Smoking Fungus (spores dispersal)

fungus spore cloud
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Borneo forest has rich variety of mushroom and fungi, and Mycologists describe Sabah as an El Dorado for fungi experts. Personally I had seen hundreds of fungus species in different shape, size and color during my jungle trekking. Just check out my fungi photos, some may not even have a name.

huge fungus on tree
When I was walking in the mangrove forest of Kinabatangan, I spotted this huge fungus (see photo above) on a tree. Someone calls it Monkey Stool or Monkey Chair Fungus, as it’s big enough for a monkey to sit on. Maybe it is a some kind of Bracket fungi or Shelf fungi.

close up of monkey chair fungus
It’s a parasitic fungus growing on living tree. Look so big and heavy, I’ll be rich if it is a Lingzhi, a highly valuable mushroom used in traditional Chinese medicines.

spore sacs of fungus
This is the biggest fungus that I’ve ever seen, so I checked it out closely. I noticed some tip-like structure at the bottom. I have no idea whether they are spore-producing asci or sacs. Anyway, I took a few photos and left and thought that’s.

fungus discharges spores
Later I came back to this place again for a night walk. I scanned every tree with my torchlight, in search for nocturnal wildlife such as slow loris and civet. Then I saw a plume of white mist swirling upward from this fungus, as if it was on fire. A spore dispersal was happening! I couldn’t see the tiny spores, but I knew millions of spores were being spread.

cloud of fungus spores

spore dispersal of fungus
Though it was a windless night, the cloud of spores drifted slowly through the slightest breeze, forming various smoke figures in air.

cloud of spore smoke billows up through the air
Pic: I also could see the spore cloud at its bottom.

spores in breeze
Spore discharge is not uncommon but rare to be seen. The smoke of spores is almost invisible during daytime. In the dark, I found that I could see the smoke far more better with yellow light than white LED light.

spore dispersal of monkey chair fungus

bracket fungus discharges spores
The spore launch didn’t seem to thin out even after 10 minutes. The smoke remained dense and I didn’t dare to breathe deeply, as I was afraid that the spores would fill my lung and germinated into mushroom. Hehe, that is unlikely though.

Photos taken in Sandakan, Sabah, Malaysia Borneo

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By Murphy Ng