It crawls… It creeps…

What are known as the “plasmodial slime moulds” are amazing. They germinate from a spore as a single cell amoeboid  cell that is grazes freely on bacteria and detritus in the free water between soil particles and in decomposing wood. When two compatible amoeboids meet they fuse and form a multi-cellular plasmodium which can reaches a size that is visible to the human eye. The plasmodium continue to flow through the soil and decaying wood engulfing bacteria and other microorganisms. This was the basis of horror movies like The Blob. Have a look at the Deep Look YouTube clip for time lapse photography of plamodial movement- you may enjoy it more with the sound off 🙂.


When conditions are right, and the plasmodium is well fed it will go through a metamorphoses  and be transformed into a fungal like fruit body. It was for this reason slime moulds have been studied by mycologists and appear in mycological textbooks. The following photos of Stemonitis fusca, were taken by Barbara Appleton and identified by David Appleton in their garden in Palmerston North. This slime mould was living in a tree stump of Atlantic cedar (Cedrus atlantica) which had been left to rot. These photos show the metamorphoses of the plasmodium as it coalesces into a round flattened blob which quickly becomes nobbly.

Stemonitis fusca, nobly blob [photo Barbara Appleton]

The first differentiation occurs on the lower side in contact with the wood where  a hard dark layer forms and will act as the base of the fruit body. Then over this dark layer spikes begin to grow and as they elongate into dark stalks with the still fluid part of the upper blob coalesces around each stalk like a sausage on a stick.

Protoplasm differentiation [from Ross 1973]

Stemonitis fusca, immature [photo Barbara Appleton]

When it’s reached its full height the sausage part of the protoplasm differentiates into a thin out skin, a network or scaffolding of elongated tubules that connect to the stalk, and all the rest of the remain protoplasm differentiates into round spores held within the network of tubules. By this stage the fruit body has gone from yellow to pink to dark brown to black.

Stemonitis fusca, see stalk running up through the plasmodium [photo Barbara Appleton]

Stemonitis fusca, immature [photo Barbara Appleton]

By the time the spores are mature the entire fruit body has dried out and the outer sausage skin is disintegrating leaving the stalk with its open scaffolding of tubules containing the spores which are now free to drop out and be blown about in the wind. Those spores that land in suitable habitats will germinate to release a new amoeboid cell.

Stemonitis fusca, mature [photo Barbara Appleton]

If you are wanting to read more broadly about slime moulds a good article is: Penny Cullington’s “Slime moulds for beginners” (Field Mycologist 10(3): 77-85, 2009).

If you are wanting to identify New Zealand slime mould you need Steve Stephenson’s “Myxomycetes of New Zealand” (Volume 3 of The Fungi of New Zealand / Nga Harore o Aotearoa).

Stemonitis fusca, immature [photo Barbara Appleton]

Stemonitis fusca, maturing [photo Barbara Appleton]


Science Sunday at the Wellington Botanic Garden

Wellington Botanic Garden ran a Science Sunday today in the Begonia House. It was an opportunity for Wellingtonians to discover the science behind their Garden and what contributions it makes to biodiversity and other areas of science. It also included releasing the findings of the BioBlitze held in April. And despite the rain I did a wander round to see what, if anything, was fruiting.

The Pinetum

I couldn’t believe my luck as I dropped down the slope from the Herb Garden into the Pinetum. Since 2014 I have been returning here in the hope of finding a Boletus that I found but had not kept a specimen of it. And here it was a single huge fruitbody.

Boletus edulis [photo Geoff Ridley]

Boletus edulis [photo Geoff Ridley]

Boletus edulis [photo Geoff Ridley]

It was growing about 1.5m from the base of a maritime pine (Pinus pinaster) in a grove of this species although, there is a single Pinus radiata as well. This is in all probability edible bolete (Boletus edulis) and has you can see from the dollar coin this fruitbody is the size of a dinner plate.

Boletus edulis – the size of a dinner plate [photo Geoff Ridley]

A few metres further along the path there is a grove of mixed cypresses. At the border between the pines and the cypresses was a sticky bun bolete (Suillus granulatus). Note is yellow, non-bluing flesh and a lack of a ring on the stem.

