Sunday stroll at Otari

2016.05.15 Waterfall track

Waterfall track [photo Geoff Ridley]

Torrential rain over the last week or so has finally ended the dry spell on the Wellington peninsular. A walk around the upper part of Otari-Wilton’s Bush found a few old friends and some new finds.

Ruby helmet [Mycena viscidocruenta] – There were a few of these small red Mycena was growing on wood chips just below the Cockayne Lookout. Not a great photo.

2016.05.15 Mycena

Mycena viscidocruenta [photo Geoff Ridley]

Scarlet roundhead [Leratiomyces ceres = Stropharia aurantiaca] – There were a couple of good specimens and some very over mature ones as well on wood chips below the Cockayne Lookout. Read more about this species here.

2016.05.15 Stropharia 1

Leratiomyces ceres [photo Geoff Ridley]

2016.05.15 Stropharia 2

Leratiomyces ceres [photo Geoff Ridley]

The common scabbarb [Volvariella gloiocephalus]. This was also growing in the wood chip mulch in the gardens below the Cockayne Lookout.

2016.05.15 Volvariella

Volvariella gloiocephalus [photo Geoff Ridley]

The potted logger [Galerina nana]  – This was growing around a recently transplanted Chatham Island forget-me-not or kopakopa [Myosotidium hortensia]. It was growing from the edge of the potting mix surrounding the plant. I have only collected this species once before and that was growing on soil in a potted plant in Rotorua. This is a new species for Otari-Wilton’s Bush.

2016.05.15 Galerina

Galerina nana [photo Geoff Ridley]

Brown birdsnest [Crucibulum laeve] – Growing on wood chips in the Brockie Rock Garden.

2016.05.15 birdsnest

Crucibulum laeve [photo Geoff Ridley]

A Panaeolina possibly Panaeolina foeniseci ? –  This was growing through a divaricating Coprosma with a small low growing herb in the Brockie Rock Garden. It had a hygrophanous cap and mottled gills and was up to 4-4.5cm in diameter.

2016.05.15 Paneolus 1

Panaeolina sp. [photo Geoff Ridley]

2016.05.15 Paneolus 2

Panaeolina sp. [photo Geoff Ridley]

Common dreamer [Psilocybe subaeruginosa] – commonly found growing on wood chips in urban areas, pine tree plantations and woody debris in forests and gardens.

2016.05.15 Paneolus 3

Psilocybe subaeruginosa [photo Geoff Ridley]

Sulphur pinkgill [Entoloma sulphureum]  – This was growing in the wood chips under the kauri and rimu by the information centre. There was only one fruitbody and it was past its best.

2016.05.15 Entoloma

Entoloma sulphureum [photo Geoff Ridley]

Orange poreconch [Favolaschia calocera] – Growing on log used to edge garden in the Fernery below the Kauri Lawn. Read more about this species here.

2016.05.15 Favolaschia

Favolaschia calocera [photo Geoff Ridley]

Brown-umbrella inkcap [Parasola leiocephala] – This was growing on wood chips in the Fernery below the Kauri Lawn and in the Brockie Rock Garden. The crinkly appearance is a result of drying out due to a strong northerly wind.

2016.05.15 Coprinus

Parasola leiocephala [photo Geoff Ridley]

Sociable inkcap [Coprinellus disseminatus] – Growing on log used to edge garden in the Fernery below the Kauri Lawn.

2016.05.15 Coprinus 2

Coprinellus disseminatus [photo Geoff Ridley]

Wood-ear jelly [Auricularia cornea] – Growing on log used to edge garden in the Fernery below the Kauri Lawn. Read more about this species here.

2016.05.15 Auricularia

Auricularia cornea [photo Geoff Ridley]

A little gilled conch with dark brown spores [Melanotus sp.]. Growing on a fallen branch in the Fernery. It looks similar to the one seen at Zealandia a few weeks ago

2016.05.15 Melanotus

Melanotus sp. [photo Geoff Ridley]

Native shitake [Lentinellus novae-zelandiae] – This species fruits routinely on a number of logs in the bush between the Fernery and the car park.

2016.05.15 Lentinus

Lentinellus novae-zelandiae [photo Geoff Ridley]

A helmet [Mycena sp.] – This little Mycena was growing on very rotten wood on the Waterfall track.

