Mushroom Hunting on Koh Phi Phi Island
Some interesting mushroom species found while exploring the island over the past few weeks.
Since returning to Koh Phi Phi, I've been able to hike to some more secluded beaches. Getting there involved a bit of bushwhacking, dealing with mosquitos, centipedes, black hammerhead worms (Bipalium species), spiders, and keeping a lookout for water monitors and snakes.
The main bit of the island (Ton Sai) is bustling. Tourists thin out as they go their own way. Some venture up the steep steps to viewpoints 1 and 2 - but further, up to viewpoint 3 and onwards through clay-slick, muddy, overgrown trails, you emerge from the sauna that is the jungle, and are rewarded with rejuvenating sea breeze, the sound of waves, and the sight of clear blue water.
Much like Langkawi and Penang, these islands have loamy soil and the mushroom species that grow are resilient and have evolved over millions of years to survive harsher, more competitive environments.
Hiking to Phak Nam Bay, I spot a few fuzzy, eye-lash textured caps on twig-like stems. Two grow from wood, and one seemingly grows from a rock-hard chunk of clay.
The Genus is Lentinus (same as the popular shiitake mushroom - L. edodes) and belongs to a group of gilled, tropical polypores commonly called "woodcaps and sawgills."
The function of the fuzz is predicted to make it more difficult for invertebrates to feed on the already tough-skinned mushroom.
The name Lentinus comes from the Latin Lent-, meaning pliable, and -inus, meaning resembling; so Lentinus means 'resembling pliable.'
After these mushrooms dry out, the cap is leathery and will not crack when bent. Younger ones are deemed edible, much like young L. sajor-caju, also known as “Funnel Woodcaps.”
In diverse tropical jungles, competition for nutrients requires species to develop improved fitness. Through millions of years, the ancestors of Lentinus figured out efficient gilled morphology - seperate from Agaricus (in the 18th century, all gilled fungi were placed in the same genus, Agaricus).
Lentinus belongs to Family Polyporaceae (pore fungi) and the adaptation from pores to gills is an example of convergent evolution. It is interesting to see similar structures evolve again and again in unrelated species.
Below are other mushrooms I found during my time on the island.
The mid-day heat has me in my room enjoying the best invention, AC. During this time, I uploaded more photos to Mushroom Observer where each observation can be viewed in full resolution.
Next week I’ll be in Krabi Town and stay for a week, then fly back to KL, Malaysia where I aim to explore more of the surrounding forest parks. Till next time!
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