A group of Australian fungi experts descended on Wangat Lodge recently to explore the forests of the Barrington foothills in search of truffles.
The group included Dr Jim Trappe , visiting from the USA who is among the world's leading authorities on truffles and related fungi.
“It's the second time Jim has been here,” said Wangat Lodge proprietor Ken Rubeli.
“I see so many kinds of fungus in the forest here but until Jim came I had no idea there were truffles in Australia – and that they are relatively easy to find.”
Over four days the group searched for fungi in the beech forest on Wangat Trig Road, in rainforest and eucalypt forest along Jerusalem Creek, along the Williams River in the National Park, and close to the Lodge in the Wangat Wildlife Refuge.
At one point they were stopped in the Chichester State Forest near Bush Mill Road when a child in the group, Tess Brumfield, aged t10, from Newcastle, found what she thought was a round-topped toadstool.
When the specimen was shown to Dr Trappe he identified it as a very rare kind of truffle relative in the genus Cribbea with compressed gills hidden inside the cap.
He said he had seen this kind of fungus only once before, in Southern Queensland.
Tess's find will be added to the mycological collection at the NSW State Herbarium at Orange.
“Jim is a scientist who explores nature right down to the microscopic details,” said Mr Rubeli.
“It's through experts like him that we learn the role fungi have in the functioning of the forest.
“And it's through his willingness to engage with others with an interest in nature that children like Tess will find fungi fascinating forever.”
The truffle is reported to not be of the edible variety.