Running through the land of the Wurundjeri people, the headwaters of Merri Creek rise in rural landscapes then meander through Melbourne’s rapidly developing residential and industrial corridors. It passes through valuable remnants, including the critically endangered Grasslands (we have less than 2% left) Galgi Ngarrk and Bababi Djinanang.
I trust you are all well and surviving as best as you can. At the time of writing this, Melbourne is a third of the way through their first Level 4 lockdown, which has meant that escape and exercise along the Merri Creek is now limited to a single hour each day. Learning to adjust and be resilient in the face of unforeseen changes will likely be a skill that we began consciously honing this year.
It has been a year of catastrophic change for so many of us, both in Australia and around the world. Last year saw the beginning of a disastrous fire season, which began earlier than anyone could remember and for the first time, rainforest patches, once a refuge for fauna fleeing wildfires, burned, leaving many to wonder if we will lose our natural bushland refuges. Now, many urban dwellers are questioning whether our city planners have provided sufficient green space to support adequate mental health.
I have been lucky enough to work with two groups of valiant restorers and protectors in the Friends of the Merri Creek and the Merri Creek Committee. Our aim is to raise awareness of the importance of fungi to the health of ecosystems, including the riparian vegetation of Merri Creek.
To raise the profile of fungi along the creek with a free beginners’ guide to finding and recording their occurrence, with the assistance of ‘Look for our fungi – Merri Creek‘. This colour booklet can be downloaded and printed on A4 paper, or viewed electronically. It contains information on 12 gilled mushrooms, 8 other types of fungi as well as slime moulds (Myxomycetes), as well as 4 ‘Lost’ or uncommon fungi to keep an eye out for. Sightings of local fungi can be recorded using the iNaturalist app, and fungi added to Fungimap Australia project has people doing active identification verification.
We called off our plans for fungi walks along the creek in order to protect everyone and prevent the spread of COVID 19. In their place, we hosted a great online workshop with 70+ participants on 12 July 2020. The ‘funginar’ was recorded and can be viewed on YouTube.
In the lead-up to this workshop, I was lucky enough to work with Thespina, who is an enthusiastic Friend and together, we were able to safely record some of the local Merri Creek fungi. Videos on the Merri Creek Fungi are linked below.
To find out a bit more about the Merri Fungi you should also read our blog on the Urban Suspects.
Merri Fungi :
Merri Creek is in urban Melbourne and active restoration to improve waterway health has resulted in enhanced habitat for local animals, fungi, plants and microbes.
Foraging for food is fun and gets you out in your local environment. However, people need to take care when developing their identification skills. Here, Sapphire points out some of the characteristics of the toxic Yellow Stainer Mushroom, which bears some resemblance to its edible relatives. This toxic species is now common in the Parks adjoining the Merri Creek, so it is important to learn how to identify its distinguishing characteristics.
Not all fungi have a mushroom shape some are earth balls like Scleroderma. Sapphire explains a bit about earth balls and how they are important as mycorrhizal fungi. These help the local plants grow.
Not all fungi are commonly found. Just as with other organisms, some are rarely seen. The Australian Fungimap project is sharing information about these ‘Lost Fungi’ in the hope that you will seek them out, so we can understand more about their biology in order to aid their conservation.
An example of one of the ‘Lost Fungi’ is the Green Staining Coral, which appears to be having a good year fruiting along the banks of the Merri Creek. It can be tricky to see, as it blends in with the background and you will need keen eyes to find it. An image of it is included in the free pocket guide: ‘Look for our fungi – Merri Creek‘. A more detailed description can be found in the Lost Fungi pages on the Fungimap website.
Digital Jigsaw Puzzles
For those of you who enjoy solving puzzles, you may want to try these digital jigsaws which, as well as frogs and other creek life, now include fungi.
- Thespina for volunteering her time to make the videos
- Luisa and Peter for getting the jigsaws together
- Julia for facilitating the webinar
- Fungimap for making conservation information about Lost Fungi freely available
- Katie for text editing