Spring has Sprung… Again. Fungi Fun Day (Earth Star – Geastrales) and More

Happy Spring! I’m back at last. So much has happened since we last spoke. We’ve run a Design Course; I’ve attended the Soil Science Australia WA State Conference; and submitted my Research Proposal.  And as we gallop through Sustainable September, the silly season for every sustainable activity, workshop and festival, the pace is unlikely to slow.  But I’ll keep you up to speed on activities as well as rambling on a little about some long promised topics or just the curiosities of the day.  So today we’ll see some Fungi, revisit the Chila, check out my slowly greening thumb, spot a few creatures in the garden, get some links to recent conference info and look at a seed I have probably walked past a million times and never noticed.  Finally there’ll be a shamelessly undisguised plug for our local Primary School Fete!  Ah, should be short and sweet then!

First the Fungi:

We’ve all bought mushrooms at the shop, and perhaps even tried to grow mushrooms from a box, but there is nothing so fascinating as a fungi that chooses you….

Whilst human nature always asks….. “hmmmm, how interesting, wonder how it got into my garden?”, quickly followed by “wonder if I can eat it?”

The first is answered easily and I can’t believe I have not waffled on about it before….. The largest fungus is thought to be a honey fungus (Armillaria ostoyae to be exact). One in the Blue Mountains of Oregon, U.S. “was found to be the largest fungal colony in the world, spanning 8.9 km2 (2,200 acres) of area. This organism is estimated to be 2400 years old.” (Reference) If it is agreed upon at some point in the future that an individual organism is defined by it “being made up of genetically identical cells that can communicate, and that have a common purpose or can at least coordinate themselves” (Reference) then it is likely that this particular organism will be unanimously identified as the largest in the world.  (But really how would we know….this guy was found due to the negative effect it had on the tree species in the area…. how big might a ‘good guy’ be that we’d never think to look for!)  Be that as it may, I reckon my fungi can have come a fair distance under ground to reach the eden that is our garden.  But did it need to travel?

It appears from general reading that fungal spores are absolutely everywhere and, like seeds, they await the perfect time to leap into action.  Even blasting an area with a favourite “X-icide” may eliminate most fungi, but the chances of (a) getting them all or (b) preventing others blowing once the toxicity has dropped, means that they’ll recolonise rapidly and recommence the wait.  So, whilst we can purchase innoculations and other means of introducing fungi, if we don’t have the appropriate conditions and food, then the poor buggers will at best remain dormant (or worse die before/after being consumed).  However build the conditions (head back to our soil notes!) and those already there, who are likely well acclimatised to your conditions, will awaken.

The second question is commonly responded to by folks with…. “No, never eat fungi you find, their all poisonous…..”  Well, I’m definitely not going to tell you whether to eat it or not, but I am going to have a look at the gorgeous creatures that have arisen in our yard over the last few rain events…..they may be common, but I had never taken notice of them before, nor appreciated what they are telling us about the health of our soil.

As a light hearted break from our PDC exploration….. I’d like to introduce – Geastrales or Earthstar.


Earth star 1  Earth star 2

And some better photographer’s snap so you really know what to look for! (Reference)

Wide view of earthstars

They open up like a flower when it rains in an action of the outer ‘petals’ folding back is thought to be aimed at removing debri away from their spore-producing central sac and elevating that sac as high through the leaf litter as possible.  This will give their spores to have the best possible chance of getting into a air flow drifting along the ‘forest’ floor.  As sharp force or longer term wearing away of the sac material causes the spores to be released and hopefully head off on the breeze to successfully propagate this cutie some distance away from the original placement.

This next chap, who colonised the old apple log, is thought to be Turkey Tail (possibly Trametes Versicolor?):

apple tree fungi f apple tree fungi g apple tree fungi e apple tree fungi d apple tree fungi c apple tree fungi a

He is a bit of a show off, but it seems beauty might not just be skin deep for this one.  He’s an interesting player in medical circles at the moment with whispers about anti-cancer properties.  Now I’m always a little skeptical of both sides of the medicinal spectrum when it comes to miracle cures, but it seems that the American Cancer Society has stated: “Available scientific evidence does not support claims that the raw mushroom itself is an effective anti-cancer agent in humans. But there is some scientific evidence that substances derived from parts of the mushroom may be useful against cancer.” (Reference)  Either way, a real display piece in the garden and we’re pretty chuffed.

Finally there is the nobbly thing.  Not as flashy as the others and so easily missed, especially when you’re looking for fungi on the ground. Half way up our dead street tree (which has become not only the source of competitive creeper races in our house, but now the trellis for obvious winner!), we found this chap…

fungi 3  fungi 3a

Perhaps an Artist’s Conk or a Curry Punk????? I’ll let you know when it shows its true colours….

Loving the excuse to get out the fungi books – crazy beautiful is the best description for the kingdom as a whole.

