When discussing fungus in the preventative biotech treatment world, we aim for the resistance of fungal growth! But a recent trip with the team to Wilsons Promontory reminded us that fungus can be beautiful and plays an essential role in various ecosystems. We wanted to share this with you and take you on a trip to the “Prom”.

Wilsons Promontory National Park is located on the peninsula southeast of Melbourne. It is one of the most spectacular places in Victoria and is well known for huge granite mountains, open forest, sweeping beaches, coastlines, and magnificent views.

Whilst on tour to Skull Rock, we were observing the granite studded hills meeting the white sand beaches and couldn’t help but notice the fiery orange boulders contrasting with the brilliant turquoise water. We asked what creates those beautiful orange contrasts on the boulders? It is the symbiotic relationship between algae and fungus, where both organisms benefit from their partnership.

In this relationship, the fungus provides a protective structure and a stable environment for the algae to thrive. The fungal partner forms a network of filaments called hyphae, creating a framework that shelters the algae. This sheltered environment is crucial for the algae, as it allows them to photosynthesize efficiently without being exposed to harsh environmental conditions.

On the other hand, the algae provide the fungus with essential nutrients through photosynthesis. Algae are capable of harnessing sunlight to produce sugars, which they share with the fungus. These sugars serve as a source of energy for the fungal partner, enabling it to grow and reproduce.

Together, the fungus and algae form a new entity known as a lichen, which exhibits characteristics distinct from either of its individual components. Lichens come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and colors, depending on the specific species of fungus and algae involved in the symbiotic relationship.

The fiery orange lichen on boulders stands as a testament to the beauty and resilience of life. Let’s appreciate the broad benefits of particular fungus in the right places… I dare say we wont appreciate it all the same when we find a bloom of black mould in a stored tent from the year before, or in the recess of our showers!