A strange Amanita: Noddy’s flycap in New Zealand

This is the convoluted history of a strange species of Amanita that appears to be only known from New Zealand. The story starts for me in 1988 when I wrote to Dr Barbara Segedin (University of Auckland) to borrow her collections of New Zealand Amanita species for my PhD. In my letter I said “I have recently been corresponding with Dr C. Bas (Leiden) who has an almost completed manuscript on a NZ Lepidella. He asked if I would like to co-author with him, but I have yet to find out which species it is.” Lepidella is a subgenus of Amanita.

Barbara wrote back (22 March 1988): “I think that I can probably through some light on the Bas Lepidella. I had a collection of a very strange one, near L. aureofloccosa Bas, collected in Cornwall Park Auckland under macrocarps, but it was lost. Then, incredibly, it appeared in my own garden, again under macrocarpa. In the meantime Peter Auswick (from London, an old friend) collected it with Ted White when Peter spent a year at Ruakura [Hamilton]. Peter sent it to Bas but no more was heard of it by either of us. So I guess that is the one that Bas is publishing.” No more has ever been heard of this specimen or manuscript.

It was Barbara’s specimen that I used for the description published in 1991. As there was only the one collection I felt at the time that I could not formally describe it so it appears in all the records as Amanita sp. 2 and usually referenced to me. This is the photo that Barbara took of it in her garden.

It was not until early 2003 when Peter Auswick sent me a photo of the Hamilton collection that I was sure it was the same species.

The next report came via Peter Buchanan who alerted me to a letter he received in 1992 from Don Pittham who found Amanita sp. 2 growing under a grapefruit tree in a garden in Whangarei. I was later to see the dried specimen of this at Landcare (PDD60317) and confirm the identification.

In the 1990s I met Ron and Angela Freeston through the annual New Zealand Fungal Foray. They were avid photographers. They saw a talk of mine on New Zealand Amanita and where able to report having seen it at Percy’s Reserve on the western hills of Lower Hutt and on Somes Island in Wellington harbour. Both sites contain remnants of native bush but are also highly modified by the presence of exotic species. Their photos is below and you can read their Somes Island fungi report here.

My next encounter was while looking through the forest health photo files held at Forest Research (now Scion) in Rotorua. In an envelope labelled Macrolepiota rhacodes were some photos from Dave Bartram, a forest health inspector based in Northland, asking Margaret Dick, principal forest pathologist, to confirm the identification. I wrote to Dave asking about the mushrooms and could he confirm that they were from Cable Bay, Northland and that they were growing under pohutukawa amongst kikuyu grass. Dave confirmed this but could not remember the date he took the photos.

Dave also told me about a 70-80-year-old stand of totara, puriri with some pohutukawa on his land half way between Kaikohe and Kerikeri in Northland. He also had photos of the same fungus from here.

In 2007 Otari Wilton Bush was the venue for a Bioblitz. I lead a number of parties around the reserve colleting and identify fungi. I was just preparing to head back to the lab when a large shaggy head caught my attention. This was my first sight of a living Amanita sp. 2 despite having known of it for almost 20 years. It was immediately below the information centre and although in native bush it immediately across the road from an old well-established urban area.

Up until this point, all the sightings have been in the North Island. The first and only South Island sighting so far have come from Nelson made by Tony and Barb Cameron. It was seen fruiting in the same place two years in a row 2010-11. This spectacular photo shows Amanita sp. 2 growing amongst grass with no tree for some distance.

To tidy up this review I checked the Landcare fungal herbarium for additional specimens. There is one collected made in 1982 but not identified until 2005. It is from the suburb of Northland in Wellington and is only a few hundred metres from the Bioblitz site.

The final collection is from was made by Arthur Bennett in Hastings in 2008. It was found in a park under planted totara amongst the grass.

As to an English name it has been called Noddy’s cap for as long as I can recall. I am not sure now whether it was Barbara Segedin or Peter Auswick who used it first. To make it conform to names I have used previously it should be Noddy’s flycap.

Enid Blyton’s Noddy and Big-Ears

As to it origin, given that it has either been found in urban or rural environments with highly modified vegetation or in peri-urban native forest remnants it is difficult to accept that this is a native species of New Zealand. It does not appear to be an ectomycorrhizal species and is not associated with ectomycoorhizal trees. In fact it is often in grassland/ pasture sites. In 1988 I speculated that this species was close to the non-mycorrhizal species from North America such as Amanita thiersii. A recent paper by Wolf, Kuo and Pringle looks at the expansion of this non-mycorrhizal grassland species. It can be speculated that Noddy’s flycap inadvertently brought to New Zealand and is now expanding its range in a similar fashion to A. thiersii. Where did it come from? I am still inclined to North America or Australia where it probably has a very restricted habitat and has gone unnoticed.

Ridley GS 1991. The New Zealand species of Amanita (Fungi: Agaricales). Australian Systematic Botany 4: 325-354.

Wolfe BE, Kuo M, Pringle A 2012. Amanita thiersii is a saprotrophic fungus expanding its range in the United States. Mycologia 104: 22-33.

Update 2 May 2013

The Nodddy flycap’s range has been extended approximately 450km further south by a new collection from Christchurch (Ashgrove Reserve, Somerfield) made by Jon Sullivan. Although associated with native plants in an old park they are probably planted rather than natural vegetation and peri urban. A repeating pattern.

Sullivan 01

Sullivan 02

Updated Amanita 2 distribution map, 2 May 2013

Updated Amanita 2 distribution map, 2 May 2013

Update 3 January 2015

Melissa Hutchison specimen growing in native bush near Little River on Banks Peninsula.


