Problem fungi to be aware of
There are some fungi that can cause environmental damage that people need to be aware of. These include invasive introduced species, weedy native species and root or wood pathogens (introduced and native). There are also fungi that are known to cause poisonings or other health problems.
Hygiene and safety
Before walking, cycling or participating in any other activities in the bush, please make sure that your clothes, coat, hat, bags, shoes and equipment are clean and dry. This should stop the spread of most pest species whether they be fungi, ants, or agents of disease such as viruses.
On returning from the bush, shoes and other soiled equipment should be scrubbed with a brush to remove dirt, thoroughly cleaned, and left to dry. Clothes, hats and bags should be regularly cleaned and dried in sunlight. The sun’s UV rays should be enough to sterilise.
Although we do not recommend visiting multiple sites on the same trip, if it can’t be avoided, then visit the sites with the fewest pests and weeds first. Clean soiled equipment between sites, using methylated spirits (70% is recommended), household bleach or biocide solutions such as Phytoclean. These solutions need at least half a minute to fully work on Phytophthora and many mosses, fungi and bacteria.
Do not move between sites if you have come into contact with airborne pests such as rusts and Favolaschia calocera, as their spore can travel on everything including hats!
Do not inhale spores of any fungi. Do not consume any fungi that you are not 100% certain of what they are and their edibility. Wash your hands after handling fungi.
Do familiarise yourself with the invasive or disease-causing species listed here.
Problem fungi that cause disease
Myrtle Rust (Austropuccinia psidii) is and introduced plant pathogen. So far the Eucalypt affecting strain has NOT made it to Australia. We need to maintain excellent biosecurity to prevent it naturalising here like the ‘pandemic’ strain has in QLD and NSW in the last decade. Please familiarise yourself with this SEVERE pest fungus that causes the disease Myrtle Rust. Check out the Australian Network for Plant Conservation site for more information.
Introduced invasive species
The Fly Agaric (Amanita muscaria) is a common introduced mycorrhizal species that is associated with pine and oak trees. However, it has also crossed over to form associations with the native Myrtle Beach (Nothofagus) and possibly Eucalyptus. This is likely to push out native fungi and we do not know what effect it might have on the host plant. It should not be confused with the native Vermilion Grisette (Amanita xanthocephala) which associates with Eucalyptus.
The Orange Ping Pong Bats (Favolaschia calocera) is an introduced invasive species that has rapidly spread over large parts of Australia. It displaces native fungi and produces chemicals that attack other fungi.
There are native Scleroderma, however many of the common Scleroderma including cepa, verrucosa and citrina are likely weedy. So it is best to avoid spreading these if possible.
Australian honey fungus (Armillaria luteobubalina) is widely distributed in southern Australia. This fungus is responsible for a disease known as Armillaria root rot, a can be primary cause of Eucalyptus tree death and forest dieback. This indigenous fungus get’s out of balance and populations increase where human management increases the availability of dead woody roots, like in logged environments. Populations can increase and start attacking living trees, particularly if they are stressed, during drought for example.
Other Australasian species A. novae-zelandiae has also caused problems. There are also other indigenous species of Armillaria found around Australia: A. fumosa, A. hinnulea, and A. pallidula. These are through to be weak root pathogens but care should be taken not to spread these in disturbed environments in case they become problematic like Australian honey fungus (Armillaria luteobubalina).
Oudemansiella and Xerula species are indigenous fungi that are weak root pathogens, these do not cause significant harm unless there are other significant stressors to the host tree.
Wood pathogens can be useful in helping form hollows for wildlife. However they should not be deliberately spread. It is recommended that people avoid spreading these genera: white punk (Laetiporus portentosus) and curry punks (Piptoporus australiensis), beefsteak fungi (Fistulina hepatica & F. spiculifera).
Ganoderma is a genus of wood pathogen that can be particularly problematic. , caused by G. boninense (basal stem rot of oil palm) & G. zonatum (Butt Rot) has caused widespread damage in the palm oil industry and commercially planted palms.
Species that can cause health problems
It is unsafe to inhale spores of any fungus as they can cause asthma, allergies and other health problems. However the Splitgill (Schizophyllym commune) should particularly be avoided as it has been known to infect people with compromised immune systems.
Breathing in any fungal spores is not recommended.
Eating wild fungi is not recommended but if you are going to forage. You need to have sound identification skills and familiarise yourself with toxic fungi that may look similar and be in the same habitat. Check out the Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria page about toxic fungi.
Where poisoning by fungi is suspected, contact the Poisons Information Centre (13 11 26).
Weedy native species
There are some native fungi that can become weedy in the right conditions. In particular, over use of mulch creates a monoculture that favours these species. These include Stinkhorns, Ink Caps, Slime Moulds and other mulch loving species such as Cherry chips (Leratiomyces ceres).
A potentially weedy exotic Stinkhorn is Red-cage Fungus was first recorded in the 2010 at the Williamstown Botanic Gardens in Melbourne, Victoria. This is now commonly found in mulch across Melbourne. Sometimes mixed in with indigenous stinkhorns.