not just those that look like toadstools.

Fungi - Faeries

Shhhhhh, faeries! Some secrets here in Tasmania we need to keep to ourselves!!!

Here in Tasmania we have Coral Fungi, Jelly Fungi, Puffballs, Earth Stars, Paint Fungi and even Truffle Fungi, (which grows entirely underground) and many, many more varieties.  If you do happen to come across a Faerie Ring though, or better still perchance upon the Faeries themselves, then all I ask is:  shhhhhhh, don’t tell anyone please.  Some secrets here in Tasmania we need to keep to ourselves!!!

Fungi - Photographs

Fungi ~ Left: Earth Star Geastrum Triplex ~ Right: Cortinarius Archeri

Note : Please DO NOT pick the fungi in our forests.  Our fragile ecosystem needs them!  Although some fungi are edible, many fungi can be poisonous.  Some are known hallucinogens, a couple are even deadly.  So please, unless you know your fungi, leave them where they grow.

All photos ©Carol Haberle, H&H Photography.
You can follow Carol on Facebook at Haberle Photo Cards
For more images of Fungi in Tasmania, check out the
Facebook album collated by Discover Tasmania.

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  1. Roseann Howarth says:

    Oooh Nooo Carol – you took a pic of a faerie!! They don’t like to be snapped – Oh dear what have ye done, only a handful of people knew they migrated with the Irish. But seriously I so look forward to your articles they encapsulate what is Tasmania and they make us think and learn. Your photography certainly would rank up there with the best. When will be your next article and what will it be about?

  2. Lorraine says:

    Carol, what a wonderful article and such beautiful photography. There is a kind of mystique about fungi – fairy-tale connotations, a sense of danger – but they are also quite beautiful. Fungi intrigue both artist and photographer alike.

  3. Laurie says:

    Good god carol, I can smell those damn mushrooms cooking now. How many buckets of those things did we pick over the years. Wandering through the old horse paddock with Nugget and Blossom looking on and down through the paddocks across the creek to that old relic of a tractor that we must have drove around the world countless times. What an imagination we had. Childhood memories revived by an article on bloomin fungi. Thanks sis.

  4. Angela King says:

    Wow.. What a fascinating read! I never knew the life of fungi was so amazing yet complex! Thank you Carol for another lovely and informative article! I’m learning so much from my own home state that I never knew before!!

  5. Ooooh Yes Roseann, I took a pic of the faerie…and NO, they truly don’t like to be snapped, but please be assured my dear lady, she WILL be safe, her location will not be exposed. As I am lucky enough to be one of that handful of people who know, and my own ancestry going back to Ireland, then I consider myself very fortunate to be one of the very few who can even see them.
    As for my next article…you will just have to watch this space!
    Thank you so much for stopping by once again,

  6. Hi Lorraine,
    You hit the nail on the head…your comments the exact reasons as to why I have become a ‘fungi junkie’. So pleased you enjoyed my article, thanks for stopping by!

  7. Oh Laurie…we shared so many happy memories, all moments spent with you I will hold forever dear to my heart…love you.

  8. Hello Angela,
    I’m so happy you are enjoying and learning from my articles…that’s my aim, and also the aim of Think Tasmania, to educate the world about the uniqueness, the diversity and the pristine beauty of our magical island state.
    Thanks once again for stopping by.

  9. Wonderful photography! The colours of birds and fungi would be difficult to replicate. With clothing, blue and brown or red and green would hardly match but with things of nature the match is perfect.
    How does the truffle fit into the scheme of things?
    Looking forward to your next surprise and the comments of your following.

  10. Oh I agree Roger, colours mix beautifully in nature, the colours we as humans have been taught do not go together, just blend so perfectly in nature. As for how the truffle fits into the scheme of things…well, here in our Tasmanian rainforests we have many forms of endemic ‘truffle and truffle-like fungi’, different to that which is now being farmed and harvested beneath hazel nut and oak trees, yet grows in much the same way…they are sequestrate (grows beneath the substrate or within the soil)fungi. The truffle-like fungi differ from the bulk of the fungi I’ve discussed in my article, in that the truffle-like fruiting bodies are generally produced underground and have lost the ability to forcibly discharge their spores. 49 varieties are eaten by our native Bettong, and as such this is the method of spore dispersal for our Tasmanian rainforest ‘truffle fungi’. Each year, field work reveals more species and is exposing a surprising richness of those fungi in this state.
    I hope this enlightens you Roger, and thank you for stopping by.

  11. Brad Web Designer says:

    Never have a seen such beautiful fungi in Tasmania! And I’ve lived there for decades.
    You’ve done really to gather this collection of photographs. I particularly like the colours of the Cortinarius Archeri – it looks exotic, although it’s not.
    Keep up the good work!

  12. Hi Brad…thinking it’s time you put the walking boots on, got out into our magical rainforests and kept your eyes close to the ground…it’s out there everywhere…there are so many shapes, colours and sizes in our fungi, I have barely touched the surface of them all in this article. Thanks for stopping by. Carol

  13. Yes Carol, you’re absolutely right!

  14. Great article Carol, you know how much I enjoy eating mushrooms.

  15. Brenda says:

    I read somewhere that mushrooms are the best medicine for a few diseases. Put a mushroom in a glass jar with water and after 4 to 5 days you can drink that water. If anyone knows about it then please reply back.

    • Hi Brenda,
      mmmm, Roseann’s words all true…and can’t help but think maybe you are thinking of a ‘health remedy’ that became popular a few years ago, one called ‘Kombucha Tea’ (commonly called ‘mushroom in water’), where a ‘fungus concoction’ (fermented aged culture) was kept in a jar of water, then after so many days was strained and one drank the ‘water’…was proved to not be so good for one after all. But please don’t try doing this with the fungi we have growing wild, many of these ARE poisonous, and truly should be left alone unless one is an expert on fungi.

  16. Roseann Howarth says:

    Brenda I am a healer and I can tell you that many plants, herbs and minerals maybe steeped in water and used as an elixir but be WARNED this can be a very dangerous practice. You would need someone who can test to see if that particular mixture is not toxic to your body. What maybe good for one person can be completely unsuitable to another or even poisonous.
    Regards Roseann

  17. Beverley O'Brien says:

    Hi Carol,
    Thank you for such a great article. I have been taking photos of fungi here at Three Hummock Island (North West Tasmania) – Bass Strait – and am so intrigued with them. I too am getting very wet from the ground trying to get that perfect picture!
    Kind regards, Beverley

    • Hi Beverley.
      It’s so great to know I’m not alone with my fascination with fungi…they truly are so awesome. Wow, ‘Three Hummock Island’, I imagine your fungi are as magic as the rainforest fungi here on the North West of the ‘big island’. Thanks so much for stopping by…Hugs! Carol.

  18. Love fungi and not to eat either. There’s a few beauties here I’ve not seen.Great photos and the colours in nature are always inspiring. Thank you for a great article Carol.

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