Photo of the week – Cordyceps gunnii – Rennick, Vic

If you’re out and about in damp woodlands this time of year, you may run into a mysterious structure on the ground that looks a bit like a gherkin standing straight up in the leaf litter. Another of the many strange cousins in the fungi family, specimens of the genus Cordyceps are commonly found in damp soils through the cooler months.

The kicker with Cordyceps – aside from looking like they fell out of someones lunchbox – is that they’re parasitic. A carefully-extracted specimen of C. gunnii reveals the underground filaments of the fungi attached to a moth larvae – it’s strange and just a little bit creepy, but undeniably resourceful!

This 60mm example and many others were seen on flora surveys in swamp gum (E. ovata) woodland near Rennick, south-west Victoria. We’re not sure whether the frequency of our Cordyceps sightings is reflective of higher than usual densities of moth larvae in the ground, or whether other factors are at play… either way, it’s another fun thing to watch out for in our native forests.

Cordyceps gunnii - Rennick, Vic (J. Tuck)

Cordyceps gunnii – Rennick, Vic (J. Tuck)

Jonathan Tuck