With so many sorts of different fungi, the term "bracket fungus" is a useful one, helping to differentiate some fungi from others.
Bracket fungi are stemless, attached broadly to their trunk, log or stump.
Today's photo shows a bracket fungus known as hairy curtain crust.
The "curtain" part of its name has arisen because of its folded appearance.
The "hairy" part is not obvious at first, but is evident on closer inspection, the surface being shortly hairy all over.
The clumps are usually tiered, with the outside margins yellow and frilled.
The inside of the bracket is darkest colour.
Although rather thin, each piece is tough and leathery.
The hairy curtain crust is found on dead wood, and it occurs almost worldwide.
It is technically classed as saprotrophic, which means that it gets its nutrients from dead or decaying organic matter, including dead wood.
It plays a vital role in breaking down dead wood, thus assisting in recycling essential nutrients such as nitrogen and carbon.
There is some variation in the colour of the hairy curtain crust, with some being more orange, yellower or paler brown than those in the photo here. This one was in the Creswick forest.
There were several present a month ago, growing on eucalypt stumps.
It is a widespread and common fungus across most of the Ballarat region, where it can be found in almost any month of the year, but most commonly in the damper months.
Although it is clearly a bracket fungus, it is in a sub-group of brackets known as leather fungi.
Its texture and form are very different from the larger, whitish bracket fungi, or punks.
As far as edibility is concerned, it is unappealingly described as "inedible - tough, leathery and tasteless".
It is sometimes called hairy stereum, and is known botanically as Stereum hirsutum.
Just a month after the shortest day, reports have come in of ravens and magpies gathering nesting material, magpies singing in the moonlight, and the first blackbirds singing at dawn and dusk.
Lake Wendouree swans and ibises are also nesting.
All of these are normal for mid-winter, but it is always nice to see or hear them anew, even though their occurrence does not yet indicate that spring is here.
Cootamundra wattles are beginning to bloom, and golden wattle flowers have opened at a few milder places.
The magpies singing in the moonlight are particularly appealling, with their unhurried musical carolling a welcome sound.
Early blackbirds singing on calm winter evenings at dusk have their own special appeal, too.
NATURE QUERIES ANSWERED
I found this beetle on the path in the Mount Buninyong crater. Do you know what type it is?
Your beetle - with mud on its face - appears to be one of the dor beetles, also known technically as bolboceratid beetles.
They are digging beetles, feeding on decaying material, fungi and humus.
The smooth, rounded front would be suitable for burrowing, as would the large strong legs. It seems to be uncommon.
These beetles are considered to be related to the dung beetles. Some males have long head extensions like those of a rhinoceros beetle.
You wrote last week about a coastal daisy that also grows around Ballarat. What's its botanical name?
The coast daisy is Brachyscome parvula.
- Questions and photos are welcome. Email to email@example.com, or send to Roger Thomas at The Courier, PO Box 21, Ballarat, 3353.