Fungi used to be listed as members of the plant world but they are now grouped under a class of their own known as the Fungi Kingdom. They are living organisms which reproduce by forming spores, instead of seeds. As they cannot manufacture their own food, they must obtain their nutrients externally from other organisms either living or from dead organic matter. Along with bacteria, fungi are Earth’s main decomposers. By feeding on dead and decaying matter, fungi help to keep our planet clean and fresh!
Mushrooms are the fleshy, fruiting bodies of fungi with a stalk and cap. The cap contains the spore-producing surfaces which may be in the form of pores, gills or teeth.
Mushrooms can grow almost everywhere such as on tree trunks, large logs, soil, decomposing leaves, etc. Cool temperatures and plentiful rainfall typically bring about a flush of mushrooms. The best time to spot them is during November & December, Singapore’s wettest months.
It was reported that there are more than 100 species of mushrooms in Singapore. I have sighted about 20 species and photographed only a few of them so far. It appears that mushrooms are not well studied in this region as I have great difficulty trying to identify them either via internet search or from books. Hence, please correct me if I got their names wrong.
Edible vs Poisonous Mushroom
Not all mushrooms are edible and a vast majority of them produce toxins that may be deadly to human. According to mycology experts, one should only eat a commercially produced mushroom. It is best to avoid eating any mushrooms found in the wild as it is not always easy to distinguish the edible species from the poisonous ones. Some are easily confused and may look remarkably similar to the layperson. The image below is a large cluster of mushrooms found recentlly at Chestnut Avenue Nature Trail which look very much like those found in our supermarkets.
Cookeina sulcipes is a genus of cup fungi which has a cup-shaped fruiting body with a distinct stalk. Also known as goblet fungus, they are commonly found on decaying vegetation in forested areas. I have seen this unique species only twice, one at Endau Rompin National Park and on a dead wood at Chestnut Avenue Nature Trail. On both sightings, they are about 2 cm in diameter. The inner surface of the cup, where the spores are produced, is smooth and bright orange in colour. The outer of the cup is lighter in colour where tiny hairs are grown.
These almost transparent mushrooms were sighted at Dairy Farm Nature Park. They are very delicate species where their stalk could break even by light wind as shown in the picture below.
“Beach Umbrella” Mushroom
This could be a Marasmius siccus, or orange pinwheel, a small orange mushroom with a “beach umbrella” cap. This species is usually found on decaying leaves or dead twigs on forested floors. The flesh and its stalk is very thin and the widely spaced gills are white. They could dry out, but later revive when moistened.
Some mushrooms produce secondary metabolites that render them bioluminescent. The following image of 3 mushrooms was found growing along the Rifle Range Nature Trail. It is most likely belong to the Mycena genus where some of its species could glow in the dark.
I hardly shoot at night and I have not photographed mushrooms that glow in the dark. Here is a bilouminescent mushroom that was taken at Venus Drive by my friend, Allan Lee.
Bracket fungus or shelf fungus is one of the most common fungi in Singapore. I often gave them a miss as their colours and shapes are usually dull and are not as good looking as the mushrooms presented here.
Mushroom are one of my favourite photographic subjects. Placing a LED light behind them often helps to bring out the textures, shapes and colours of the mushrooms.
I prefer to shoot from bottom up where I have to get down low and shoot from ground level in order to show the exquite details of the underside such as this Filoboletus sp.
Large Cluster of Mushrooms
It is always exciting for macro photographers like us whenever we see a large cluster of mushrooms. The most impressive find that I have witnessed is this cluster of pretty bright yellow mushrooms spotted at Venus Drive in 2011. They are stunningly beautiful and resemble those corals found in the sea. My friends, Allan & Sharon, called them “Land Corals”!
Last year, again at Venus Drive, I found another interesting cluster of mushrooms, most likely a Mycenoporella sp.
Mushrooms and Insects
Beside human, mushrooms are also a favourite diet for some mammals, birds and insects such as beetles, ants & termites. When photographing mushrooms, it is always a bonus when some insects came along. Here are 3 of my favourite images of mushrooms & insects:
Here are images of other mushrooms that I had photographed over the years:
1. Fungi by Jude Wearing
2. Edible and Poisonous Mushrooms of the World by Hall, Stephenson, Buchanan, Wang & Cole.