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Expert to speak on fascinating fungi




5 Sept, 2022


thumbnail Anemone stinkhorn (G Stump)-283‘Hidden wonders, fantastic, fascinating, fundamental and essential’. These are just some of the words used to describe fungi. They are not plants or animals but rather form a ‘separate kingdom’ and come in all shapes, sizes and colours.

Most of us are familiar with the sort of mushrooms we can buy, cook or eat raw in a salad. However, they are just one example of fungi. It is thought New Zealand could have up to 20,000 species of fungi, a tiny proportion of the 1.5 million species worldwide. They exist almost everywhere – in fields, forests, gardens, in fresh and salt water, underground, on dead wood, on food and in animals, including humans. Many have yet to be studied or named.

One person dedicated to understanding fungi is Dr Peter Buchanan, Science Team Leader at Landcare Research in Auckland and guest speaker at the Friends of the Brynderwyns Society AGM in September. He is a fungal mycologist whose research interests include the biodiversity, conservation and ecology of New Zealand’s fungi, especially those causing wood decay and diseases in native plants. He has done much to promote awareness of, and education about, fungi and has contributed to several books.

Maori traditionally used certain fungi for food and others for medicinal purposes. Cathy Hawley, Society secretary, recalls that a few years ago Peter and a colleague, along with molecular biologists from Auckland University’s Faculty of Medical and Health Science, visited Marunui Conservation in search of particular native fungi. They were researching puffballs, bootlace, basket, toothed and wood ear fungi to assess their potential to provide new anti-cancer compounds.

In addition to their important role in medicine (antibiotics and anticoagulants), fungi play a key role in agriculture, form the basis of many household and industrial processes and in food production. Fungi can also be harmful and some are poisonous.

“It’s a great privilege to have Dr Buchanan coming to speak at our AGM in September to share his expert knowledge,” says Martina Tschirky, chair of Friends of the Brynderwyns Society. “We are part of Piroa-Brynderwyns Landcare and it will be a

wonderful opportunity to learn about fungi, especially those in our native forest, their life cycles, significance and uses. All are welcome to attend.”

n Friends of the Brynderwyns Society AGM, September 18, 2.30pm at the Domain Hall, Moir St, Mangawhai.


There are thousands of radical species of fungi, like this Anemone stinkhorn, named for its familiar shape and foul odour. PHOTO/G STUMP

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