Fungus hunting in Otago

Flat hunting in Otago

My son is moving down to Dunedin to start his PhD. So he and I went down last weekend to find a flat. We found one just above the town belt and a 16 minute walk from the University of Otago central library.

It was also a chance to walk along Queens Drive which meanders through the town belt that separates the city on the flat from the hill suburbs above. I first walked this way when I had just finished my PhD and had my first job lecturing in the Botany Department here.

Dunedin Town Belt, Newington Ave [photo Geoff Ridley]

Dunedin Town Belt, Newington Ave [photo Geoff Ridley]

The enjoyment of walks and rambles …

The reason for walking the town belt this time was to get some photos for a blog about Helen Kirkland Dalrymple. My first encounter with her writing was reading Fungus Hunting in Otago, New Zealand during my PhD. It’s a slim book of 30 pages published in Dunedin in 1940. And, ignoring scientific publications, is the first popular book of fungi to be published in New Zealand. In fact, there would not be another until 1970 when Marie Taylor’s Mushrooms and Toadstools in New Zealand was published.

Fungus Hunting in Otago, New Zealand.

Fungus Hunting in Otago, New Zealand with Leratiomyces erythrocephalus on the cover.

 

All I know about Helen Dalrymple came from a ‘gallery of naturalists’ that Otago Museum has on its top floor in the old wing. If anyone has a photo of her I would love to see it [see PS below]. The museum exhibit had this to say:

Helen Kirkland Dalrymple (c. 1883-1943)

Was an enthusiastic botanist. She was born in Birmingham but spent her early years at Puerua, near Balclutha, where her father was Presbyterian minister. In 1898 she began attending Otago Girls High School, and in 1902 was awarded the Women’s Scholarship at Otago University. She graduated BA in 1906 and taught at Winton and Napier.

In 1913 she joined the staff of Otago Girls High School and taught English, Latin and Botany for 25 years. It is mainly as a botanist that she is remembered, particularly for her field trips, expeditiously arranging forays into the Town Belt to fit into an hour long lesson or longer excursions to Signal Hill in search of ground orchids.

Helen Dalrymple spent many hours on her delicate water colours, mainly of native plants, which she later used to illustrate her books, Orchid Hunting in Otago (1937) and Fungus Hunting in Otago (1940).

A keen member of the Naturalist Field Club she was regarded as a local authority on orchids and mycology. Gentle in speech and manner, she nevertheless had great determination and strength of character and when in 1915, and later in 1941, it was suggested that the club go into recess it was largely owing to her efforts that it kept going.

Display at Otago Museum [photo Geoff Ridley]

Display at Otago Museum [photo Geoff Ridley]

Miss Finlayson was afraid to open the box

I love Helen’s writing style and casualness and think if she was alive today she would be a blogger:

Earth stars are delightful objects. The first one I ever saw was picked up by an enthusiastic Field Clubber many years ago on his Sunday afternoon walk round the Town Belt. He put it carefully in a matchbox, took it to church that evening, and passed the box on to Miss Finlayson who happened to be sitting in the same seat. At first Miss Finlayson was afraid to open the box, thinking some strange insect might jump out; but finally she did and later handed the specimen over to me for recording.

On the Town Belt, Dunedin [by H.K. Dalrymple]

On the Town Belt, Dunedin [by H.K. Dalrymple]

Helen included a number of line drawings in her book the last was this view towards Otago Boys High with the tower visible above the bush. We went seeking this view but I think that Moana Pool has been built across it and this was the best I could do.

On the Town Belt, Dunedin [photo Geoff Ridley]

On the Town Belt, Dunedin [photo Geoff Ridley]

Reference

Dalrymple, HK, 1940. Fungus Hunting in Otago, New Zealand. Coulls Somerville Wilkie Limited, Dunedin

PS 18 September 2016

Conor sent a link to this picture of Helen Kirkland Dalrymple

Helen Kirkland Dalrymple [photo University of Otago]

Helen Kirkland Dalrymple [photo University of Otago]

The photo and the comment about her school field trips to the town belt remind me of Ronald Searle’s Belles of St Trinian’s cartoons.

[Ronald Searle , 1951]

[Ronald Searle , 1951]

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8 Comments on “Fungus hunting in Otago”

  1. Conor says:

    I had a quick around look on the internet, and I think this might be her: http://s3.amazonaws.com/ourheritagemedia%2Foriginal%2Fcddfaf2332dad635dc08275ec3e1c91d.jpg

    The info on the file is here: http://otago.ourheritage.ac.nz/items/show/8699

  2. Olwen Mason says:

    I spent 6 years in Dunedin so I found this very interesting. Thank you.

  3. What a delightful read 🙂

  4. Excited to find your fascinating blog. I’m on a teaching practicum at Early Learning at Flippers in Dunedin which runs Rā Ngahere “bush day”programme in the town belt. This involves a group of 8 four year olds heading into the town Belt bush area north of Moana Pool on the same day each week, as a continuous programme. One of the teachers that leads this programme also has an interest in fungi etc and I have enjoyed uncovering some interesting specimens during my five week placement. I would love to share some info with the two teachers who take this programme on the types of fungi and mold etc that might be found in the Town Belt… If you have any info you could share that would be great! 😀 Kind regards Katrina

  5. Thanks Katrina
    I’ll see what I can find.
    Cheers
    Geoff


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