Suillus granulatus [photo Geoff Ridley]

Suillus granulatus [photo Geoff Ridley]

Suillus granulatus [photo Geoff Ridley]

Suillus granulatus – non-bluing flesh [photo Geoff Ridley]

About a metre away was the yellow flycap (Amanita junquillea). I found this species for the first time in the Garden at the BioBlitz in April.

Amanita junquillea [photo Geoff Ridley]

Amanita junquillea [photo Geoff Ridley]

The West Entrance

Near the West Entrance on Glenmore St is a Sequoia, or is it a Metasequoia (tree number 0645).

Tree 0645 (photo Geoff Ridley]

This tree has wood chip mulch under and as I approached I could see the bright colouring of the scarlet pouch (Leratiomyces erythrocephalus). This has fruited frequently under this tree over the last five years.

Leratiomyces erythrocephalus [photo Geoff Ridley]

Also present was the bluing pouch (Psilocybe weraroa). This is the first time I have collected this species from wood chip mulch.

Psilocybe weraroa [photo Geoff Ridley]

The tree is bare of leaves at the moment and looking up there is a long dead strip running almost two thirds the height of the tree. This has been colonised by the woodear jelly (Auricularia cornea).

Auricularia cornea [photo Geoff Ridley]

Auricularia cornea [photo Geoff Ridley]

The First Photo

Last month I took possession of set of approximately 300 slides that were part of the Levin Native Flora Club slide library – E.F.A. Garner fungi collection. The oldest photograph in this collection is from 1964. This got me wondering what was the oldest photo of a New Zealand mushroom. So, I went looking but with the criteria that the photo had to :

  • Be of what is often called the “larger, fleshy fungi” so excluding brackets and corticioid fungi
  • Have the mushroom as the subject
  • Be of a fresh mushrooms and not of dried herbarium/fungarium specimens

So, going through my books and papers the oldest photos that I know of are in G.H. Cunningham’s The Gasteromycetes of Australia and New Zealand published in 1942. This book contains a number of black and white photos that fit the criteria. There are twenty-five plates/pages of photos taken in the laboratory, and not in the field, and in many cases, it is difficult to tell whether they are fresh or dried. So, I’m only showing the first two plates. In some cases this may be the second publication of a particular photo as Cunningham’s books where compilations of his papers published in the 1920s and 30s. I have noted the earlier dates where I know them and provided the currently accepted name.

Plate 7 has five photos: 1 & 2) Phallobata alba (as Hysterangium lobatum), first published in 1926. 3) Clavogaster virescens (as Secotium virescens), previously published?, 4) Rhizopogon rubescens, previously published?, and 5) Rossbeevera pachydermis (as Gautieria novae-zelandiae), not previously published.

Plate 7 [from Cunningham 1942]

Plate 8 has four photos: 1 & 2) Cortinarius porphyroideus (as Secotium porphyreum), first published 1924, 3) Leratiomyces erythrocephalus (as Secotium erythrocephalum) previoudly published?, and 4) Clavogaster virescens (as Secotium virescens), previously published?.

Plate 7 [from Cunningham 1942]

The next photo was published by the French mycologist Roger Heim who visited New Zealand in 1949. The photo is small and part of a plate of three photos published in 1951. They show Cortinarius elaiochrous (as Cuphocybe olivacea) and Cortinarius alboroseus (as Cuphocybe alborosea) having been collected and laid on log for the photo. This is at The Paradise, north-east of Glenorchy on Lake Wakatipu in beech forest.

[from Heim 1952]

The next photo is from a paper by John Gilmour in 1954. Its shows a cluster of Armillaria sp, probably A. novae-zelandiae but labelled a A. mellea as it was thought at the time, at the base of a eucalypt. The photo is interesting in being the first field photo. I like it as it uses a coin for scale but interestinging a British penny (with Britannia) rather than a New Zealand penny which would have had a tui perched in a kowhai. In the same paper, there is also photos of Armillaria disease symptoms where he uses a New Zealand half crown for scale.

