Riding the motorbike to different parts of Langkawi, I slowly uncover more places on the map despite the rain forcing me to stay indoors these past couple of weeks.
When the sun finally decided to come out, I rode up to the northern part of the island to Tanjung Rhu Beach.
I did not expect to find mushrooms on this trip. Instead, the mushrooms found me, and right in the sand among all places!
Laying on the beach, I look over and spot this little puffball-on-a-stick. I’m familiar with Lycoperdon species and different kinds of puffballs, but I have never seen one on a stalk or this small.
Different species of these stalked puffballs are found all over the planet, but they are actually quite rare.
Many Tulostoma species are psammophilous (sand loving) and found in more demanding habitats, places the aspiring mycologist would overlook. Usually found in sandy soil, it favors arid, semi-desert ecosystems.
Tulostoma species get nutrients by decomposing roots, buried wood, and other organic material of plant origin. So, although appearing to grow from sand, underneath there is something being decomposed.
Fossils of Tulostoma have been reported from 12 million-year-old rocks in central England and 13.5 million-year-old coals from Slovakia.
The generic name Tulostoma comes from tul- (or tyl-), meaning a swelling, or the knob on the end of a club; and the suffix–toma, meaning with wool or hair (just as tomentose means woolly).
I post to Instagram and get a message from Eduardo Hernández-Navarro, a leading mycologist from Mexico who has spent the better part of a decade researching Tulostoma in Sonora, Mexico. There, there are ~30 species, with new ones being described.
Not much is known in Malaysia regarding Tulostoma, and according to the Checklist of Fungi of Malaysia, there are only two described species: T. pusillum and T. ridleyi. I’ve reached out to mycologists at Universiti Sains Malaysia in Penang to get ITS sequencing completed to determine if it’s a new species or not.
Next week I’ll be back in Kuala Lumpur and then off to Koh Jum, Thailand, where there are no observations made on iNaturalist on the island. I look forward to the species I’ll come across there and will share what I find. Till next time!