[photo Melissa Hutchison]


  1. Hi Geof. The plot thickens. Andy Jones has just found Noddy Flycap on his property in Raukawa Road near Hastings, ironically only 2 K from where I live and 20 k’s from my own sighting at Pakowhai Country Park. Email me for photos. Arthur Bennett


  2. […] This is a big mushroom that looks like Gandalf’s wizard hat. Nobody even knows yet if it’s native or introduced, although it’s not been found anywhere else. It’s an ancient relative of the well known fly agaric, the bright red European mushroom with white spots that’s common in pine forests. You can read more about what little is known about this strange mushroom over on Geoff Ridley’s blog. […]


  3. Wonderful to identify this mushroom. I discovered 6-7 of them near a gum tree and old man pin eon my property ( just north of Levin) yesterday 31.03.2016. They certainly are impressive,but I will need to remove the fruiting bodies cos not sure if my sheep will try to eat them!


  4. It would be fascinating to run the DNA on a fresh (ish) specimen. There are quite a few of these non-mycorrhizal amanitas around the world. The newly proposed genus, as you have noted, is Saproamanita.

    I can assure you, however, that nothing like what you show has ever been seen here in NA, and we have quite a few amanita obsesses individuals form coast to coast looking all the time!

    We will have to look elsewhere for its origin. Perhaps right there in NZ, after all?

    It would be great if you could post your observation on Mushroomobserver.org

    Some big names in amanita studies spend a lot of time on that site.

    Has the microscopy been done to confirm that this really IS an amanita, and not one of the many curious parasol mushrooms?

    Dr. Bas is now deceased. Either his manuscript died with him, or he determined that it wasn’t an amanita at all!

    It is most certainly an amazing looking mushroom.

    All the best, and I hope to look for amanitas and other fine fungi on your continent some day soon!

    Debbie Viess
    Bay Area Mycological Society


    1. Hi Debbie thanks for you comment. I am assuming you have read the more recent post? https://sporesmouldsandfungi.wordpress.com/2016/06/04/noddy-cap-revisited/

      Just to comment on your comments and some of this is in the more recent blog:

      1. Some molecular work has been done and Amanita sp. 2 groups with Amanita thiersii.

      2. I haven’t seen the proposal for Saproamanita.

      3. While North America has been well explored so has Europe and new things keep on turning up. I think you still have a lot of things to discover. Did you see my blog on Amanita gemmata var. exannulata – this west coast American species only turned up two years ago and is known from only one location. https://sporesmouldsandfungi.wordpress.com/2014/05/24/a-strange-yellow-amanita/

      4. I am a member of Mushroomobserver.org I’m just not very good at lodging things there.

      5. Yes some microscopy has been done and was published in the 1991 paper sited above. There is a plan to publish an amendment to that paper with the observations made since 1991.

      thank you again for your comments – it always nice to know that someone is reading my blogs.


      1. Hi Geoff,
        First off, I was so excited to see this bizarre amanita that I didn’t do as much initial research as I should have before writing here! After sending off this message, I looked elsewhere for “Ridley’s Amanita” and found it on Rod Tulloss’s fine site. Indeed, my friend Ben Wolfe, formerly of Harvard, had already run DNA on this interesting amanita. I checked in with a more DNA savvy friend yesterday, and he confirmed that its closest relative was Amanita thiersii.

        So … yes, it is definitely one of the very interesting saprobic amanita species, perhaps to be moved into Saproamanita. But what a curious form it has taken!

        Here is a link to the brand new paper on this proposed new Genus (already accepted by Index Fungorum and Mycobank, but being disputed by some prominent amanitologists):


        As to “finding new species” of course there are more curious mushrooms to discover in the wild. Europe seems to have been pretty thoroughly covered already, but the ephemeral nature of mushrooms makes it likely for some to be overlooked, especially ones that resemble other species or are very small or grow in remote or seldom searched habitats or requiring certain conditions to even fruit.

        I find mushrooms that I can’t put a name to on a regular basis!

        But this amazing elfin capped amanita is something else again. I don’t think anyone could just “walk away” from that species, thinking it was just another … fill in the blank. It certainly doesn’t seem to be tiny!

        As to Amanita gemmata var. exannulata … I have been following and finding this species for over 20 years, and I was hardly the first person to notice it! It occurs along the North Coast of California. These days, it has two working provisional names. Amanita gemmata exannulata is the older name, and one that was proposed to me by Dr. Tulloss two decades ago from my original illustration of the species from Salt Point State Park (also on MO). Its more commonly used provisional name these days is Amanita “pseudo-breckonii.” Long story, but several are hoping to get this officially published someday soon.

        Very curious that this species has also apparently hitchhiked across the world, right along with those muscaria and phalloides! Dang, amanitas like to travel! Now perhaps you could do us a favor, and send over some of those Noddy Capped amanitas? I would dearly love to encounter them in my walks and mushroom forays!

        Thanks for writing, and keep up the good work.

        Debbie Viess

  5. hi
    Found one yesterday. Near oxford, Canterbury, NZ. Have photos, email me if you want them or to know more. This is all very interesting!!


  6. Beautiful speciman just found by Pete Pat Sanders in Maketu. January 2020. Possibly under a fir tree.


  7. Hi Geoff. I have pics of the two I found. Can you shoot me an e-mail and I will send them to you. This morning I noticed 1 had blown over due to high winds, but is still in tact.
    Pete Sanders


  8. Geoff I have some photo’s of these two Noddy flycaps that I found the other day.
    Can you give me an e-mail and I will send them to you.
    Pete Sanders


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