Armillaria sp. [from Gilmour 1954]

The use of and availability of photo of fungi is a recent phenomenon that can be attributed to the easy availability of digital cameras and mobile phones. Before that you hardly ever saw a photo of a fungus in New Zealand.

Plasticity of form

“…  arching their necks out of rotted tree stumps, sucking life out of death. … the forest eats itself and lives forever.” – Barbara Kingsolver The Poisonwood Bible

For those that follow this blog you will know that tree stumps appear regularly. Because they are still rooted in the ground rising damp tends to keep them moist and usually guarantees a good show of fungi. These photos were taken by Glenda Leete in Wallaceville, Upper Hutt.

A stump with leathery brackets [photo Glenda Leete]

Glenda’s photos feature two leathery bracket fungi. But they also show the plasticity of form that bracket fungi have in the relationship to their substrate and their orientation to gravity. Ingold in his little book, which he calls an essay, on Dispersal in Fungi (1953).

Polyporus betulinus … produces its fruit-bodies on the trunks and limbs of dead trees … Gravity has a profound formative influence on the sporophore. The young fruit-body first appears erumpent as a small, undifferentiated spherical knob 2-3 cm. across. If this is on the main vertical trunk, it then grows out horizontally … to form a firm, more or less semi-circular structure, with a radius of 15-20 cm. and about 3 cm. thick, attached laterally to the trunk (Fig. 49A). If, however, the original spherical primordium is on the under side of an approximately horizontal branch, the fruit-body develops a roughly circular form with a central attachment to the tree (Fig. 49B). Fruit-bodies do not normally arise on the upper of a branch, but if a dead tree bearing primordia is felled, those on the recumbent trunk may continue their development. A primordium thus exposed on the upper surface of a fallen trunk grows out on one side only, more or less at right angles to the pull of gravity (Fig. 49C).

[from Ingold 1953]

It is, apparently, gravity also that determines the formation of the hymenial pores on the under surface of the fruit-body. These pores are at first very shallow, but throughout the life of the sporophore (8 months) they grow by means of an active zone around the mouth of each pore, so they gradually become longer. The direction of growth is conditioned by gravity so that the tubes produced are orientated precisely in the vertical direction. … In bracket polypores geotrophic growth achieves the desirable results of vertical hymenial surfaces, but if these, once formed, are slightly displaced from the vertical, there is no mechanism of readjustment in the pores.

[from Ingold 1953]

In Trametes gibbosa (Fig. 50), so common as a saprophyte on beech stumps, the morphogenesis of the sporophore is similar to that of Polyporus betulinus. Here the fruit-bodies arising on the more or less vertical surface of the trunk are of the bracket form, whilst those on the transversely cut surface of the stump are radially symmetrical with a broad central attachment.

These photos of Glenda’s shows tiers of brackets of Trametes versicolor growing on the vertical surface of the stump.

Trametes versicolor [photo Glenda Leete]

Trametes versicolor [photo Glenda Leete]

While this photo of the cut surface shows the brackets growing from a central attachment as a simple rosette.

Trametes versicolor [photo Glenda Leete]

If Trametes versicolor can have the appearance of a complex rosette if it colonises a narrow short stump as in the case of the photo, by Christine Harper, taken at Ohope.

Trametes versicolor [photo Christine Harper]

Just to complete this story some bracket fungi decompose the wood of dead trees and appear to sprout from the ground as a large rosette, in this case the size of a large cabbage. These photos where taken by Cary Moore in the Tararua Range. This could be Bondarzewia (berkeleyi ?) if it has distinctly amyloid and warted spores. Other possibilities are Ryvardenia campyla or Grifola.   [see Jerry’s comment below re Bondarzewia kirkii]

[photo Cary Moore]

[photo Cary Moore]

Glenda’s other fungus, Cerrena zonata, also formed tiers of brackets on the vertical surfaces of the stump.

Cerrena zonata [photo Glenda Leete]

Cerrena zonata [photo Glenda Leete]

Ingold also talked about pores and there orientation. There is a marked difference between the two species on Glenda’s stump. Trametes versicolor has pores on its under surface and it produces spores on cells lining the pores.

