Native truffles in the Mountains

Underground Fungi….A terrific find! By Liz Kabanoff

Blue Mountain Bushcare volunteer and fungi expert, Liz Kabanoff, uncovered a Podohydnangium, a genus Liz had never heard of and if Liz has never heard of it, it is a find!

Liz contacted her ‘truffle expert’ colleague in the USA and with their help was able to identify this fungi. There was only one record of this fungi in NSW on the Atlas of Living Australia, the other listed recordings were in Victoria and Tasmania.

Podohydnangium australe, still attached to a plant root

Fungi come in an amazing variety of forms and the ones we often don’t come across are underground species, variously known as sequestrate, hypogeous, or false truffles (not to be confused with edible truffles that grow in Europe in the genus Tuber.)

A volunteer with the Else Mitchell Park Bushcare Group, Springwood, was clearing a swathe of Tradescantia (Trad) away and Liz looked at the ground and noticed a number of small pink blobs. On closer examination she realise they were a type of underground fungus.

Liz couldn’t resist and went back the next day for a closer look, and discovered many more sitting just at ground level under the carpet of Trad. She found a second species which was white with a brown interior. The pale pink fungi are in the genera Hydnangium and Podohydnangium, and are related to a common emergent fungus, Laccaria, which was also found growing nearby.

Podohydnangium australe cut open to reveal fertile tissue. These are not edible!

Around 300 species of underground fungi in 80 genera have been discovered in Australia, but it is estimated that many hundreds more are yet to be unearthed. These fungi are mycorrhizal, forming associations with the roots of plants, typically trees such as Eucalyptus, Melaleuca and Casuarina.

Laccaria sp Pink fungi found under Trad at Else Mitchell Park. All photos: Liz Kabanoff

They tend to have a strong odour, which can be detected by native animals such as bandicoots, potoroos and bettongs which dig them up for food. These types of fungi sit below soil level, or sometimes at soil level buried under leaf litter. They don’t have a cap that opens up to release spores, but instead, the spores are formed inside the body of the fungus. They rely on birds and animals to eat them, the spores passing through the animal’s digestive tract and deposited in their scats. They have been found to make up 30 to 40% of the diet of some of our native animals, and are therefore an important source of food for animals in our bushcare sites.

If you find any of these native truffles please let your Bushcare Officer know or email bushcare@bmcc.nsw.