May Super Saturday Session May 13 report
This was another fantastic, informative day! The walls of the Industry Development Centre at Newcastle University were covered in Gregg Heathcote’s magnificent photos, Pam O’Sullivan’s information posters and Heidi Prichard’s glass photos. Several tables were covered with Pam’s extensive range of fungi species of all shapes and sizes. The room was abuzz with almost 50 people trying to get a grip on fungi!
Professor Tim Roberts, of the Tom Farrell Institute for the Environment, welcomed us in his usual friendly manner and invited us to listen to lectures and to visit the nearby Herbarium in small groups. Many of us were amazed by the modern lecture theatre but even more enthralled by Pam O’Sullivan’s “One Hundred Things You Should Know About Fungi” with notes and photos.
Fungi are not plants or animals, they tend to reproduce by spores, we only see a small part of the fungi above ground, there are over 90,000 species described to date but perhaps 1.5 million species exist and they are the second most diverse major group of organisms on Earth! Some get their energy and nutrients by breaking down organic material, others by symbiosis. Mycorrhizal fungi are associated with 90-98% of plants. Orchids are dependent on fungi. Fungi are fundamental to healthy ecosystem functions and we should increase our knowledge and understanding of this amazing fungi world.
“Can we eat them?” asked someone. “Yes. All of them once!” was Heidi’s reply!
Heidi Prichard, an environmental science student, and Pam lead a fungi walk. Along with Tim’s help, we saw varied species of fungi, all of them quite small. We often admired the pretty ones and didn’t notice the bland ones until our attention was drawn to them. The big, in-your-face fungi were fruiting last month! But of course, we all know that they are still there, under the ground!
Those who visited the Don McNair Herbarium were impressed with what they saw and heard. Don saw it as a “history of the flora in Australia.”
Prof Roberts spoke to us about Australian agriculture pre and post 1788 with information for new material for the school curriculum. He recommended “Dark Emu” by Bruce Pascoe, which tells of Aboriginal agriculture pre-European times. It has been found that they baked breads 15,000 years ago, they sowed and irrigated crops and built dams. He also spoke about the reintroduction of bilbies to areas in South Australia which have been cleared of cats and foxes...and sheep. So much information, so little time!
We shared morning tea and lunch in the spacious forum of the IDC , whilst viewing fungi and gleaning information from experts. Thank you to everyone involved especially Professor Roberts for making this venue available to us.
Winsome Lambkin- Coordinator SSS for LMLVN
The Lake Macquarie Landcare Volunteer Network would like to acknowledge Hunter Local Land Services for providing funding for this workshop.