Beneath Our Feet

The little known world of underground organisms is a stealthy but powerful influence of the world above the topsoil. Fungi were classified as plants until the last century when it was considered they deserved a Kingdom all of their own. And deserve it they did, for they remain one of the most powerful components of ecosystems - massive complex networks of decomposers and recyclers of life that hold the key to many potential solutions for the future. 

Artist/Photographer:  Maree Elliott

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Inocybe sp.

A little insignificant brown fungus that is easily overlooked in the bush.  It has the most amazing star shaped spores that could be from another planet. It has a protective covering over the gills when immature called a partial veil.

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Inocybe sp. spore

Cortinarius rotundisporus

A beautiful blue fungus with brown gills and a rusty spore print.  The spores are oval shaped with little bumps on them.  It has a protective covering over the gills when immature that resembles spider webs.  As the fungus matures these fibres break away and remnants remain on the stem (stipe). The rusty coloured spores often collect on the remnants of the partial veil. 

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Cortinarius spores

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Omphalotus nidiformis (night time) is a poisonous fungus that glows a faint white in the dark.  Our cameras see it as an iridescent green colour.  It often grows in clusters on dead or living wood and has a white spore print. The luminescence is caused by a chemical reaction between enzymes and oxygen.   Walking into the bush at night when this fungus is fruiting is like being in a fairy tale. 

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Omphalotus nidiformis daytime

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Rhizanthella speciosa

A new species of a rare Eastern Underground Orchid.  Described by Dr Mark Clements as “strikingly beautiful with its sea-anemone-like flower heads”.  Underground orchids live in a symbiotic relationship with a mycorrhizal fungus in order to obtain nutrients its entire life.  Little is known about the pollinators or the generational time frame of Eastern Underground Orchid. Seed dispersal is not well known but one theory is the yellow fleshy fruit could be eaten by bandicoots and lyrebirds thereby dispersing seeds