Trametes versicolor [photo Glenda Leete]

In contrast Cerrena zonata has spine, teeth and ridges on its under surface with the spore producing cells covering the surface of these.

Cerrena zonata [photo Glenda Leete]

Glenda’s last photos shows night visitors on a foraging trip to the stump.

Slugs and snails visiting [photo Glenda Leete]

PS: Peter Buchanan’s comment below reminded me of an illustration he published in the New Zealand Journal of Forestry Science in 1989. It showed all the forms that bracket type wood decay fungi can take.



Ingold CT 1953. Dispersal in Fungi, Oxford at the Clarendon Press.

Nothing changes

Yesterday I gave a lecture, well at least an animated conversation, on fungi at Nga Manu Nature Reserve in Waikanae. This I will come back to in a later blog. At the end of the lecture I took possession of set of approximately 300 slides This was the E.F.A. Garner fungi collection and had been part of the Levin Flora Club slide library. A little digging found that the full name was the Levin Native Flora Club and I assume was the local botany society. Again, I’ll revisit this in a later blog.

When I got home I started to dig but got waylaid by discovering a website “New Zealand Regional Botanical Society Journals” that had databased all the journal/newsletter/bulletins of the Auckland, Rotorua, Wellington, Canterbury and Otago botanical societies. As I couldn’t help myself I searched the Wellington Botanical Society Bulletin for fungi and discovered small articles written by Greta Cone (AKA Greta Stevenson). I have blogged about Greta before as she laid the foundations for the study of agarics and boletes in New Zealand between the end of WWII and 1964. Here is a short item she wrote for the Wellington Botanical Society Bulletin 16: 8, August 1947:


The exhibit of larger fungi which were gathered by several members for display at our reception on May 19th made a very colourful ‘Fungus Garden’. The bright shades, beautiful shapes and great variety of these plants are surprising to many people. They are abundant in the bush only at the time of year when few folk are abroad for they fruit during autumn and winter. They grow very fast but last for a short time and so are easily missed.

Cortinarius porphyroideus, York Bay [photo Geoff Ridley]

Many of them like the brilliant purple puffball, Secotium porphyreum [Cortinarius porphyroideus = Thaxterogaster porphyreus] and the small dainty clubs, Clavaria spp. of all colours, may fruit half-hidden in the litter of the forest floor. When one has developed an eye for fungi one can spot these shy specimens and unearth them, often to the surprise of others who would walk past the same place seeing nothing particular. There is often something of a camouflage effect when the fungi are growing in the bush.

Clavaria zollingeri, Wellington Botanic Garden [photo Christopher Stephens]

When they are gathered up and many put together the bright conspicuous colours are striking, but in their natural haunts they harmonise with their surroundings. A few always shout their presence. The common puffball, Secotium erythrocephalum [Leratiomyces erythrocephalus = Weraroa erythrocephala], can seldom hide its brilliant red head, and the introduced scarlet toadstool, Amanita muscaria, is always a startling sight.

Leratiomyces erythrocephalus, Wellington Botanic Garden [photo Geoff Ridley]

Amanita muscaria, Wellington Botanic Garden [photo Geoff Ridley]

In order to get for our show some perfect specimens of this very decorative species, one of our members hunted long to find some which had not been handled and broken by someone else. She crawled into a dense thicket in the middle of a place where they were growing in abundance, collected the elegant toadstools and safely made away out with the fragile load which duly appeared in the fungus collection. Greta B. Cone.

What is interesting is that I talked about the same species in my lecture at Nga Manu. Nothing changes.

Otari Wilton’s Bush Annual Foray 28 April and 26 May 2019

The annual foray has proved to be so popular that this year we decided to run two walks a month apart. Below are the are the two photo lists of these walks.

