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New species of mushrooms could be sprouting in backyards after recent wet weather has seen fungi popping up around south-east Queensland gardens, unveiling the fungal kingdom underground.
But residents are urged not to touch the mushrooms or eat them, with experts needing to determine whether they are safe or toxic, and many types are still unknown.
Ecologist and environmental photographer Allison Pouliot told Rebecca Levingston on ABC Radio Brisbane that fungi could grow in soil or leaf litter, living wood or old logs, and from other fungi.
Unseen 'fairy' fungal kingdom
Queensland Mycological Society president Wayne Boatwright said the fungal kingdom was largely unseen, with the mycelial network out of sight and mind until rain occurred.
Mushrooms usually sprout in hot, wet conditions, and the mushrooms are just the tip of the iceberg of the fungal kingdom lying beneath, said University of Queensland's Anthony Young.
"The fungus that grows mushrooms is always present in soil," he said.
Often it is interconnected with multiple types of plants and trees.
"You will see fairy rings, where you've got one big underground fungal mass and all fruiting bodies will come up as a ring from there."
Dr Pouliot said it was going to be an "amazing season" for fungi.
"You've had fantastic rains up there and the fungi are popping up out of control," she said.
"The amazing thing is we don't know what most of them are called.
"We're trying to learn as much as we can about our amazing mycota — meaning our fungi."
Without touching wild mushrooms, Mr Boatwright encouraged anyone who noticed fungi that had popped up to photograph them and post them in mycological Facebook groups, where experts could help identify them.
"Quite often we find new or interesting species in people's backyard … it will assist us in documenting true biodiversity," he said.
Fragrance from rotting fish to aniseed
Dr Pouliot said there was not a quick or easy way to identify types of fungi but their odours were one of the "huge" clues.
"Fungi have the most incredible array of different scents and odours," she said.
"Some smell like rotting fish and some smell like aniseed and some smell like hot car engine.
"We work by a process of elimination … you can work out what it is by what it doesn't smell like."
When are wild mushrooms safe to eat?
Dr Pouliot said even mushrooms that looked like safe species could be harmful "doppelganger" species which looked like supermarket varieties.
"Often they look good enough, they smell good enough — and you can already see them on the toast — except it's a deadly one or it's a toxic one," she said.
Dr Young said mushrooms were an integral part of the Australian landscape so it was best just to leave them alone.
He concurred with Dr Pouliot and said mushrooms should not be eaten without expert confirmation that they were not harmful.
"If you don't know what a mushroom is, certainly don't eat it," Dr Young said.
"If you think you know what a mushroom is, probably still don't eat it."
Mr Boatwright said the appearance of mushrooms was a good sign as it indicated good soil health and fungi performed very important roles.
"Enjoy looking at them, photographing them — don't eat them, definitely don't eat them," he said.