2016.05.15 Mycena 2

Mycena sp. [Geoff Ridley]

Mycena sp. [Geoff Ridley]

Mycena sp. [Geoff Ridley]


Moreen Naidu

I’m writing this blog to because of the collision of a woman, Moreen Naidu, her family and a fungus – Schizophyllum commune [split-gill].

Moreen Naidu’s body has been aggressively colonized by Schizophyllum commune. And it is a battle she is not going to win. I encourage you to read Deidre Mussen’s story about Moreen and her family.

What is Schizophyllum commune?

Schizophyllum commune is a very common wood decay fungus that occurs all around the world. It is also very common around New Zealand and I have often reported it, in this blog, from Otari-Wilton’s Bush.

Schizophyllum commune (Photo Don Horne)

Schizophyllum commune (Photo Don Horne)

Peruvian sleepers

Back in 2012 I wrote about the importation of the six million railway sleepers for use in the New Zealand rail network of which 7000 (0.12%) were decaying. These sleepers had come from Peru and the decay was first thought to be caused by Schizophyllum commune. It is a common fungus on wood and frequently intercepted at the ports on imported pallets, packing cases and dunnage.

In itself Schizophyllum commune was not of concern at the time but testing showed the presence of at least two other species not known to occur in New Zealand.

Mesophile

Again in 2012 I wrote about the temperature requirements of fungi. Some fungi that do not grow at either low temperatures or at high temperatures above 45°C are known as mesophiles. Their optimum growth is usually between 25° and 37°C.

These contrast with thermophiles that can grow at high temperatures (45°C to 75°C) with an optimum between 55°C and 65°C and little growth below 40°C. True thermophiles are unable to grow at temperatures below 20°C.

Amongst the mesophiles there are species which border being thermophiles and can live in the higher temperatures of decomposing compost and hay bales. Schizophyllum commune is one of these and is routinely reported growing from decomposing, plastic wrapped hay bales. Below is a temperature graph for Schizophyllum commume with an optimum growing temperature in the mid 30s.

Temp graph

As a human pathogen

The first report of Schizophyllum commune as a human pathogen was in 1950. This does not mean that it was new pathogen but probably it simply hadn’t been recognised as such until then. Anuradha Chowdhary and her colleagues reviewed the 71 known cases in 2012. Of these 45 cases were infections of the air passages and lungs, 22 where of the sinuses, and 4 had other infection sites such as the brain. This suggests that the fungus gains entry to the human body from inhaled spores.

Cases of infection have been reported from Japan (33 cases), Iran (7), US (6), and 1-4 cases from 12 other countries including one each from New Zealand and Australia. The large number of cases in Japan probably represents a better awareness of the disease in that country rather than any other factor.

Why some people are susceptible to colonisation by the fungus is not known. Some of those affected are immunocompromised but this is not consistent.

Shizophyllum commune culture [from Swain, Panigrahy, and Panigrahi, 2011]

Shizophyllum commune culture [from Swain, Panigrahy, and Panigrahi, 2011]

Your health and safety

While it is not possible to avoid inhaling fungal spores, because they are everywhere, it is important to try an avoid inhaling clouds of spores liberated from actively decomposing organic matter. For instance the advice given by Workplace New Zealand for those working with soil, compost and potting mix [to avoid Legionnaire’s disease] is applicable to any material that is being actively decomposed by fungi. Workplace New Zealand’s advice is:

  • Store bags of potting mix out of direct sunlight. When stored in the sunlight, the temperature inside the bags can range from 20-40˚C, making it ideal for Legionella bacteria to grow [as well as fungi].
  • Water gardens and composts gently, using a low-pressure hose.
  • Open bags of composted potting mix slowly, directing the opening away from your face.
  • When potting plants, wet the soil to reduce dust.
  • Wear gloves when handling soil, compost or potting mix.
  • When working in greenhouses, potting sheds or indoors, make sure that the working area is well ventilated.
  • Wash your hands carefully after handling soil.
  • If these precautions aren’t practicable, think about wearing a disposable particulate respirator (not a nuisance dust mask). When worn properly, the double-strap type with nose clip (for secure face fit) should give good protection.

