Sunday, July 12, 2009

Close encounter of the Mycota kind

Amanita sp ... a leech eye-view from the ground.

Every walk in the rainforest is different. No matter how many times we visited Lambir Hills National Park, one of the oldest rainforest in the world, we would always see something different on each walk because of the changes that goes along with the subtle variations in the micro climate.

Today, the moment we stepped into Lambir, we noticed something very different from our numerous other walks here. Our first encounter with a brown, rather plain looking but glistening mushroom by a tree root not two minutes into the trail was just the beginning of a journey of exploration into the kingdom of fungi.

Mycota or fungus flora is ever present in the rainforest. Most of their fruit bodies are small and if you don’t stop and give an earnest look it is very easy to miss them altogether. With the everyone’s tendency to look up and around when faced with the grandeur that is Lambir, what lies on ground almost always gets very little notice. However, on this day there were just way too many of them for us not to notice. The moderately heavy rain the last few days after what must have been quite a long dry spell brought about the tremendous fruiting of mushrooms all over the forest floor.

Many of the mycota species that we bumped into were mushrooms and boletes of various sizes, height and colours. These mushrooms prefer the leaf litter under the bases of trees or close to the tree roots and that is exactly the location where we collided with mycota’s splendour. Sometimes it is hard not to squish them underfoot even with our most gingerly trot. The bigger and taller amongst the species rised above the leaf litter as if screaming for urgent attention. Occasionally we glimpsed one or two smaller ones and when we cleared away the dead leaves around them, long a behold there popped out a thriving colony. The life span of a fruit body of mushrooms is short, their presence is as quickly as they disappear from view. Today they were plentiful and we consider ourselves extremely lucky to be able to observe their various stages of growth through our our day’s walk.

Of notable mention is the Amanita sp, many of them were in their most perfect condition, with all the mushroom parts intact which allow us to make brief study of their annulus (or ring), universal veil, warts, and volva (or cup)

On the trail, we met a Japanese scientist who was grinning from ear to ear, obviously smitten by recent close mycota encounter, on his way back with a bagful of mycota specimens that he has collected from the research trail. We weren’t sure whether he’s ingested any of the mind bending mycota species but perhaps he was just looking forward to the hours of long intimate study of his fortunate collection.

The wonders and diversity of plants in Lambir Hills National Park never ceases to amaze. If you take time to look closely and explore things carefully, as they were meant to be you will be richly rewarded. Our recent trek was without a doubt one of our most ‘fruitful’ trips to Lambir Park, we were indeed very fortunate to be there at the right place and time to witness this wonderful workings of the kingdom mycota, an important and vital component of the rainforest.

An explosion of life from seemingly lifeless rotting tree trunk.

One of the species found in copious numbers 04th July 2009 at Lambir Hills NP.

Admiring a member of the kingdom of mycota that trekkers don't normally see very often.

Regulars on the summit trail, author is farthest right, this photo by Peter Pillai (furthest left).

Article and photographs by Sara Wong,
July 2009

Pegler, D. N. The Larger Fungi of Borneo. 1997. Kota Kinabalu: Natural History Publications (Borneo) Sdn. Bhd.

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