Friday, November 30, 2018

The Stonemakers

It may sound like a critter from Game of Thrones but Stonemaker is a fungi with these marvellous mushrooming fruiting bodies. They are specifically organised to live and thrive with fire.


They'll spend years, invisible, rotting a jarrah log, breaking it down into the earth. During this time there are no mushrooms as such, just silvery webs of mycelium. But deep beneath the ground the mycelium works to produce a stone by binding itself into sand and organic matter. Yes, the Stonemaker literally makes a stone.

Since the burn, I've been a bit obsessed with Stonemakers. You know why it makes a stone under the ground? So a food source for the mushrooms is stored safe from fire. The mycelium drags nutrients from the rotting log and into the stone. Fire comes through, burns the jarrah log and within a day or two these enormous mushrooms appear, triggered by the flames. Then the kangaroos have something to eat while they wait for new plant shoots to come through.


On a hot Wednesday we went into the bush hunting for treasure, or Stonemaker stones. The blade of my shovel hit a tree root first, a momentary moment of excitement ... we choose one of the smallest mushrooms first and dragged out a rather soft, underwhelming stone.


But then we headed for the Mother, the one in the first picture. It was like an archaeological dig, revealing a wondrous stone growing from the base of the mushroom, or rather the mushroom growing from a wondrous stone. I may as well have found centaur bones, I was that chuffed.




This stone is about 18 inches long and must be one of those 30 kilo jobs. I don't know how heavy it is because we didn't dig the whole thing out. It seemed somewhat unkind. Fungi is supposed to be closer to animal than plant and it would be a pity to destroy such an ingenious contraption. So we made a Stonemaker's reburial and kept some smaller samples for the botanist in the city.

9 comments:

  1. That's amazing. Who needs science fiction?

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    1. I couldn't believe it, when I first identified the mushroom. I'd never heard of them before.

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  2. That is so amazing!! No wonder you are obsessed. I will now be looking for these myself!!

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    1. They are just beautiful. If you want to go hunting, head into jarrah country a day or so after a fire.
      There another similar Stonemaker called Native Bread that Noongar used to eat. Once again, there is no way of knowing where the stone is except after a fire when the mushrooms come up. Perhaps the native bread was cultivated by fire?

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  3. Synchronistically an article on fungi bricks turned up in my Facebook feed via a Permaculture page I follow.

    https://dornob.com/fast-fungi-bricks-mushroom-blocks-better-than-concrete/

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    1. That is amazing Michelle. I think they definitely would be hard enough to sculpt from.

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