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South African Fungi Kingdom (includes Mushrooms) -- Check List & Species Guide

The Mushrooms of South Africa
Travel Writer: EcoTravel Africa  

Mushrooms belong neither to the animal nor plant kingdom, but form a phylum all on their own. This is due to the fact that unlike plants, fungi are unable to produce their own food through photosynthesis, as they lack chlorophyll, but resemble animals in their ability to draw their sustenance from animal and plant matter which is dissolved by enzymes and ingested.

Photographer: EcoTravel Africa 

Current estimates put the number of species in the fungal kingdom at approximately 1.5 million, in comparison with, for example, flowering plants at 250,000 species.

The role of fungi in the ecosystem is vital. Fungi are one of the largest contributors of the decomposition of organic matter, returning nutrients to the soil, which in turn is utilised to sustain other species of flora and fauna. The majority of the fungi kingdom cannot be seen with the naked eye, and needs to be viewed with a lens or microscope.

Humans most common association with mushrooms are those we use for the dinner table, these and other edible and non-edible mushrooms are referred to as "fruit-bodies". This is the common name given to the organism that seems to pop-up out of the ground for no apparent reason. Yeast -- used to 'raise' bread and to ferment beer -- is in fact a fungi;

The reproduction unit of all fungi is known as the "spore". When this spore lands on a suitable substrate or base, and growth conditions are ideal, it will germinate by sending out a germ tube which becomes attached to the base or substrate.

This tube develops in to the "hyphae", which in turn will expand and develop into a network of hyphal threads, known as "mycelium". This mycelium, hardly ever seen, is the vegetative body of the fungus responsible for its nutrition and formation.

The mycelium will continue to grow and branch throughout the substrate for as long as it can obtain nutrients from it, and conditions of temperature and moisture remain favourable. This mycelium may continue to grow for a long time without forming any sex organs, but once two sexually differentiated mycelia meet, and plasmas of conjugating cells unite, if external conditions are ideal, a "fruit-body" will appear. A mushroom or toadstool etc. pops out of the ground!

Fungi have a long history of use by humans. Many types of mushrooms and other fungi are eaten, including button mushrooms, shiitake mushrooms, and oyster mushrooms. Of course, many species of mushrooms are poisonous and are responsible for numerous cases of sickness and death every year. A type of fungus called yeast is used in baking bread and fermenting alcoholic beverages. Fungi are also used to produce industrial chemicals like lactic acid, and even to make stonewashed jeans. Some types of fungi are ingested for their psychedelic properties, both recreationally and religiously (as entheogens)

South African Mushroom Species List:

Coprinus micaceus
(Glistening Ink Cap)

Podaxis pistillaris
(False Ink Cap)

Coriolopsis polyzona
(Leathery-brown Bracket)

Leucoagaricus bisporus

Phlebopus sudanicus
(Bushveld Bolete)

Amanita pantherina
(Panther Cap; Warted Agaric; False Blusher)

Amanita phalloides
(Death Cap)

Amanita rubescens
(The Blusher)

Coprinus micaceus
(Glistening Ink Cap)

Coprinus plicatilis
(Japanese Umbrella)

Pycnoporus sanguineus
(Tropical Cinnabar Bracket)

Schizophyllum commune

Amanita pantherina
(Panther Cap; Warted Agaric; False Blusher)

Amanita phalloides
(Death Cap)

Amanita rubescens
(The Blusher)

Boletus edulis
(Cep; Penny Bun; Porcini)

Clitopilus prunulus
(The Miller)

Laccaria amethystina
(Amethyst Deceiver)

Laccaria laccata
(The Deceiver)

Lactarius deliciosus
(Delicious Milk Cap; Orange Milk Cap; Saffron Milk Cap; Pine Rings)

Lactarius hepaticus
(Liver Milk Cap)

Panaeolus papilionaceus
(Fringed Mottle Gill; Cracked Mottle Gill)

Scleroderma citrinum
(Common Earth-ball)


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South Africa has many top Game / Nature Reserves, and is home to many of the mammals of southern Africa. Numerous wildlife safari and tour companies operate guided tours to South Africa. Popular adventure travel activities in South Africa include: horse riding safaris, elephant back safaris, mountain biking, birding, wilderness walking trails, science safaris and volunteering especially for GAP year students.
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