For more information on Fungi in Perth head to Perth Urban Bushland Fungi; the little hand guide called Fungi of the South-West Forests or join you local fungi group.  Within Perth, the place I like to eavesdrop (or eaveslook) on discussions is on Facebook – Western Australian Fungi group…. the beautiful photos remind us to “stop and smell the fungi”…. roses have never been my thing!  Have fun!

Onto the quick Spring tour…..

A creature I may have introduced you to when he and I first met – a baby praying mantis. This chap lived on an old sunflower as its seeds matured on the plant.  My desire not to disturb him meant it was well past its prime before I would pick it.  By then the mantis was too big for his current house and moved on, and many of the seeds had elected to jump for it too!  I love the fact the main description for a the food of a praying mantis is it needs to be big enough to get noticed and small enough to trap and eat…. they’re not fussy.

mantis baby a

Just a few other snaps of creatures who caught my interest….

snail and ladybug  Not sure what’s going on here, but the lady birds are out in force along with the snails!

Speaking of ladybirds, here is our old friend the cotton bush, who looks pretty tired, but after a hair cut and some warmer weather, the first new growth is off again in preparation for another productive season.  On closer inspection I got a little excited to see what I thought might be the pupa stage of a ladybird….. having said that subsequent inspections have revealed the ants are pretty curious too, so I am torn between hoping his housing is well fortified, or thinking he could actually be scale, in which case…. let nature take its course!

cotton bush ratty and trimmed  ladybird pupa 2

Final creature segment relates to the upcoming Newborough Primary School Fete which will be held on Saturday October 31st on the school grounds – Newborough St, Doubleview – from 10am til 3pm.  The Soil Hugger will be presenting on a not so mystery topic and the Guru will be dragged along to talk on many topics soon to be announced….. What better excuse to justify child labour?

child labour

Our seed sorters and counters are working hard, but also the garden is going into overdrive.  Remember that Chilacayote (Cucurbita Ficifolia) Blog, well the big guy from across the reciprocating roof trellis, died off at the end of summer and as an experiment, we let him touch the ground at the far end to see if this “annual” could go the distance.  Well he made it through winter with flying colours see picture one.  And after a few false starts where the fruit was aborted before reaching much more than 5cm (picture two), the weather has turned and we were away.  We dared to hope that this ~10cm one (picture three) might just make it.

chila growing a chila growing bchila growing c

Two weeks later and there are several lovely fruit weighing down the vine…. I think my stockings are going to get raided again as I’m excited to have some great props for the fete…. (Did I mention there would be a fete??)

chila disposed of h chila disposed of i

On a Sad note, our last Chila prop (that was a key feature in many talks and the Pick a Plant blog) finally succumbed to the forces of composting nature in early Autumn after several years of service and being poorly treated (left as a feature/talking point out in the front yard to be sun burnt and rained upon).  What an amazing fruit to have served us for so long! So we laid it reverentially next to the Maple out the front and covered it in mulch so that it may return from whence it came.  Then in late Winter…..

chila disposed of e chila disposed of d chila disposed of g

After a loving transplantation of all but one….

chila growing 4     Did I mention we were having a fete…..guess where these guys are destined?

So, for future reference: what do you do with an old huge Chila that you have used as a prop for talks for over a couple of years and it finally starts to go squashy…. you just laying it out in the garden to ‘compost’ of its own accord.  Store the seeds in the best seed back of all – the ground!

Other crazy stuff in the garden….

Fruit – wild tomatoes and the tiniest strawberries ever eaten, but I have grown fruit!!!!!  See soil brown thumbs are slowly becoming at least Khaki if not green!

my first tomato tall barrel tomato not very good strawberries

Last crazy feature….. our Frangipani….. I never thought of them producing seed pods, although I guess that’s the aim of all those flowers.  And I may be the only person who has never seen a Frangipani seed, but it’s appearance has fascinated me.  So here’s a photo of what it looks like at the moment…. funnily enough it looks just like the branches up close – however this ‘cutting’ comes complete with the point end to stab into the soil as it drops I suspect!



Soil, Big Data and the Future of Agriculture conference – you can now view all the presentations online HERE which is fantastic as there was some really encouraging discussions and ideas.  A couple with resonated with me was the Director of the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture discussing Nutrition Security as opposed to Food Security and one of the major ways to ensure we meet the demands of food supply to a growing population is to reduce the waste both before and after the dinner table.

WA State Conference of Soil Science Australia – no video footage unfortunately, but an interesting look at company based and independent research being conducted by both researchers and farmers with some good insights into new opportunities and the optimism for farming without degradation.  The Keynote presentation was delivered by Major-General Michael Jeffery AC, AO (Mil) CVO, MC (Retd), who is the National Advocate for Soil Health.  With many great points, the standout was getting community gardens into schools to expose the next generation of urban dwellers to the opportunities and fascination of growing food and other products.

Well that is my time allotment for this week and I have had so many topics exciting me over the past month that its turned into a bit of a whirlwind of information.  Hope you’re enjoying Spring as it Springs and have as much fun wandering around your local gardens as I have around mine!

Until next time.


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