Plant of the Month — July 2011
Omphalotus nidiformis (Berk.) O.K. Mill.
Fungi are not plants, nor are they animals. They are rooted to the soil like plants, but must find food in the surrounding environment like animals.
The Ghost Fungus occurs as overlapping clusters of fan- or shell-shaped fruiting bodies on living trees or rotting stumps of a wide range of plants such as banksias, eucalypts, peppermints, wattles, and pines. It can be cream or dark grey, and may develop brown and reddish streaks and blotches. If you place a Ghost Fungus on a piece of paper overnight (with the gills facing downwards) you will find it has produced a white deposit of spores.
The first known record of this species in WA was made in 1841 by James Drummond who observed it on a banksia stump in Perth. The vernacular name — Ghost Fungus — aptly describes its most distinctive characteristic of glowing in the dark. Some specimens are supposedly even bright enough to enable the reading of newsprint.
It has an appealing taste and is often confused with edible species such as the Oyster Mushroom, but will, unfortunately, cause vomiting if eaten. Although bad for human health, the Ghost Fungus is very important to bushland health, rotting wood and recycling it’s precious nutrients into the soil for use by plants and other creatures.
Photo: N. Bougher
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