April Foray

Parasola leiocephala [brown-umbrella inkcap] – Growing on wood chip in mulched garden. iNaturalistNZ link

Parasola leiocephala – brown-umbrella inkcap [photo Geoff Ridley]

Tylopilus brunneus [cocoa bolete] – Growing under black beech in the southern beech grove. There was some sign of bruising blue but the specimen was badly insect damaged. iNaturalistNZ link

Tylopilus brunneus – cocoa bolete [photo Geoff Ridley]

Agaricus sp. [a mushroom] – Growing in wood chip mulched garden under kanaka. iNaturalistNZ link

Agaricus sp. – a mushroom [photo Geoff Ridley]

Favolaschia calocera [orange poreconch] – Growing on fallen branch in the Fernery. Common throughout Otari. iNaturalistNZ link

Favolaschia calocera – orange poreconch [photo Geoff Ridley]

Leucoagaricus sp. [ a parasol] – Growing on wood chip mulched garden in the Fernery under a canopy of native broadleaf trees. It has a white spore print. iNaturalistNZ link

Leucoagaricus sp. – a parasol [photo Geoff Ridley]

Gymnopus sp. – Growing on a treefern log lining the track. Stipe cartilaginous. White spore print. iNaturalistNZ link

Gymnopus sp. [photo Geoff Ridley]

Crucibulum laeve [brown birdsnest] – Growing on wood chip in mulched garden. iNaturalistNZ link

Crucibulum laeve – brown birdsnest [photo Geoff Ridley]

Gymnopus possibly subpruinosus – Growing on wood chips in mulched garden. Cap is hygrophanous. Stipe cartilaginous but drying more solid looking. Spore print white. iNaturalistNZ link

Gymnopus possibly subpruinosus [photo Geoff Ridley

Cruentomycena viscidocruenta [ruby helmet] – Growing on wood chips in mulched garden. Usually found in this area of the garden. iNaturalistNZ link

Cruentomycena viscidocruenta – ruby helmet [photo Geoff Ridley]

Mycetinis curraniae [garlic shanklet] – Growing on the bark of a living totara in the native conifer grove on the north side of the visitor centre. Growing from ground level to about a metre above ground. I have seen this here on this tree every year for a decade. It smells of garlic when crushed between the palms of your hands. iNaturalistNZ link

Mycetinis curraniae – garlic shanklet [photo Geoff Ridley]

Leratiomyces ceres [scarlet roundhead] – Growing in garden mulched with wood chip. A common fungus in these gardens. iNaturalistNZ link

Leratiomyces ceres – scarlet roundhead [photo Geoff Ridley]

Lacrymaria asperospora [weeping widow] – Growing in a wood mulched garden. It has been fruiting annually in this area for the last few years. iNaturalistNZ link

Lacrymaria asperospora – weeping widow [photo Geoff Ridley]

Agaricus sp. [a mushroom] – This is a frequent find in the native conifer grove (rimu, totara, kauri) on the north side of the visitor centre. See previous observation notes and iNaturalistNZ link

Agaricus sp. – a mushroom [photo Geoff Ridley]

Stropharia sp. Hebeloma victoriensis – This was growing in the native conifer grove (rimu, totara and kauri) on the northside of the visitors centre. It’s tan to yellowish colour has made me doubtful about the identification. But it clearly has a pinkish/brown spore print and robust ring on the stipe which puts it in Hebeloma. Note: since writing this I have discussed what this might be and we have come to the conclusion that it sits close to Stropharia and is an undescribed species. iNaturalistNZ link

Hebeloma victoriensis [photo Geoff Ridley]

Hebeloma victoriensis – spore print [photo Geoff Ridley]

Amanita sp. [Noddy’s flycap or Gandalf’s flycap] – This is Amanita (Saproamanita) 2 Ridley. It was growing in the mulched native plant garden below the Cockayne Lookout. All the other collections from Otari have been in the native forest. The notable thing about this species is when you handle it the powdery volva remnants on the cap and stipe stick to your hands and to the paper you wrap it in for transport. You can see bits of it, from the cap margin, forming a ring around the white spore print. It’s also noticeable in the soil when digging the fruitbody up. iNaturalistNZ link 

Amanita sp. – Noddy’s flycap or Gandalf’s flycap [photo Geoff Ridley]

Amanita sp. – Noddy’s flycap or Gandalf’s flycap – spore print [photo Geoff Ridley]

May Foray

Fungal pontification [photo Peter Torr Smith]

Our second foray for 2019 found similar set of fungi. May has been quite dry so there was not a lot to found.