Further Reading

Chowdhary A, Randhawa HS, Gaur SN, Agarwal K, Kathuria S, Roy P, Klaassen CH, Meis JF 2012. Schizophyllum commune as an emerging fungal pathogen: a review and report of two cases. Mycoses 1-10, doi:10.1111/j.1439-0507.2012.02190.x

Mussen D 2016. Wellington mother of three terminally ill from rare wood fungus infection. 12 May 2016. Stuff.co.nz

Swain B, Panigrahy R, Panigrahi D. 2011. Schizophyllum commune sinusitis in an immunocompetent host. Indian Journal of Medical Microbiology 29: 439-442

Workplace New Zealand 2014. Legionnaire’s disease: What you should know if you work with soil, compost and potting mix. Information and Guidance

 

 


The lost world

When I worked as a mycologist at Forest Research, in Rotorua, a part of the campus, the Long Mile, was rented to a film crew. They were making a television version of Arthur Conan Doyle’s Lost World and were filming in the Red Wood Grove, in the town belt, behind Forest Research.

When it finally screened, it was exciting to watch explorers’ first encounter with dinosaurs in Rotorua’s grove of North American redwoods with their understory of native ferns. However, biological and geographic credibility flew out the window as the explorers ran out of the redwoods on to the shore of a South Island lake surround by kahikatea! Another illusion destroyed.

Still from the Lost World (2001)

Rotorua’s red woods in the Lost World (2001)

I had also read that Doyle’s lost plateau in South America had features that corresponded to those in his home county of Sussex. Seeing the map of Zealandia sanctuary reminded me of that lost plateau.

2016.05.10 Zealandia

The lost world of Zealandia

I was invited to help with Zealandia’s bioblitz school holiday programme at the end of April. I haven’t collected in Zealandia before and wasn’t expecting to find much this time because of the very dry weather we had been experiencing. However with the help of the kids  we found quite a few fungi.

Karori reservoir [photo Geoff Ridley]r

The old Karori reservoir [photo Geoff Ridley]

The beginning of the hunt [photo Geoff Ridley]

The beginning of the hunt [photo Geoff Ridley]

Our first find was the wood-ear jelly [Auricularia cornea] on a dead branch. The fruit bodies are very shriveled due to the dry conditions but will revive when they are made wet rain.

Auricularia cornea [photo Geoff Ridley]

Auricularia cornea [photo Geoff Ridley]

This little parasol mushroom, about 5 cm across the cap, is somewhere around Leucoagaricus rubrotinctus.

Leucoargaricus rubrotinctus ? [photo Geoff Ridley]

Leucoargaricus rubrotinctus ? [photo Geoff Ridley]

Leucoargaricus rubrotinctus ? [photo Geoff Ridley]

Leucoargaricus rubrotinctus ? [photo Geoff Ridley]

Growing on a well rotted standing trunk was a leather bracket of Cyclomyces tabacinus.

Cyclomyces tabacinus [photo Geoff Ridley]

Cyclomyces tabacinus [photo Geoff Ridley]

These little mushroom, up to about 4 com across the cap, where pinkish brown and slimy, with white gills that did not reach the stem. I want to say a Limacella?

Limacella ? [photo Geoff Ridley]

Limacella ? [photo Geoff Ridley]

Limacella ? [photo Geoff Ridley]

Limacella ? [photo Geoff Ridley]

 A group of small mushrooms, .05 – 1 cm diameter, growing on a standing dead tree. They were fawn in colour with purplish gills.

 ? [photo Geoff Ridley]

? [photo Geoff Ridley]

Zealandia started life as land that had been cleared and burnt for farmland, then became Wellingtons water catchment areas with the building of Karori Reservoir. The catchment area was replanted in a mixture of trees including exotic Pinus radiata. A number of well rotted pines now litter the floor of the regenerating bush. This plum woodknight [Tricholomopsis rutilans] was growing from a rotten pine stump. It is almost always fond on rotting pine wood.

Tricholomopsis rutilans [photo Geoff Ridley]

Tricholomopsis rutilans [photo Geoff Ridley]

This is a typical mushroom [Agaricus sp.] with its fibrous to scaly cap, prominent ring on the stem, and its dark brown gills.

