Discovering a Hidden World!

Published 1st June 2023. Written by Maddison O’Brien

As we welcome June, we farewell Mycology May, a regional celebration of all things fungi! 2023 is the second year of Mycology May, a Central Tablelands Regional Landcare Network initiative to bring educational and interactive activities to Landcarers across the Central Tablelands.

On Saturday, 27 May, 16 fungi enthusiasts gathered at Ferntree Gully Reserve to embark on the Mycology May Mystery Tour. The tour was curated by Maddison O’Brien of Watershed Landcare, Laura Fisher from the Mulloon Institute and Leanne Thomspon, a Kandos School of Cultural Adaptation member. The day aimed to use art and creative thinking to convey scientific information about Myccorhizal networks’ fascinating role in soils and across landscapes.

Along the gully walk, participants discovered a series of small art installations illustrating intriguing information about mycelium. These points of interest prompted some fascinating discussion, and people were able to respond in a creative and contemplative way.

Have you heard of “glomalin”? It is thought to be a sticky substance produced by mycorrhizal fungi from the carbon they receive from plant roots. But some scientists dispute its existence because it is difficult to isolate for laboratory study. An intricate weaving of natural fibres attached delicately to an aged piece of wood symbolised the mycelial relationship to the plant roots. Dotted along the fabric were jelly-like blobs – the glomalin. Tucked into a small dark cave in the sandstone gully and illuminated by twinkling lights, the unique artistic models added a playful element to the tour.

For those who have not been to Ferntree Gully, imagine a pocket of rainforest hidden in a sandstone canyon. The species diversity is mind-blowing, and you feel transported to another land where tree ferns, rock orchids and sandpaper figs thrive. The forest floor is the perfect environment with abundant fungi species with lots of fallen logs and organic matter. We were lucky enough to find lots of different mushrooms, which sent a ripple of excitement through the group.

As we ascended from the rainforest gully and into the eucalypt forest above, one more surprise was in store. Leanne Thompson led an interactive weaving and model-making workshop amongst the trees. We made string from flax to symbolise hyphae and imagined being spores as we grew our mycelial networks using sun-bleached sticks and string, connecting to tree roots and each other. The result was an intricate and entangled web beneath the canopy and a visual representation of what was going on beneath the soil surface. It was a lot of fun!

Thank you to everyone who came along and made it a worthwhile day! We would also like to acknowledge the support of the Central Tablelands Regional Landcare Network and the Australian Government’s ‘Modelling Landscape Rehydration Citizen Science Project