Let’s go to Red Rocks

The El Niño/ drought continues in Wellington so there isn’t much in the way of larger fungi to see. The family went to Red Rocks (Wellington South coast) on Boxing Day (26 December 2015). The only fungi here are the lichenised ones.

Looking towards Red Rocks, Cook Strait, and the South Island in the distance [photo Geoff Ridley]

Looking towards Red Rocks, Cook Strait, and the South Island in the distance [photo Geoff Ridley]

It’s all Greek

The boulders at the high tide mark had a patchwork of orange lichen [Xanthoria ligulata]. This species can be found on rocks all round coastal New Zealand and can obviously tolerate being inundated by salt water during storms.

Xanthoria ligulata at Red Rocks [photo Geoff Ridley]

Xanthoria ligulata at Red Rocks [photo Geoff Ridley]

The name Xanthoria comes from the Greek word xanthos or yellow and refers to their yellow to orange colour [from Marie Taylor, 2002: Meanings and origins of botanical names of New Zealand plants].

Why are they red?

A walk to Red Rocks is one of those things that Wellingtonians have been doing for generations. Why are the rocks red? From the Wellington City Council website “This unusual rock formation was created when an outcrop of ancient volcanic pillow lava was embedded in younger greywacke, along with red and green siltstone. The Red Rocks Scientific Reserve was created in 1972 after growing public concern about quarrying in the area.”

Red Rocks, Wellington south coast [photo Geoff Ridley]

Red Rocks, Wellington south coast [photo Geoff Ridley]


One with the Earth

Lichenmobile

Ruakura in Hamilton [photo Geoff Ridley]

Toyota Caldina, Ruakura, Hamilton [photo Geoff Ridley]

I saw this car in the car park at Ruakura in Hamilton. It has an impressive number of lichens (a fungus + an alga) growing on the paintwork and plastic surfaces. I am not an expert in lichens but these are probably s species of Parmelia.

The Encyclopedia of New Zealand has a section on lichens on abandoned cars! It says:

Lichens can thrive on many different surfaces. The surfaces they naturally grow on are rock, soil, plants, other lichens, and sometimes the fur or shells of animals. Lichens also colonise man-made surfaces such as glass, metal, asphalt roads and plastic. This car has been abandoned on farmland near Kaikōura for a number of years, and is now covered in lichens.

[photo Simon Nathan]

Chrysler Valiant, Kaikoura [photo Simon Nathan]

The Hamilton car is the interesting because it is still being driven and the lichens need to be able to cope with an ever changing environment i.e. stationary to a 100km per hour on the open road.

The beginning of the end

Lichens are pioneer species which are the first to colonise a barren sites. They are the beginning of a succession of species that will create and build a new soil. These new soils will eventually support a more diverse range of plants, fungi and animals. In other words these lichens are begin the biological process of breaking the car down and returning it to the earth. All very Zen and Gaia if you are into that kind of thing.

Here are some more car further along the colonisation pathway:

Old car, Holden Commodore, Norsewood, Manawatu, New Zealand [phot Brian NZ]

Holden Commodore, Norsewood [photo Brian NZ on Flickr]

Old car, Jaguar XJ6, Norsewood, Manawatu, New Zealand [photo Brian NZ on Flickr]

Jaguar XJ6, Norsewood [photo Brian NZ on Flickr]

And eventually [photo ?]

A car wreckers somewhere in New Zealand [photo ?]

More pictures of abandoned cars in New Zealand.

Read more about lichen biology at the Landcare Research website.


A pustulent lump

Mystification

While walking the Highbury Fling track (18 November) Margaret Crimp and Anne Conwell came across this strange object growing on fallen pine tree (Pinus radiata). They said it was about 6 cm across with a membranous cover which had split open.

Enteridium lycoperdon (Reticularia lycoperdon) [photo Margaret Crimp]

Enteridium lycoperdon (Reticularia lycoperdon) [photo Margaret Crimp]

“We were mystified – wondered if it might be fungal. Have you any idea what it might be?”

My first reaction was it didn’t ‘look right’ for a fungus. It seemed too big and the membrane was too papery when compared to how wet the inside of it looked through the cracks. I was thinking slime mould but I hadn’t seen anything like it before.

Slime mould?

I did quick trawl of the internet and found this picture by Tony Wills of a similar thing again on pine and in Wellington. Tony’s caption of the photo said:

“Apparently some form of slime mold in the form of a white/cream lump ‘growing’ at the base of a Pinus radiata tree stump. Perhaps related to Fuligo septica, but always found in this domed form. 3 to 4cm diameter. Wellington, New Zealand.”