Agaricus sp. [photo Geoff Ridley]

Agaricus sp. [photo Geoff Ridley]

Agaricus sp. [photo Geoff Ridley]

Agaricus sp. [photo Geoff Ridley]

Growing close to the Agaricus were clusters of black birdsnests [Cyathus novaezelandiae]

Crucibulum striatus [photo Geoff Ridley]

Crucibulum striatus [photo Geoff Ridley]

 These are fruit bodies of dead man’s fingers (Xylaria sp.] on a standing dead tree.

2016.05.10 Xylaria

Xylaria sp. [photo Geoff Ridley]

 This little, about 1 cm diameter, yellow fruit body was in deep wood dust / frass inside a very rotten log. It is a parasol and possibly a Leucocoprinus sp.

Leucocoprinus sp. [photo Geoff Ridley]

Leucocoprinus sp. [photo Geoff Ridley]

 Growing in the litter were a group of Cloudy funnelcap [Clitocybe nebularis]. The large fruit bodies were about 6-7 cm in diameter.

Clitocybe nebularis [photo Geoff Ridley]

Clitocybe nebularis [photo Geoff Ridley]

 Another parasol [Lepiota sp.]

Lepiota sp. [photo Geoff Ridley]

Lepiota sp. [photo Geoff Ridley]

 An artist’s porebracket [Ganoderma applanatum]growing from the trunk of a living red beech [Nothofagus fusca]. Southern beech is not native to the Wellingtom peninsula and this tree would have been an experimental planting by the catchment board.

Ganoderma applanatum [photo Geoff Ridley]

Ganoderma applanatum [photo Geoff Ridley]

 Note the pinkish brown spores all over the horizonatl surfaces both below and above the bracket.

Ganoderma applanatum [photo Geoff Ridley]

Ganoderma applanatum [photo Geoff Ridley]

 A little gilled conch with dark brown spores [Melanotus sp.]. There were lots of these growing from very wet rotten branches used to line the edge of an open drain.

Melanotus sp. [photo Geoff Ridley]

Melanotus sp. [photo Geoff Ridley]

The forest and kids [photo Geoff Ridley]

The forest and kids [photo Geoff Ridley]

Further reading

Darren Naish, 2015. Piltdown man came from The Lost World … Well, no, it didn’t. Scientific American blog.


Little pig, little pig, let me come in

 

‘Little pig, little pig, let me come in.’ To which the pig answered:

‘No, no, by the hair of my chiny chin chin.’ The wolf then answered to that:

‘Then I’ll huff, and I’ll puff, and I’ll blow your house in.’

[From Three Little Pigs by L. Leslie Brooke, 1904]

[From Three Little Pigs by L. Leslie Brooke, 1904]

An Italian love of piglets

Antonio Carluccio says of Boletus edulis: The stem is bulky, even when the mushroom is small, which is why it has the name porcino, meaning ‘piglet’. The desire to eat porcino by foodies is much the same as the wolf’s desire to eat the little pigs.

Antonio goes on to say that funghi in Italy really means porcino, the king of all the edible mushrooms. … The ones two seek out are:

Boletus reticulatus: appearing from early May to June, then again from August to September, its name comes from rete, meaning ‘net’ because of the typical net-like pattern on the stem.

Boletus pinicola: in my opinion the best of the all porcini because of its dark chocolate-brown colour, it’s extremely meaty cap and solid stem. It appears from the end of summer through to autumn, in coniferous woods growing on common and red pines.

Boletus aureus: often confused with pinicola, this is equally delicious. It is the most common in the South, the best coming from Calabria, Sardinia and Campania, where the climate is warm and oak trees are abundant. The more intense red-brown colour of its cap differentiates if from other types of boletus.

Antonio Carluccio [photo John Reardon/Corbis]

Antonio Carluccio [photo John Reardon/Corbis]

Listen to Antonio talk about edible mushrooms here.

Confused by all the names so far?

Ian Hall and his colleagues wrote in 1998 that:

Some fungal taxonomist divide B. edulis into a number of sub-speciesn or separate species using the following names – B. aureus, B. aestivalis, B. edulis, B. pinicola, and B. reticulatus.

They say that B. edulis can be found under oak, birch, and elm trees around Christchurch in the South Island.

