The Third Tree

More discoveries of Auriscalpium sp. 'Blackwood'
This article first appeared in Field Nats News No. 309 (July 2020), newsletter of the Field Naturalists Club of Victoria Inc.

Normally, at this time of year the FNCV Fungi Group would be out on frequent forays, including to Blackwood (west of Melbourne) where they discovered the rare Stemless Earpick Fungus (Auriscalpium sp. 'Blackwood') in 2005. In most years since, the fungi has appeared again, but were only ever observed on the same tree trunk, a Narrow-leaved Peppermint (Eucalyptus radiata), 'the first tree'. I have attended several forays there in the last 10 years, but unfortunately these elusive fungi were not present on each of these occasions. Many autumns being quite dry, they eventually appeared later in the season (after the forays) in some of these years.

Blackwood, being about as far on the other side of the city as my home is to the east, I have spent more time in local areas instead. I thought the forests around Silvan and Gembrook could be suitable but never had any success until last year when I stumbled across a good colony in Olinda, 'the second tree'. Some FNCV members formally searched several hundred nearby trees over two days without further success.

Being brown and small, typically around 10mm across, (but I've measured them up to 25mm, see observation 48624044), they aren’t easily seen unless you are within a few metres and on the right side of the tree They mostly grow on the shady side. Additionally, they don’t appear for very long if rains aren’t reasonably continuous, drying to nothing within a couple of weeks. The bark on which they grow seems to need to be spongy and wet.

Sporing body on 8th April, 2020 (left) and same 15th April (right)

When searching there are problems of being deceived by other fungi that look similar at first glance. Pseudohydnum gelatinosum is fairly common on trunks of Mountain Ash (Eucalyptus regnans) where it develops grey-topped, gelatinous sporing bodies to around 5cm. However in Kurth Kiln Regional Park there are some on Eucalyptus radiata that forms smaller structures with a browner top (but the spines are still white).

Small Resupinatus can also be misleading when sighted from a distance. Resupinatus cinerascens (usually larger), Resupinatus subapplicatus and Resupinatus aff. merulioides can form similar colonies on gum tree trunks, but they are easy to distinguish from Auriscalpium when inspecting the under-side.

Pseudohydnum gelatinosum at Kurth Kiln

Resupinatus aff. merulioides from above

Resupinatus aff. merulioides from underneath

Another site regularly visited for FNCV fungi forays is Mortimer Nature Trail in Bunyip State Park near Gembrook. I believe that was where I went on my first foray with the group. Interestingly it was here where, on a tree immediately beside the track, I found the third known colony of Auriscalpium sp. ‘Blackwood’ on 5th May this year 2020, ‘the third tree’. Admittedly it wasn’t in the wet gully where most of the foray time is spent but it is still an area frequented by fungi enthusiasts. It has also been found in Kurth Kiln Regional Park this season.

My understanding is that the description is close to being published, so these Auriscalpium may soon have a formal specific epitaph (species name). In Australia it seems to help being given a conservation status, if a species has been named and properly described. It is unfortunate that it has taken fifteen years. It is only in the past two years that more than one colony was known. Before that it would easily have qualified as Critically Endangered, the highest ranking before being considered extinct.
Posted on 19 June, 2020 09:05 by reiner reiner


It would be great to see it formally described, then the reference to 'Blackwood' can be removed. I only say that because unless you know of the reserve, the name Blackwood implies it is found on Acacia melanoxylon. Are the subsequent trees you found it on also E. radiata?

Posted by mattcampbellaus about 4 years ago

Yes, 'Blackwood' is misleading to any non-FNCV fungi forayer, but to date its only been seen by members. As per formal description, my understanding is that its the thesis of a PhD candidate and nearing publication (about the only time we get anything described in Australia). They name I believe will honor Ed & Pat Grey who I believe were the first ones that spotted it (also authors of "A Little Book of Corals").

All the trees have been "peppermints", the one in Olinda might be a hybrid (with Eucalyptus dives?) but mostly very Eucalyptus radiata-like.

Posted by reiner about 4 years ago

Thanks for that. Highly unlikely to be in our area then, we have E. radiata but the areas it is found in are probably going to be too open and not damp enough.

Posted by mattcampbellaus about 4 years ago

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