Unveiling the world of mushroom

We often associate mushroom as a food in our everyday life and it is no stranger in cuisines of many cultures. Shitake mushrooms are often used in Chinese soup; brown or white mushroom makes a great addition to a pasta dish; Enoki mushroom, oyster mushroom and abalone mushroom are favourites for steamboat; and the list goes on and on.

What about the mushrooms that can be found locally, and naturally, in Singapore’s forest? The term ‘mushroom’ refers to the fruiting body of the fungi. A fungus is an organism that’s neither plant nor animal. In Singapore, we have over a hundred species of native fungi and with the current rainy season, one sure is able to find some sprouting from the ground. Why don’t we usually see them then? The bulk of the fungi are largely hidden underground, as a network of hyphae which are thin branches that can sprawl over a large area to gather food for the fungi. Fungi feeds on decomposing matter, which also explains why we usually observe them on fallen logs, or amongst leaf litter. The fruiting body of the fungi, the mushrooms, appears above-ground to disperse their spores. Mushroom shows up in many different shapes and sizes, some of which can be pretty impressive.

In our November’s walk, we saw a beautiful stinkhorn mushroom which has an intricately-weaved white veil hanging around its fruiting body. The sight of the stinkhorn is always able to capture one’s attention and both our guides and participants were captivated by it.

Its name arises from the fact that this mushroom has an unpleasant smell. This smell is from a sticky slime secreted on the cap of the mushroom. While it might be an unpleasant smell for us, it is highly efficient as an attractant of other creatures such as flies and butterflies. As the insects land on the mushroom cap to feed on this sticky substance, they became the agents that help to disperse the stinkhorn’s spores. Not all mushrooms have spores that are dispersed by animals, most mushrooms carry air-borne spores.

The stinkhorn mushroom was also mentioned on the Bird Ecology Study Group’s series of blog posts as an appeal to Land Transport Authority to ‘Save MacRitchie Forest’. It is almost the end of the year now, a time when decisions on the Cross-Island Line are being made. And we hope the sanctity of our nature reserve will be kept and the wildlife inhabiting it be conserved for generations to come.

 

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