I was in Hamilton on Wednesday at the Ruakura Research Centre and saw these common-basket stinkhorns growing in the mulched garden directly outside the meeting room.The name of both stinkhorn and basket are something of a contradiction – it’s either a basket shaped or horn shaped! I have included below an evolutionary tree, no doubt hopelessly out of date due to more modern molecular techniques but still useful in seeing the morphological trends in the stinckhorns. The common-basket stinkhorn can be found on bush track edges and in undisturbed parts of gardens especially where there has been mulch applied, and usually appears after heavy warm rains. It is amazing how quickly it comes up then disappears, and for this reason, I think, that it is so seldom seen or noticed. If you examine the basket closely you will find it coated in brown slime; this is the spore mass. If you do get this close you will also discover it smells quite revolting. This attracts flies and other insects which become coated in slime and aid the distribution of the spores. All in all an incredible fungus and always an exciting find. So far this year I have only seen common-basket stinkhorn in the Bolton Street Memorial Park and I was texted a photo, Carol Lee, of it on from the Polhill Reserve above Aro Valley.
Walking through the Wellington Botanic Garden today I found smoker’s-lung milkcap [Lactaris turpis] growing under silver birch [Betula pendula] between the Mamaku Way track and Glenmore Rd.Smoker’s-lung milkcap is recognised by it dark motley cap and is sometimes known as the ugly milkcap. I have only collected this once before from under silver birch in Dunedin.
I am only a where of two other collections of smoker’s-lung milkcap from Wellington city. These where identified by Greta Stevenson from the Botanic Garden in April 1979 and from Kelburn Park in May 1980.
As a milkcap is should bleed white sap when cut but these specimens are old and a little dehydrated.
The other test for this species is to put a drop of ammonia solution on the cap which immediately goes brilliant purple. I also tried it on the stem and on the cut flesh of the cap and got a good purple reaction. In the picture below soaked the ammonia solution up with the paper towel and you can see the almost blue black colour it has gone.You can read about other species that occur under silver birch here
Walking home this afternoon I saw this group of scarlet pouches [Leratiomyces erythrocephalus = Weraroa erythocephala] in on the edge of the Early Settles Memorial Lawn in the Bolton Street Memorial Park. This area has an over storey of exotic pines abd oaks with regenerating native bush amongst the graves and has also been mulched with wood chip. From the path you look down an amphithestre of stone stone steps to the lawn. The scarlet pouches looked like Jaffas that have tumbled down the tiered flooring in a picture theatre.
Jaffas are a kiwi iconic candy and only found here in New Zealand (and also Australia, but shhh). They were around long ago, and if you ask some of the ‘older’ generation they will tell you stories of rolling jaffa’s down the picture theatre (cinema) aisle as a child. That means they must be at least 50 years old! We hold these Jaffa’s with such prestige that as part of the Cadbury chocolate festival, we race jaffas down the steepest street in the world [in Dunedin] – just to make a statement. The jaffa is made from delectable dark chocolate covered in an orange flavoured candy shell. [from NZsnowtours]Read more about Leratiomyces here
Back in 1971 Egon Horak wrote:
During our collecting trips in New Zealand, we collected on two occasions a species closely related to L. velutina … In both cases the fungus grew along roadsides. The … unresolved problem is whether the fungus is introduced or indigenous.
Then in 1981 Marie Taylor included Lacrymaria velutina in her book of New Zealand fungi. She said that they could be found growing in rich pasture or waste ground.
When you look at the European literature and websites two names generally appear – Lacrymaria velutina and Lacrymaria lacrymabunda. They are now considered to be the same species and the preferred name is Lacrymaria lacrymabunda.
My first encounter with Lacrymaria was in Dunedin in 1989 with one collection from a lawn in Ravensbourne and the other from my garden in Mornington. Using Marie’s book identified them as Lacrymaria velutina.I didn’t really look at them again until 2013 when I found them at Otari Wilton’s bush, then again this year and included them in my blog. The 2013 collection was from the New Zealand native plant garden which is heavily mulched with wood chip. The second, 2015, was in native bush that has been under planted with more native species and is more lightly mulched. Both sites are within a hundred metres of each other and are peri-urban being within 50 metres of urban housing. I am not aware that any collections have been made within more intact native forest. Jerry Cooper has suggested that because they are quite shaggy they might be the Australian species Lacrymaria asperospora. Again this is a species I do not know but Roy Watling looked at it in 1979 and said:
Macroscopically the caespitose [growing in clumps or tufts] habit, Jong stipe and greyer hues of the pileus [cap], and the habitat preference of growing on or close to wood distinguish L. asperospora [from Lacrymaria lacrymabunda]. Present observations show strikingly large size and robustness as features of this species, but perhaps a more representative range of collections is really needed to establish these characters.
