Wood decay fungi collections at MEL

The N.E.M. Walters Fungal Collection is a nationally significant collection of wood decay fungi that was formerly housed at the CSIRO Division of Forest Products. It was transfered to National Herbarium of Victoria (MEL) for long-term storage in May 2000. The CSIRO retains a collection of fungal cultures that were isolated from the collected fruit bodies and decayed wood now stored at MEL. These cultures are used by CSIRO for research into wood decay and preservation.

The collection originated in the 1930s, when DFP scientists began collecting and isolating wood-inhabiting fungi from around Australia and overseas. It attained its current significance under the guidance of Neville Walters, a mycologist and timber pathologist who began working at the CSIRO in the 1950s.

Accessions in the DFP collection were obtained from a variety of sources. Some were imported as fungal cultures from other institutions, while specimens of fruit bodies and decayed wood were collected during inspections of timber and during the occasional fungal foray by DFP staff. The majority of the specimens were sent to Neville Walters from collectors in response to an advertisement placed in newspapers in the early 1950s. Several hundred people sent single specimens. About 150 people sent about 10 specimens each, and there were a few who were prolific in collecting and sending specimens. The two most prolific collectors were Karamoana Healy, Tarra Valley Park, Victoria and H.J. Cann; they each contributed more specimens that any other collector (DFP staff included).

Specimens were received from all states of Australia, however, the majority were received from coastal Queensland, coastal and inland New South Wales and from Victoria. Relatively few specimens were received from central or north-western Australia. Specimens were also received from other countries, with a significant number from New Guinea.

The curation of this important collection – which numbers approximately 7,000 specimens – was recently completed as part of the Australia's Virtual Herbarium project.