Thursday, 30 April 2015

Surprises in between the bamboos

Sabyinyo volcano
The deciduous forests at the foot of the Bisoke volcano had a diversity of mushrooms.  But how is it in the bamboo forests? To answer the question our team will go on an exploratory mission to three of the volcanoes (Sabyinyo, Gahinga and Karisimbi).

A new local guide accompanied us.  His name is Damascene and he knows a lot about the forest.  No wonder as he lived there for 18 years before leaving, now some twenty years ago. 

First to the Sabyinyo volcano.  Many paths wind their way through the bamboo.  They are covered with the footprints of ungulates. ‘Buffalo’ said Raymond.  Judging by the amount of manure there must be a lot of them.

The edible mushrooms are ready for inspection.  Damascene does not know their names but firmly claims that he has eaten them – also species that mycologists don’t regard as being edible or very tasty, but probably he did not have the luxury to be that selective.

What is striking said Jerome are the mushrooms that grow on bamboos, but their diversity is not so great; maximum a few Marasmius and Collybia species.  In the straw layer of fallen bamboo leaves almost no mushrooms are to be found there.

Although the diversity of species is not so great, the bamboos have a few special surprises for us.  First surprise: two species of honey fungus.  The true honey fungus (Armillaria mellea) which we know as a pathogen in European forests and its relation Armillaria heimii.

Collybia aurea
Still more surprises were to come: in the bamboo forests of the Karisimbi volcano our mycologists find the golden collybia (Collybia aurea), a warm yellow-coloured species that is considered as a delicacy in the neighbouring country of Burundi.  A little further on we find Termitomyces robustus, the famous mushroom that lives in symbiosis with termites.  The discovery of this edible species in the bamboo forests comes as a big surprise.  It’s one for the list of exciting discoveries, we were told by a clearly satisfied mycologist

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