Neale Bouger and Katrina Syme give the habitat of Lacrymaria asperospora as wet forest tracks, dump sites, roadsides, and Genevieve Gates and David Ratkowsky say often along roadsides and in other disturbed places.
In the last month I have also received photos from an urban garden, not far from Otari-Wilton Bush, of a Lacrymaria which I have suggested is Lacrymaria lacrymabunda, however it struck me as very shaggy and pale in colour for this species.So is our weeping widow Lacrymaria lacrymabunda or Lacrymaria asperospora? I’ll let you know when I find out.
Bougher NL, Syme K 1998. Fungi of southern Australia. University of Western Australia Press.
Gate G, Ratkowsky D 2014. A field guide to Tasmanian fungi. Tasmanian Field Naturalist Club
Taylor GM 1981. Mushrooms and toadstools. AH and AW Reed, Wellington
Watling R 1979. Studies in the genera Lacrymaria and Panaeolus. Notes from the Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh 37: 369-379
Back in 2004 I wrote a paper on why English language names for larger fungi were useful, note not common names, and suggested a systematic way in which to form them. In the paper I also created names, using this system, for all of the mushrooms in Marie Taylor’s book Mushrooms and toadstool of New Zealand.When Don Horne and I wrote the Mushrooms and other fungi of New Zealand I used the names already developed in the 2004 paper as well as created new ones for those not dealt with in that paper. One of these names was the bald webcap for an unnamed Cortinarius species. This was derived from the thatch of course fibrils which covered the young mushroom cap but were then progressively lost as the cap became increasingly bald. To my knowledge this Cortinarius remained formally undescribed and unnamed, i.e. no Latin binomial.
Recently Steve Reekie wrote to me suggesting that the balding webcap might be Cortinarius rhipiduranus published in 2008, two years after our book. Steve’s beautiful photos can be found here [single, group].
The rhipiduranus is in reference to the colouring of the mushroom being reminecent of the colouring of the tīwaiwaka or fantail [Rhipidura fuliginosa]; fanciful connection without being useful as an aid to identification.
Steve’s mushrooms do look like the same one as Don and I called the balding webcap but whether or not they both represent Cortinarius rhipiduranus still needs to be determined.
Gasparini B, Soop K 2008. Contribution to the knowledge of Cortinarius [Agaricales, Cortinariaceae] of Tasmania (Australia) and New Zealand. Australasian Mycologist 27(3): 173-203. Link here
Ridley GS 2004. A system for the development of English language names for agarics and boletes in New Zealand (and Australia?). Australasian Mycologist 23(1): 27–30. Link here
Taylor GM 1981. Mushrooms and toadstools. AH and AW Reed, Wellington.
In 1989 Rachel and I moved to Dunedin where I was to lecture in the Botany Department at the University of Otago. Here I met the retired former Professor of Botany Geoff Baylis for the first time. He generously let me use a bedsit at his George St house while we house hunted. This was one of two huge old houses Geoff owned and Alan Mark wrote in his biography of Geoff:
Rachel and I, along with our just beginning to walk son Nathaniel, were invited to dinner at ‘Threave’. A lasting memory is walking into the two storied vestibule of Threave with its massive wooded staircase and think our modest two bedroom bungalow would easily sit in this space. Geoff’s apartment was on the second floor and included the second floor of the two storied turret that dominated the south-west corner of the building and gave sweeping views across South Dunedin to the ocean. Here in the turret he plied us with pink gins. The dinner was ham, salad and boiled potatoes and Rachel saying later it was a real bachelor’s dinner – something he did well and often. Geoff had dabbled in mycology his whole career and had hosted Egon Horak on one of his many trips to New Zealand to collect mushrooms. In a booklet created for the mycologist Barbara Segedin on her retirement from the University of Auckland Geoff contributed this:
Geoff had many close friends and was renowned for his frequent hosting of parties. These were mostly at his spacious flat in the Victorian mansion, ‘Threave’, at 367 High St, originally designed (by famous architect R. A. Lawson) as a retirement home for early Central Otago run-holder Watson Shennan. He later bought, restored and maintained the several flats in this spacious house to a very high standard. Being an admirer of stately homes, he later also acquired and restored another at 521 George St, with its impressive garden fronting Dunedin’s main street. Geoff spent many of his outdoor hours in Dunedin, relaxing and engrossed, tending the gardens of both properties, with their remarkable range of native and exotic plants. Many of Geoff’s parties were preceded by garden tours, often at the guests’request. His house restoration efforts were duly recognised with an Historic Places award in 1979.
