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.
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.
Update 3 January 2015
Melissa Hutchison specimen growing in native bush near Little River on Banks Peninsula.