The world of fungi is fascinating and the range of size ,shapes and colours are stunning.More importantly are their role in the ecosystem. There are the recyclers that breakdown organic matter , you’ll see these around fallen logs, in compost or commercially growing in controlled organic mixes. As an orchardist the more interesting for me are the Mycorrhizal fungi that live in mutually beneficial relationships –a symbiosis with the roots of plants. Its thought that 90% of plants are helped by fungi to utilize nutrients from the soil.The plant receives moisture and protection in exchange for phosphorous, nitrogen and other elements the plant might not be able to obtain for itself. The fungal hyphae (tiny threads) can travel long distances from the plant to collect what the plant needs.Some examples of these fungi come from the Amanita, Cortinarius, Inocybe, Russula families. Many Australian native plants have these symbiotic relationships creating a vast array of fungi that still need to be discovered and studdied. For more information an excellent book ‘Tales from the Underground” by David W Wolfe or you can join your Local Fungal Studies Group or check out Fungimap.
While these fungi are beneficial to plants some, for example Death Caps (Amanita phalloides)are deadly poisonous to humans.In the above photo there are 2 on the top left.