Amanita nothofagi [charcoal flycap] – Growing under black beech (Nothofagus solandri) which is not native to this site. We found a single desiccated and insect damaged fruitbody. iNaturalistNZ link

Amanita nothofagi – charcoal; flycap [photo Geoff Ridley]

Cortinarius sp. [a webcap] – Growing under black beech (Nothofagus solandri). A number of shiny, dark purple, immature fruitbodies, turning brown. Stipe and gills purple. iNaturalistNZ link

Cortinarius sp. – webcap [photo Geoff Ridley]

Cortinarius sp. – webcap [photo Geoff Ridley]

Agaricus sp. [a mushroom] – Growing on the edge of a gravel path under totara (Podocarpus totara). iNaturalistNZ link

Agaricus sp. – a mushroom [photo Geoff Ridley]

Agaricus sp. – a mushroom [photo Geoff Ridley]

Coprinellus micaceus [crumble inkcap] – Growing at the base of a living kowhai (Sophora sp.) It will be growing on dead wood or dead roots of the kowhai. iNaturalistNZ link

Coprinellus micaceus – crumble inkcap [photo Geoff Ridley]

Leratiomyces ceres [scarlet roundhead] – Growing on wood mulch in garden. This specimen was very desiccated. iNaturalistNZ link

Leratiomyces ceres – scarlet roundhead [photo Geoff Ridley]

Lycoperdon perlatum [a puffball] – Growing on wood mulch on the seep line at the base of a retaining wall. iNaturalistNZ link

Lycoperdon perlatum – puffball [photo Geoff Ridley]

Stropharia sp. [a roundhead] – Growing on wood mulch in a garden with podocarp species and kauri. This was fruiting in the same spot a month ago. See the discussion in the April walk. Initially I speculated it was Hebeloma victoriensis however, discussions with my colleague Jerry Cooper has brought me to an undescribed species of Stropharia. The ever-changing world of fungal taxonomy. iNaturalistNZ link

Stropharia sp. – roundhead [photo Geoff Ridley]

Lacrymaria asperospora [weeping widow] – Growing on the ground in leaf litter in the Fernery under broadleaf / podocarp forest. iNaturalistNZ link

Lacrymaria asperospora – weeping widow [photo Geoff Ridley

Armillaria novae-zelandiae [olive honeycap] – Growing on the dead stumps, fall tree trunks, untreated wood used to form step risers, and garden edges in the Fernery under broadleaf / podocarp forest. iNaturalistNZ link

Armillaria novae-zelandiae – olive honeycap [photo Geoff Ridley]

Coprinellus disseminatus [sociable inkcap] – Growing on a large piece of untreated wood along with Armillaria novae-zelandiae in the Fernery under broadleaf / podocarp forest. iNaturalistNZ link

Coprinellus disseminatus – sociable inkcap with olive honeycap [photo Geoff Ridley]

Lentinellus novae-zelandiae [bush shiitake] – Growing on a fallen hard wood trunk just behind the carpark. Bush shiitake has been fruiting on this log annually for the last 12 years. iNaturalistNZ link

Lentinellus novae-zelandiae – bush shiitake [photo Geoff Ridley]

Clitocybe nebularis [clouded funnelcap] – Growing in leaf litter in broadleaf podocarp forest on the Waterfall track below the Fernery. iNaturalistNZ link 

Clitocybe nebularis – clouded funnelcap [photo Geoff Ridley]

Clitocybe nebularis – clouded funnelcap [photo Geoff Ridley]


Ten Thousand and One e-photos

From the back of the cupboard [photo Geoff Ridley]

Not that long ago you would have a dedicated photographic device, a camera, of varying sophistication. You would then capture your image on 35mm film, either print or slide film, that came in rolls of 24 or 36 shots. When you had finished your roll of film, often at the most inconvenient time and place, and hopefully with another spare roll in your bag, off it would go for processing and printing. Film, processing, and printing cost money so you tried to be spare in the number of shots you took of each new find. With the added complication of not knowing if the shot had worked until the prints or slides came back from the shop. Then there was the housing of the prints, negatives, and slides. Albums for the best prints, negatives and not so good prints into shoe boxes at the back of a cupboard. At least slides came in there only little plastic boxes, or you could invest in big metal slide boxes or even plastic sleeves to hang in filing cabinets. Many of us still have big plastic storage box of photos and slides we are now desperately trying to digitise.

