Fungi is nature’s living subterrain network. Mycologists are working to deepen their understanding of these mysterious and understudied organisms every day, but they're up against a complex set of conditions. Their subjects often appear and disappear rapidly with rain, and the fruiting body on the surface of the ground is only a tiny part of the organism’s structure.
On Yourka Reserve, Jirrbal and Warrangu Country, far north Queensland, a group of scientists were trawling through the dirt, looking for fungi in 2019. They would often spend an entire hour on a single square metre of earth. After some time, they spotted a medium sized fungi with white and yellow shades. The experts took a sample.
The specimen has recently been confirmed as a new species in the Austroboletus genus, after a Scanning Electron Microscope and DNA test. The new species, named A. yourkae, after its discovery location, forms obligate mycorrhizal root symbioses. In other words, it has a symbiotic relationship with tree roots – either single plant species, or plants associated with specific environmental niches.
It was also described as having a “a fishy odour with a mild tang”.
Much of this amazing underground realm needs to be studied further, and this new species is no exception. One of the mycologists, Roy Halling, has been visiting far north Queensland since 1992 and his discoveries include many new species and range extensions of existing species.
Mycelium networks are vast, intricate webs. They serve to share information with each other about resources, moisture and the world above. They also play a crucial role in breaking down organic matter to return nutrients to the soil. There’s a lot to be learnt, but it’s a fascinating process, and Regional Volunteer Coordinator Leanne Hales recounts just how enthusiastic the team were.
“Fran and the team were incredibly generous with their knowledge and their passion was infectious. Plus, there was something intensely therapeutic about moving so slowly in the bush and honing your attention to the finest details in nature.”
Leanne reflects on her time with the ‘fungi folk’ as one of the highlights of her 14 years living and working on Yourka Reserve.
“For me it was an incredible eye-opener to the subterranean network that supports our vegetation communities”.
Bush Heritage would like to thank and acknowledge the inspiring “fungi folk” who took part in this magical treasure hunt at Yourka Reserve in March 2019: Dr. Fran Guard, Bob Philpot, Roy Halling, Dr. Sapphire McMullan-Fisher, Teresa Lebel and Gretchen Evans.
Some of the team are developing a practical guide to help land managers restore their land using fungi.