Dr Ann Bell is a mycological artist and also a cartoonist. She was also my mentor and supervisor during my post-graduate studies. While Ann’s artwork can be found in her taxonomic papers and books her cartoons are more ephemeral. During my time as her student, I collected a few of cartoons that had a mycological flavour.
The first one featured on the Department of Botany’s (Victoria University of Wellington) annual Prospectus from 1978 until 1988. It features the staff and their teaching and research interest. Down in the bottom corner is someone studying an Amanita muscaria. Who would have known when I started studying botany in 1978 that I would work on Amanita for my PhD.I first worked with Ann for my Honours’ project on dung fungi. At this time Ann was working on her dung fungi of New Zealand book which was published in 1984. She illustrated the passage of the dung fungi spores through a sheep like this: In 1986 the first New Zealand fungal foray was held at Kauaeranga Valley in the Coromandel. Ann drew this cartoon of the identification process to celebrate the Foray and Dr Barbara Segedin’s birthday. The full A4 sheet has all of our signatures. Ann later redrew a portion of the “identification process” to illustrate a short report of the Foray in a newsletter.
She also drew this grumpy little elf to illustrate the advertisement for the 1987 foray in the same newsletter.Sometime in early 1988, I gave Ann a portion of my PhD manuscript, as a dot matrix printout, to read along with a pile of photographs that were referred to in the text. This was also before scanning of photos was available. The printout came back with Ann’s annotations, corrections and this little fellow who I have come to know as “Russel the Russula spore”. I have included here the SEM (scanning electron microscope) photo that was the inspiration. In 1988 Barbara Segedin retired from the Department of Botany at the University of Auckland. As a retirement gift “A Memorable Mycological Miscellany” was produced. Ann contributed three cartoons. The first had Barbara ranking the three most important things in her life. Note that Cecil was her husband and he was from Yugoslavia.
The next was a troop of helmets or Mycena. I like the German imagery of Mycena as helmets rather than the more English image of bonnets.And the last was “the romantic love story of Mucor”. I have also included Ann’s more scientific drawing of Mucor from 1984. The curtain dropped for the Botany Department at the end of 1988 as it was rolled into a larger School of Biological Science. Ann illustrated the School’s new prospectus but these did not include any fungi. It did include a moss and some feral knitting: The beginning of 1989 marked the completion of my PhD and Ann’s cartoon of students completing their degree sums it up. Although in Ann did remind us not to let it go to our heads (in Green, 1979). If anyone one knows of any other mycological cartoons Ann has drawn please let me know so I can include them here.
Department of Botany, Victoria University of Wellington, Prospectus. 1978 to 1988
Green W, 1979. Focus on social responsibility in science. The New Zealand Association of Scientists.
School of Biological Science, Victoria University of Wellington, Prospectus. 1989
Systematics Association of New Zealand, Newsletter 27, December 1986
3 June 2017
On the way to the supermarket I saw this large troop of Psathyrella growing on wood mulch in Glenmore St, Wellington, just up the hill from The Rigi. (If you are intrigued by the name The Rigi read more here.)These were Psathyrella microrhiza. Note the colour change as the caps dry out with age as a result of air replacing water between the hyphae that makes up the cap tissue. This is is known as hygrophanous.
Just as I was about to go I noticed that some of the Psathyrella near the edge of the mulched area, where there was more grass, were more reddish. I grabbed a few without stopping to get a picture. Looking at one of the pictures of the whole area you can just make out these pinkish brown specimens with more conical caps than the Psathyrella microrhiza.
This appears to be Psathyrella bipellis which has a reddish brown cap and stipe. There are a number of Psathyrella species fruiting on wood mulch in Wellington and I need to spend some time and see if I can sort them out.Amazing what you find on the way to the supermarket!
This year the foray was held on a cold damp day in May rather than April. This year has been cooler and consistently wetter then then the last couple of years. This has meant that fungi have been fruiting sporadically over a much longer period of time. Here is what we say today.