[photo Tony Wills]

[photo Tony Wills]

So searching the internet again came up with another slime mould Enteridium lycoperdon (Reticularia lycoperdon). Margaret and Anne’s slime mould is likely to be an immature fruit body of this species.

Living soup

Slime mould live as a plasmodium – like a living soup flowing through the soil eating bacteria, spores, and other organic material.

A slime mould plasmodium flowing through the leaf litter [photo Sarah Lloyd]

A slime mould plasmodium flowing through the leaf litter [photo Sarah Lloyd]

When the plasmodium is big enough and weather conditions suitable it ‘climbs’ to a high place where it coalesces into a solid, spherical body and begins to turn itself into a fruit body. This involves the out part forming a protective membrane. Meanwhile the inner tissue begin to form into spore. Eventually the inner tissue become a solid mass of dry powdery spore, the outer membrane ruptures and the spore blow away in the wind to start the cycle again.

The plasmodium photo is by Sarah Lloyd, an Australian with a passion for slime moulds.

 


The common-basket stinkhorn: Ileodictyon cibarium

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.

Almost a fairy ring of common-basket stickhorns [photo Geoff Ridley]

Almost a fairy ring of common-basket stinkhorns [photo Geoff Ridley]

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.

Morphological relationships in stinkhorns [from Mycologist ??]

Morphological relationships in stinkhorns [from Mycologist ??]

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.

Common-basket stinkhorns [photo Geoff Ridley]

Common-basket stinkhorns [photo Geoff Ridley]

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.

The common-basket stinkhorn: Ileodictyon cibarium [photo Geoff Ridley]

The common-basket stinkhorn: Ileodictyon cibarium [photo Geoff Ridley]

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.

Polhill Reserve [photo Carol Lee]

Polhill Reserve [photo Carol Lee]


Smoker’s-lung milkcap – Lactarius turpis

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 [photo Geoff Ridley]

Smoker’s-lung milkcap [photo Geoff Ridley]

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.

Purple staining with ammonia on the stem [photo Geoff Ridley]

Purple staining with ammonia on the stem [photo Geoff Ridley]

Purple staining of the cut flesh when a drop of ammonia is added [photo Geoff Ridley]

Purple staining of the cut flesh when a drop of ammonia is added [photo Geoff Ridley]

You can read about other species that occur under silver birch here


A tumble of scarlet pouches

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.

Early Settles Memorial Lawn [photo Geoff Ridley]

Early Settles Memorial Lawn [photo Geoff Ridley]

Scarlet pouches (photo Geoff Ridley]

Scarlet pouches (photo Geoff Ridley]

Scarlet pouches (photo Geoff Ridley]

Scarlet pouches (photo Geoff Ridley]

Scarlet pouches (photo Geoff Ridley]

Scarlet pouches (photo Geoff Ridley]

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]

The Cadbury Jaffa Race has been run down the worldÕs steepest street, Baldwin Street, in Dunedin, New Zealand, since 2002. It has raised more than $450,000 for local charities including Cure Kids, Canteen, Dunedin Kindergarten Association, The Malcam Charitable Trust, The Otago Community Hospice, primary schools throughout Otago and Southland and nationally through Parents Centre NZ Inc. [photo DunedinNZ.com]

The Cadbury Jaffa Race has been run down the world’s steepest street, Baldwin Street, in Dunedin, New Zealand, since 2002. It has raised more than $450,000 for local charities including Cure Kids, Canteen, Dunedin Kindergarten Association, The Malcam Charitable Trust, The Otago Community Hospice, primary schools throughout Otago and Southland and nationally through Parents Centre NZ Inc. [photo DunedinNZ.com]

Read more about Leratiomyces here

 


Who is the weeping widow?

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.

Lacrymaria, Mornington, Dunedin 1989 [photo Geoff Ridley]

Lacrymaria, Mornington, Dunedin 1989 [photo Geoff Ridley]

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.

Lacrymaria, Otari Wilton's Bush, 2013 [photo Geoff Ridley]

Lacrymaria, Otari Wilton’s Bush, 2013 [photo Geoff Ridley]

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Lacrymaria, Otari Wilton’s Bush, 2013 [photo Geoff Ridley]

Lacrymaria, Otari Wilton's Bush, 2015 [photo Geoff Ridley]

Lacrymaria, Otari Wilton’s Bush, 2015 [photo Geoff Ridley]

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.

Lacrymaria OM 1

Lacrymaria [photo Olwen Mason]

Lacrymaria [photo Olwen Mason]

Lacrymaria [photo Olwen Mason]

Lacrymaria [photo Olwen Mason]

Lacrymaria [photo Olwen Mason]

So is our weeping widow Lacrymaria lacrymabunda or Lacrymaria asperospora? I’ll let you know when I find out.

References

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


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