Light shed on shady characters

They are the shadiest characters living in Dunedin. They feed off death and live underground, off the beaten track. And on Saturday, about 30 people got close to them.

They're Dunedin's fungi.

Mycologist and University of Otago senior lecturer Dr David Orlovich led the group through Dunedin Botanic Garden to find some of the woodland's most elusive living species as part of the New Zealand International Science Festival's BioBlitz.

Dunedin had a particularly rich array of fungi because of the age of the city, he said.

''Our town has been established for a long time and there's a lot of introduced plants here and, therefore, there's a lot of introduced fungi.

''You see a lot of things here that you won't find anywhere else [in New Zealand].''

Dunedin also had long-term links to mycology - the study of fungi.

Dr Orlovich said he felt ''privileged'' to follow in the footsteps of the likes of Emeritus Prof Geoff Baylis, the University of Otago's first professor of botany.

Dr Orlovich had an understudy in 8-year-old Jarn Hollows.

''It's quite interesting,'' Jarn told the group.

''But we need to find some real fungi.''

The group found about 10 specimens during the walk, but the best time to find fungi was earlier in the year, Dr Orlovich said.

''We get the main flush in autumn and ... a smaller flush and different species in the spring,'' he said.

And what advice did he offer amateur fungi fossickers?

''You are never going to find them if you don't look.''


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