Southern Beech Grove
This is the first Cortinarius / Thaxterogater found at Otari-Wilton’s bush.Plant Collection below the Cockayne Lookout
The fungi in the plant collection garden are all growing in the thick wood mulch used in this area,Kauri Lawn and Fernery This Psathyrella has faintly reddish tinge to the gill margin and the cap is hygrophanous. Possibly around Psathyrella corrugis. Circular Walk Below the Bowling Club
There won’t be many New Zealanders’ who didn’t follow the life and love of Murray Ball’s (1939-2017) Wal Footrot and the Dog in Footrot Flats. As Shaun Bamber wrote:
When I was 11, I bought a copy of Murray Ball’s first Footrot Flats book off a classmate at school for $2.50 and a pack of sandwiches. It’s sitting here beside me right now as I write these words.
I was already well familiar with The Dog, Wal and the rest of the Footrot crew by then of course – had in fact been almost obsessively collecting the anthologies ever since some relative or other got me one to read while recovering from getting my tonsils out.
And in a great blog looking at the history and reason for the popularity of Footrot Flats by Bob from Temuka wrote:
And that popularity was deserved, because it was a rich strip from a simpler, less media-saturated time. It did romanticise the rural lifestyle, but never hid the dirt and filth of the farmyard. Ball, who lived the life he drew about, could get into devilish detail on a rotting goat’s carcass, or a steaming pile of rank manure – everyday sights for the farmer, but endearingly shocking to everybody else. You could smell the silage in the ink, and that gave the strip a raw, sketchy vitality It was also wildly popular because the characters were so recognisable, (at least in NZ). There was the upright farmer, the hippie neighbour, the cheeky hussy, the stern Aunt and the pampered pet. And there was the Dog.
I have three comic strips cut from 1982 editions of the Wellington Evening Post. They are badly yellowed from years of hanging on my office wall. I don’t know if they were ever reprinted in the many Footrot Flats’ anthologies? So here is the Dog’s thoughts on mushrooms.
Walking in the wellington Botanic Garden today I saw this young Agrocybe parasitica. It was growing from a well decayed branch stub of titoki [Alectryon excelsus] on the Serpentine Way track behind the Dell.A guide to this blog
To better find your way around Spores, Moulds and Fungi I have added a couple of extra pages:
- Blogs – this is a numbered chronological list of all blogs I have written.
- Index – this is an alphabetical index of all Latin names for fungi used in the blog. There are active links to every blog where the name is mentioned and usually a photo as well.
- Readings – this is a chronological list of interesting web articles and blogs on fungi.
- Stuff – this is just interesting bits and pieces that I find.
The gentle rains of spring
It has been a bit of a wet spring so far this year in Wellington. Yesterday I took advantage in a break in the weather to get the rank grass mowed and a bit of tidying in the garden. This included pulling weeds out of the cracks in the concrete paths and steps.What’s that …
As a pulled on the leaves of a young dandelion they broke away from the roots. Turning one of the leaves over in my hand I saw a circular black patch. My immediate thought it was a clutch of insect eggs. But looking closer I could see that it radial makings and of course that sparked my interest and I took it inside to have a closer look.Looking at it with a hand lens I recognised it straight away as the remains of the cap of a coprinoid mushroom. I have blogged about the larger coprinoid mushroom s before, e.g. see Coprinopsis atramentaria – The powerlifters of the fungal world, Coprinus microcephalus – Coprinus and the compost bin, and Parasola plicata – The drought has broken. Also check the Index of species for blogs on Coprinellus disseminates, Coprinellus micaceus, Coprinopsis lagopus, and Parasola leiocephala.
A bowl of dung
However there a many small species of coprinoid mushrooms that are less than 10 mm in diameter and may only be 10-20 mm tall. I saw these little coprinoids for the first time when studying dung fungi (coprhilous fungi) with Anne Bell. Ann is an expert in this ecological group and has published a beautiful book on New Zealand dung fungi.At that time I was incubating lumps of horse and sheep dung in glass bowls with a flat sheet of glass over the top to help maintain humidity. These little coprinoids would grow up from the dung surface and if they reached the glass cover the cap would adhere to the moisture on the glass. The mushroom would then collapse away leaving the cap to breakdown and only an image, consisting of black spores would remain on the glass.
The afterimageLooking at my leaf with a hand lens I could clearly see the image of a mushroom cap (about 5 mm diameter) with its radial gills marked by a greater concentration of spores. The small mushroom must have touched the surface of the damp leaf, stuck to it then died away leaving only the fungal spores. What species it might be I don’t know.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.