A porcini mushroom discovered early in the morning in Hagley Park [photo Ewan Sargent]

A porcini mushroom discovered early in the morning in Hagley Park [photo Ewan Sargent]

Read about the secret world of porcini hunting in Christchurch.

So what about the molecular data?

My Colleague Jerry Cooper has collected B. edulis from under oaks [Quercus robur, Quercus ilex], European beech [Fagus sylvatica], silver birch [Betula pendula], and Atlas cedar [Cedrus atlantica] in Christchurch. He compared them to collection of named collections of B. edulis, B. pinetorum, B. persoonii, B. betulicola, B. reticulatus from overseas. The analysis suggest that there is no correlation between the name given to the collections and the tree species with which it is associated and the New Zealand collections are scattered amongst all of the other overseas collections. So we either have lots of species or there is only one species with many names.

So why are you telling me this?

Well! Conor Burke-Govey sent me some pictures of a bolete he collected in the Wellington town belt in mid-April under the email title Did I find Boletus edulis in Wellington? I think he did. It also looks very much like the single fruitbody I collected in the Wellington Botanic Garden in mid-April 2014 under pines. Conor gave me a specimen to send to Jerry for comparison with the collections – I’ll let you know the outcome.

Boletus from under oak, Wellington [photo Conor Burke-Govey]

Boletus from under oak, Wellington [photo Conor Burke-Govey]

30 Botanic 2014.04.27

Boletus under pines [photo Geoff Ridley]

References

Antonio and Priscilla Carluccio 1999. The Carluccio’s collection: mushrooms and truffles. Quadrille, London. Page 58.

Cooper J, Park D, Leonard P 2013. Mycological notes 21: Sequencing the forays. Fungal Network of New Zealand.

Hall I, Buchanan PK, Yun W, Cole ALJ 1998. Edible and poisonous mushrooms: an introduction. New Zealand Institute for Crop and Food Research, Lincoln.


Otari-Wilton’s Bush Annual Foray, 24 April 2016

Wellington has been very dry in the weeks leading up to the Foray and despite the heavy down pour last night there is not a lot around.

Leratomyces ceres = Stropharia aurantiaca [scarlet roundhead]. A perennial find at Otari. Read more about Leratomyces ceres.

Leratomyces ceres [photo Geoff Ridley]

Leratomyces ceres [photo Geoff Ridley]

 Agaricus sp. [a mushroom] – Growing next to boardwalk, at the north end of the Visitor’s Centre, at the base of a rimu. We first recorded this at Otari during the 2013 Foray.

Agaricus sp. [photo Geoff Ridley]

Agaricus sp. [photo Geoff Ridley]

 Nidula candida [white birdsnest]. A common find on woodchip mulch around the gardens.

Nidula candida [photo Geoff Ridley]

Nidula candida [photo Geoff Ridley]

 Galerina sp [a helmet]. A small brown spored  mushroom growing on the woodchip mulched path in the fernery. Note the distinctive ring on the stem.

Galerina sp. [photo Geoff Ridley]

Galerina sp. [photo Geoff Ridley]

 Postia sp. [a woody bracket]. See comments on Postia in last weeks blog.

Postia sp. [photo Geoff Ridley]

Postia sp. [photo Geoff Ridley]

 Auricularia cornea [wood ear jelly]. A common wood decay fungus. Read more about the wood ear jelly.

Auricularia cornea [photo Geoff Ridley]

Auricularia cornea [photo Geoff Ridley]

 Favolaschia calocera [orange poreconch]. A common wood decay fungus at this time of the year.

Favolaschia calocera [photo Geoff Ridley]

Favolaschia calocera [photo Geoff Ridley]

 Hypholoma fasciculare [a woodtuft]. Another wood decay fungus which is also often found on woodchip. Here it was on a log edging the path in the fernery.

Hypholoma fasciculare [photo Geoff Ridley]

Hypholoma fasciculare [photo Geoff Ridley]

 Agrocybe parasitica [tree swordbelt]. A common heart rot fungus of living tawa. This particular tree produces two or three flushes of mushrooms each year. To see Agrocybe parasitica as unopen caps look at last weeks blog.

