Carmel fungus (Hagai Frid)
The fire loving fungus, Pyronema omphalodes, growing on rocks in the Carmel Forest. Photo by Hagai Frid
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Researchers from the University of Haifa studying the effects of last month's blaze on the Carmel were surprised to find rocks that had turned a phosphorescent orange in one of the valleys near Kibbutz Beit Oren. They discovered that the disastrous fire has actually helped a species of fungus that is quite rare in Israel and has begun to spread as a result of the fire.

The researchers, including Dr. Leah Wittenberg and Dr. Nurit Shtober showed photographs of the rocks to a fungus expert at the University of Haifa, Prof. Solomon Wasser. He identified it as a species called Pyronema omphalodes. As its first name indicates, it belongs to a group of fungi that thrive after fires, because it is nourished by charcoal resulting from a blaze, Wasser said.

"This fungus was last seen in Israel 40 years ago, only in one place in the center of the country. This is the first time it's been seen here. We have found similar fungi after previous fires on the Carmel," he said.

Scientists found that the fungus is not the only species that has come alive following the fire. Not far from Damon Prison, they found narcissus flowers blooming where they had not been seen before. According to ecologist Dr. Dan Malkinson, the destruction of competing plants probably allowed the flowers to flourish.

Malkinson also found sad evidence of the fire's destruction: skeletons of a herd of wild boars that had burned to death, apparently trapped while seeking a low place to flee.