Lake Macquarie: Putting the fun into fungi

Passionate fungi scientist Pam O’Sullivan doesn’t need magic mushrooms to make her wild about fungi. As part of Lake Mac City Council’s annual Explore Our Great Outdoors program she led a diverse group of amateur fungus hunters through Sunshine Park.

“The intention of the whole Explore Our Great Outdoors program is to let people connect with our landscape, the flora and fauna of Lake Mac,” said Council’s acting Sustainability Engagement Coordinator Zoe Johnson.

Pam O’Sullivan explained, “Fungi are so incredibly important. The more we learn about them, the more we realise they are this incredible kingdom of organisms that underpins all life on Earth. “They’re critical in the recycling and decomposition of nutrients, but they also direct a lot of benefits to humans.

“Apart from the food we eat, like mushrooms, there’s also yeast used in brewing, breadmaking, wine and beer. And you have all the medicinal uses like in penicillin.”

Ms Sullivan said fungi had other lesser-known uses, such as in environmental clean-ups after oil spills, and in the production of citric acid used in various industries.

Scientists have identified about 168,000 fungi species so far but estimate there could be up to 3-5 million in total. Ms Sullivan said thousands of those species call Lake Macquarie home.