Agrocybe parasitica [photo Geoff Ridley]

Agrocybe parasitica [photo Geoff Ridley]

Also seen in the fernery were:


Back to Otari – Wilton’s Bush, 16 April 2016

Otari - Wilton's Bush [photo Geoff Ridley]

Otari – Wilton’s Bush [photo Geoff Ridley]

In preparation for the Fungal Foray at Otari Wilton’s Bush next weekend Rachel and I went and had a look to see what was fruiting. It has been a dry summer and autumn in Wellington so I wasn’t expecting to see much, so was surprised at what we did find.

Scarlet roundhead [Leratiomyces ceres = Stropharia aurantiaca]. A wood decay fungus growing on mulch in the gardens below the Cockayne lawn.

Leratiomyces ceres [photo Geoff Ridley]

Leratiomyces ceres [photo Geoff Ridley]

The common scabbarb [Volvariella gloiocephalus]. This was also growing in the wood chip mulch in the gardens below the Cockayne lawn.

Volvariella gloiocephalus [photo Geoff Ridley]

Volvariella gloiocephalus [photo Geoff Ridley]

Volvariella gloiocephalus [photo Geoff Ridley]

Volvariella gloiocephalus [photo Geoff Ridley]

Fomes hemitephrus Postia sp. is a woody bracket. This is my best guess for this specimen as I find identifying brackets very frustrating. It was growing on a fallen tree at the edge of the Fernery. My friend Peter Buchanan, a mycologist at Landcare Research, took the bait and has given a better identification than I could. See Peter’s comments below.

Postia sp. [photo Geoff Ridley]

Postia sp. [photo Geoff Ridley]

Postia sp. [photo Geoff Ridley]

Postia sp. [photo Geoff Ridley]

 Artist’s porebracket [Ganoderma applanatum]. A young specimen growing from a tree stump and has yet to take on the form of a bracket.

Ganoderma applanatum [photo Geoff Ridley]

Ganoderma applanatum [photo Geoff Ridley]

Wood-ear jelly [Auricularia cornea]. These mushrooms were growing on a log used to edge the paths in the Fernery. The Fernery is irrigated so these fungi have not been so affected by the dry conditions.

Auricularia cornea [photo Geoff Ridley]

Auricularia cornea [photo Geoff Ridley]

Orange poreconch [Favolaschia calocera]. This was also growing on a log used for edging the path in the Fernery.

Favolaschia calocera [photo Geoff Ridley]

Favolaschia calocera [photo Geoff Ridley]

Hypholoma fasciculare [a woodtuft] growing on a log edging the garden in the fernery

Hypholoma fasciculare [photo Geoff Ridley]

Hypholoma fasciculare [photo Geoff Ridley]

These two mushrooms were growing in the leaf litter in the Fernery under puriri [Vitex lucens] and wheki-ponga [Dicksonia fibrosa]. I’ll get back to you on this.

Not sure about this? [photo Geoff Ridley]

Not sure about this? [photo Geoff Ridley]

 Tree swordbelt [Agrocybe parasitica]. This cluster of your mushrooms was in a cleft at the base of a tawa  [Beilschmiedia tawa]. This particular tawa, in the Fernery, produces a crop of mushrooms every year.

Agrocybe parasitica [photo Geoff Ridley]

Agrocybe parasitica [photo Geoff Ridley]

Tree swordbelt [Agrocybe parasitica]. A mature cluster on a tawa but but the dry northerly wind has desiccated them. This tawa was on the Circular walk just below the Wilton Bowling Club.

Agrocybe parasitica [photo Geoff Ridley]

Agrocybe parasitica [photo Geoff Ridley]

Garlic shanklet [Mycetinis curraniae].  We normally find this small mushroom growing on the bark of a living totara [Podocarpus totara] just by the information centre. However these were growing on kanaka [Kunzea ericoides] on on the Circular walk just below the Wilton Bowling Club.

Mycetinis curraniae [photo Geoff Ridley]

Mycetinis curraniae [photo Geoff Ridley]

The last fungus is the icicle tooth [Hericium coralloides]. The phot was sent to me yesterday by Rewi Elliot who is the manager at Otari – Wilton’s Bush. It is a wood decay fungus and was collected by a visitor to the reserve. Rewi did not know what tree species it had been growing on.

Hericium coralloides [photo Rewi Elliot]

Hericium coralloides [photo Rewi Elliot]

 

 


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]


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