Smart phones to the rescue?

[graphic from]

Miraculously, smart phones with inbuilt cameras arrived and practically killed the camera and film industry in a single blow. And with each generation of smart phones the cameras get better and better. Suddenly we can take multiple photos of a single specimen to get the one we need. I just cleared 550 photos off my phone taken over the last eight months and I’m conservative in what I take. I saw an estimate that by the end of 2017 world-wide we will have stored 4.7 trillion photos! (Just to be cynical most of them probably aren’t worth keeping e.g. cute cat photos and pictures of food that’s about to be eaten.) So, it’s time that I got on top of my fungi photos.

Last year I blogged about how I take photos of fungi. The main purpose of taking them is for research, developing local species lists and for illustrating this blog and other presentations that I do. However, I just store them on a hard drive with folders for each year and subfolders for the day the photos were taken. To find something I am reliant on what I have recorded in my blog or my memory. Not an optimal retrieval system for me personally, the material is not available to anyone else (unless I blogged it), and certainly not in a good state to pass on to the next generation.

My photo archive

An epiphany

During the Wellington Botanic Garden BioBlitz I had an epiphany. Tim Park was talking about how he used iNaturalist NZ (formally NatureWatch NZ) to store his photos. He uploaded his photos  recording time, place and any other details he wanted to include. Here they were available to anyone else to look at, comment on, and use within the limits of the copy right that Tim had assigned. As well as being available for the core purpose of iNaturalist NZ:

“iNaturalist NZ is a place where you can share what you see in nature, set up citizen science and community-based monitoring projects, meet other nature watchers, and learn about New Zealand’s natural history.”

So back to me. I joined up to iNaturalist NZ back in May 2013. I have made several attempts to get into it but it frustrated me and just made me cross for various reasons. But now I can see a use for it and I have put up all my photo based observation for 2019 and will continue to do so. Whether or not I will get all my stored photos up is another question.

My observations

To make it work for me, reducing my frustration considerably, I only look at two views regularly. The first is my own observations so, essentially the photos and associated information I am storing. The second is for fungi (specifically “Basidiomycota”) in my area (“Wellington, New Zealand”) and this lets me see what is happening in the Wellington region. If I want to know what records of a specific species are held in iNaturalist I would substitute Basidiomycota with the species name and the region with “New Zealand”. There are other ways of searching but these meet most of my needs.

Fungi of the Wellington Region

How to do it

So, as an example I have taken ten photos of a mushroom. Four of these were taken in the field and six at home to illustrate the mushrooms full morphology. The first thing I do is go through the photos and delete those that are badly lit or are out of focus (don’t keep them for just in case – chuck them). Generally, that leaves me with about four photos. It’s important to remember that your smart phone includes metadata in each photo. Specifically, the date and time the photo was taken, and the location as a latitude and longitude. So, when you upload the first photo in a new observation iNaturalist NZ will read this data and create a map. It’s important that you load the field photo first not those you took somewhere else or the map might show your back bedroom as the collection site rather than the piece of bush you were in.

Editing the observation

It’s also important to fill in the comments field. This should at a minimum include details of the vegetation in which you found the fungus. This might simple be “under silver birch”. If you don’t know what the vegetation is try and include some leaves of the dominant plant in your photo. Include also broad habitat description e.g. lawn, playing field, mulched garden, native bush, beech forest, broadleaf forest, pine plantation etc. Go look at my observations at

How the world sees your observation

Now go join, and start uploading. For those in New Zealand go to , for those outside New Zealand go to 

If you have any questions email me. There is also a phone app which you might find useful but I dislike.


Here’s How Many Digital Photos Will Be Taken in 2017. 02.12.2016