Geoff’s pouch [Nivatogastrium baylisianum] has been an elusive species but recently has been recollected from the original collecting site in the Rock and Pillar Range in Otago [collected by Kathy Warburton and identified by Jerry Cooper]. No doubt there will be a name change as the molecular data unravels the true relationships of the pouch fungi [see my blog Pouch, secotioid, or sequestrate? and The scarlet roundhead]. There are four species in the genus Nivatogastrium. The type species Nivatogastrium nubigenum was described from North America whereas the other three species, including Nivatogastrium baylisianum, are all from New Zealand. Nivatogastrium nubigenum is closely related to the mushroom genus Pholiota and Jerry Cooper’s preliminary work suggests that Nivatogastrium baylisianum is closer to the mushroom genus Deconica. I’ll let you know the outcome.
The cap must fit
When Egon and Marianne Horak were collecting in Otago they stayed with me, I showed Egon a little gasteromycete from tussock grassland for which I could find no name.
It duly became Nivatogastrium baylisianum.
On a class excursion I saw one and could not resist saying “That little fungus is named after me.” One of the girls was obviously puzzled but her frown cleared when she compared the little tan-coloured dome in the grass with my sunburnt bald head, “I can see the resemblance” she said.
Horak E. 1971. Contributions to the Knowledge of the Agaricales s.l. (Fungi) of New Zealand. New Zealand Journal of Botany 9: 463-93. Link here
Mark A 2004. Geoffrey Thomas Sandford Baylis. 2004 Academy Yearbook, Academy of the Royal Society of New Zealand. Link here
Nature Watch New Zealand 2015. Discovery: critically rare fungus rediscovered. Link here
“You’re not in Guatemala now Dr Ropata” is surely the most famous line in New Zealand television history. Even those who never saw this or any other episode of Shortland Street they will recognise the quote.
I found myself not in Guatemala last week when I was contacted by Ruben Solares with an identification question. He sent me a link to pictures of fungal fruit bodies he had collected from under oaks [Quercus].The collections from previous years showed bright blue colour when the flesh was cut and the large fleshy fruitbodies suggested a bolete. The lack of blueing this year is not significant as I have often found the reaction not consistently reliable. I have no personal experience of the fungi of Central America but flicking through the limited literature that I have I felt Ruben’s find was reminiscent of Luis Gómez’s 1996 illustration of Pulveroboletus ravenellii. Again my feeling is that this is a malformed bolete rather than something typical.
Ruben tells me that normal fruit bodies of Pulveroboletus ravenellii also occur in this area (link here).
I contacted Roy Halling at the New York Botanical Garden as he has expert knowledge of Central American boletes. His response was that this looked like a “deformed, aborted bolete”. Like all species in nature there will always be individuals that for one reason or another cannot reproduce and this is as true for fungi as it is for any other groups of organisms. Using classical morphological methods will not work in the case of malformed fruit bodies as the characteristics that are needed do not form. This is probably a case where molecular techniques might solve the puzzle of what species it is.
Gómez PLD 1996. Basidiomicetes de Costa Rica: Xerocomus, Chalciporus, Pulveroboletus, Boletellus, Xanthoconium (Agaricales: Boletaceae). Revista de Biologia Tropica 44 (Supplement 4): 59-89.
PS The parasitic fungus Hypomyces (apicocrea) chrysospermus on a bolete. (link here)