The fynbos is a shrubland characterized by a fire-prone ecosystem and Mediterranean climate. Although it is extremely rich in plant species, and has a high degree of floral endemism, very little is known regarding the fungi in this unique and fascinating environment. The present study investigated the saprobic microfungi that colonise and utilize leaf and twig litter and senescent flowerheads of Proteaceae. A total of 29 species and sub-species belonging to four genera of Proteaceae were sampled from 12 sites in the Western Cape Province of South Africa spanning a period of two years (2000–2001). An attempt was made to culture all fungi encountered, and where successful, the ITS and partial 28S nrDNA, and in some cases the translation elongation factor 1- α or the β - tubulin gene regions were sequenced. A total of 62 bags of litter yielded 316 individuals, consisting of 141 fungal species residing in 103 genera and 43 families. Of these, 59 species, including eight species that had been previously published, represented novel taxa. Thirty-eight species reflected new records for South Africa, and 48 species were new reports on Proteaceae. Two new genera and one new combination were also introduced. Seventy-three species were represented by teleomorphs and 68 species by anamorphs, which were made up of 30 hyphomycetes and 38 coelomycetes. Eighty percent of the species occurred on only one type of substrate.The fungal community found on twig litter had the highest species richness, while flowerhead-styles yielded the highest percentage (100%) of unique species. These results showed that the species richness for the fynbos Mycota was moderately high with every 2.2 collections representing a different fungal species. The percentage of new fungal taxa (43% of the total species) was exceptionally high, and most of these probably host-specific. More than 80% of the fungi collected in this study had hard and closed fruiting structures, indicating an adaptation to the constraints of the harsh fynbos environment. Other than providing a foundation for further studies, this investigation highlights a disturbing paucity of knowledge regarding the fynbos Mycota in one of the world’s most threatened and unusual floral Kingdoms.
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