The iSimangaliso Wetland Park Authority proudly announces that iSimangaliso's species list has grown longer with the Park's biodiversity count was bolstered by the addition of a fungus. Our ever-vigilant local tour guide Kian Barker noticed what he thought was a piece of plastic lying in the bush while on a night drive in January, and stopped to retrieve it. To the delight of Kian and his guests, the offending piece of litter turned out to be the uncommonly large mushroom, pictured below. Kian forwarded his picture to iSimangaliso CEO Andrew Zaloumis who in turn mailed it to Durban natural historian Geoff Nichols. From there, the picture passed through cyberspace to the computer screen of Dr. Marieka Gryzenhout of the Forestry and Agricultural Biotechnology Institute at the University of Pretoria. The identification and classification of fungi is both difficult, and in a state of ongoing flux, and very few scientists in South Africa are currently doing research in this field. Thus, Kian's picture journeyed from Marieka's computer to the National Herbarium of Victoria, Australia, and onto the desk of senior Mycologist Dr. Tom May, curator of fungi (Mycology is the study of fungi), who identified iSimangaliso's mushroom as Macrocybe lobayensis. By this stage the picture had been circulated via the internet to amateur fungus-lovers all over southern Africa, and had caused rather a stir. This is because it is one of the species of fungus with the largest mushrooms known (a mushroom is the common name given to the fruiting body of a fungus). The genus to which Macrocybe belongs has a pantropical distribution i.e. it occurs in tropical areas around the world, and is usually found in grasslands. It is highly unlikely, however, that this species has been previously recorded in iSimangaliso, and its occurrence here, a mere 4 km's from St. Lucia town, may also establish a new distribution record for South Africa as a whole. It is almost certain that iSimangaliso holds many more fungal treasures, as approximately only 4% of SA's fungi are known to science !
iSimangaliso's New Giant Mushroom
Posted by Kian Barker