Fungi are neither plants nor animals but rather form their own unique biological kingdom. They exhibit an astonishing variety of sizes, forms, colours and behaviours. They usually exist as a mass of microscopic threads that weave their way through the soil, dead wood or other organisms. When they are ready to reproduce they form temporary fruiting bodies, the largest of which we recognize as mushrooms, toadstools, puffballs, earthstars, truffles and the like.
Without fungi, life as we know it would not exist. Fungi are an essential part of all ecosystems, forming partnerships with most plants, recycling organic matter, assisting with soil formation, as well as providing food and homes for a wide variety of animals. Without fungi, wood and other organic materials would pile up on the earth’s surface and plants and other organisms would be deprived of essential nutrients.
Areas of natural vegetation contain far more fungi than cleared areas, and large patches have more than small patches. With about half of its original vegetation cover still intact, much of it in large continuous blocks, Kangaroo Island maintains a greater diversity of fungi than elsewhere in South Australia where so much land clearance has occurred.
As well as supporting an impressive array of widespread fungi, many of the species recorded from Kangaroo Island are extremely rare, and some have been found nowhere else. There are at least six new species of fungi from KI waiting to be officially described and named.