Mt Warrenheip is the location of today’s photo of a large bracket fungus known by the unusual name of white punk.
This one was around 20 centimetres across. It can grow to 30 centimetres or more.
This prominent visible part appears annually, but the fungus survives unseen inside the tree for many years, where it causes heart rot of the trunk.
The tree will survive for several years, but it is likely to succumb to the fungus eventually.
The white punk normally grows several metres up a tree, but this one appears to have taken hold in an injured part of the lower trunk.
Fresh autumn specimens are white and clean.
Older examples become dingy and ragged, eventually crumbling and falling after several months.
White punk is firm and sponge-like underneath, rather than having the usual gills of most toadstools.
This porous layer takes up only the lower centimetre or so, with the remainder of the bracket being thick flesh.
This flesh is often eaten by grubs, whose tunnels can be noticed when the honeycombed bracket falls to the ground.
The word punk is used differently today, but a lesser-known meaning is for material used as tinder for lighting fires, especially wood altered by certain fungi.
Indeed, dry, smouldering brackets of white punk were reportedly used by Aborigines to transport fire from place to place.
This was observed by early European settlers, who then named the punk accordingly.
SWALLOWS FACE DIFFICULTIES HERE
Most migratory birds have now gone, but many swallows remain. They can be seen gathered in flocks on overhead wires.
We will probably have a few with us right through the winter, despite cold weather and drizzle making their feeding difficult.
Some older readers claim that all swallows once departed every winter, but small numbers have remained over the cooler months for many years now.
While hunting their insect food in finer weather they fly – according to a Daylesford reader - at 30 km/h for hours on end. This requires a lot of fuel.
A few days of cold windy weather would increase their need, at a time when food is harder to find.
Another difficulty facing swallows – this time in their breeding season – is the occasional wrecking of their nests by sparrows.
The reason for this vandalism on the sparrows’ part is not known. Fortunately, the habit is not universal, with many swallows’ nests being left alone by nearby sparrows.
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