The Reclaim

Kelly Robinson

North Manly, Australia

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Wall Art

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Artist's Description

Canon 40D
Lens 300mm

This was in the Minimurra Forest on the South Coast NSW
Fungi – good guys or bad guys?

This is a question that comes up often enough. Some people look on fungi as slimy, yucky, horrible things – with no redeeming features. Others pursue them with great joy – either for digestive delight or because of their inherent beauty. What is the truth? Well, some of them are slimy and yucky. Just look at this species of Hygrocybe, its slimy, gelatinous coat glistening in the camera’s flashlight. But imagine a mass of these carpeting the forest floor – surely a delight to the eye.

Fungi have numerous interactions with other organisms. Parasitic and mycorrhizal lifestyles have already been mentioned. Obviously the parasite is bad for the host while mycorrhizae are beneficial to both plant and fungus. So fungi are inherently neither good nor bad. This page gives just a very brief introduction to the fungal world and elsewhere in this site there’s more detail about the roles fungi play. Whether a particular interaction is good or bad will sometimes be a matter of perspective.

If you’re a forester, then a wood-rotting fungus that destroys the heartwood in a tree is going to be a serious pest in your eyes because there’s an economic loss. From the tree’s point of view, the same fungus may be neither harmful nor beneficial. The heartwood is dead wood, with the living tissue confined to a relatively thin skin under the bark. As long as the fungus is not harming that living skin the tree can go on living quite happily. In fact, there are numerous old, healthy, hollowed-out trees in existence. Moreover, an empty cylinder (such as a hollowed trunk) can resist some stresses better than a solid cylinder (such as a solid trunk). If you’re a possum or a parrot, then you’d probably look very favorably on that fungus because it is helping to create potential nesting hollows.

Artwork Comments

  • Carol  Lewsley
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  • Karen  Betts
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  • Scott  d'Almeida
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