It’s been a dry, lean year for Daintree Rainforest fungi, but nature’s creative artistry is never at a loss to showcase its exquisite talents. The earliest plants were single-celled spore-producing mosses, lichens and fern groups. Fungi have been separated into their own kingdom because many of their features are more akin to animals than plants. These are the real ancestral stock surviving through Pangea and Gondwana fragmentations, but because of their resilience during adverse conditions, they can form hardened cysts, then reappear when conditions are favourable.
Paleo-botanists use early fruiting plants, gymnosperms and angiosperms as indicators of rainforest longevity, because during traumatic and adverse conditions such as volcanic action and ice ages, they will disappear completely or mutate into different species that are compatible with climatic and terrestrial changes.
The mature fruiting bodies of Yellow-footed Micropore (Microporus xanthopus) have thin, funnel-shaped caps that are shaded in rings of brown and beige and supported on a yellow-footed stem. On the white underside of the cap (pileus) there are many tiny pores (about 10 per millimetre) hence the genus name, ‘Microporus’. ‘Xanthopus’ is derived from Greek and means ‘yellow foot’. The species is commonly found on rotting wood in the Australian tropical rainforests.
Colloquially known as ‘spinning top fungi’, they certainly enhance the beauty of the forest while they break down dead wood to provide food for the ecosystem. Nestling in a bed of Electric fern (Selaginella pinnafolia), the fruiting bodies of this spectacular fungi are vibrant and glowing in the wet. Occasionally, on a night walk, a small frog will be discovered bathing in the water-filled funnel. At times like this, the perfection of nature’s masterpiece is a reminder of the importance of protecting and conserving our precious inheritance.