Amanita on the move

Back in May of 2014, I blogged about a new yellow Amanita found under pines at Otari Wilton’s Bush. At the time I referred it to the North American species Amanita gemmata var. exannulata and noted that this is a working name rather than a real name.

So what’s happened since then? If we look at the name Amanita gemmata, which is a European and not a North American name, it was reviewed by Geoff Kibby in early 2016 and he rejected the “gemmata” and made it a synonym of Amanita muscaria. That meant that the next legitimately published name for this species is Amanita junquillea. So if any of you are using NatureWatchNZ [which has in the last month become iNaturalistNZ] then this is the name being used there.

Amanita junquillea from under Douglas-fir, Pukaha Mt Bruce, 16.06.2016 [photo Barbara Paulus]

Is it the right name? If the New Zealand population is derived from western North America, as I suggested, it depends whether this is the same as the European Amanita junquillea. If not then it will eventually get a new name. Currently, in western North America these names are used for this yellow species or species complex:

  • Amanita gemmata
  • Amanita gemmata var. exannulata
  • Amanita breckonii
  • Amanita pseudobreckonii

It will be interesting to see what name is eventually accepted. Just out of interest Amanita breckonii was originally described from California from Pinus radiata near sea level; all but one of the New Zealand collections are from under Pinus radiata.

While cruising the online literature I found the same Amanita being reported from under Pinus radiata and eucalypts in Chile [Austral Fungi, 2007]. In Chile, it was originally called Amanita gemmata but later renamed Amanita toxica. It clearly fits the description of Amanita breckonii.

Collection sites of Amanita junquillea 2014-2018 [from iNaturalistNZ]

In the meantime here in New Zealand, this Amanita has been collected from a couple of sites in the southern North Island but with the majority of collections from around greater Wellington [see the maps reproduced from iNaturalistNZ].

Collection sites of Amanita junquillea, greater Wellington area, 2014-2018 [from iNaturalistNZ] Note the blue star is the first known collection at Otari Wilton’s Bush

As I said above all bur one have been collected from under Pinus radiata with the outlier from under Douglas-fir [Pseudotsuga menziesii] at Pukaha Mt Bruce, although there may have been pines nearby.

Amanita junquillea from under Douglas-fir, Pukaha Mt Bruce, 16.06.2016 [photo Barbara Paulus]

It is hard to explain this distribution of collections of the past four years and with absolutely no record of it in New Zealand before this time, despite Amanita being well documented here. All of the specimens have been found through citizen science. Given the concentration of citizen scientists in Wellington, the lack of collections between Wellington on the most northerly three collections may just represent the lack of collectors rather than a lack of Amanita fruitbodies.

 So keep looking so that we can record this species spread in New Zealand and in the meantime we will wait for the western North American’s to resolve the name.

 PS: One collection in Auckland city has been tentatively identified as Amanita junquillea. However, it was found under oak (Quercus robur) so is more likely to be Amanita phalloides which is usually found under oaks in Auckland.

Amanita junquillea or Amanita phalloides? [photo Marley Ford]


Social media and citizen science

There has been over the last 5 to 10 years a growth in the use of social media as a conduit between keen amateurs and professional scientists. This can be casual as in the case of Facebook groups which are often established by amateurs but which attract scientists who want to be part of the community. Or they may be more formal where such as Naturewatch (now rebranded as iNaturalistNZ) set up by scientists to capture and curate the observations of keen amateurs. I follow both iNaturalistNZ and four New Zealand fungal facebook page (also another 23 from around the world).

The upside is that I get to see peoples observations from around the country that 10 years ago I would never see. The downside is there is a lot of repetition and not much observation commentary to supplement the photo [see my blog A bread and butter knife, a dollar coin, a smartphone and a white sheet of paper].

This blog is about benefit of social media and citizen science using a species of Amanita as an example.

Amanita nauseosa [illustration Peter Austwick 1995]

Amanita nauseosa [illustration Peter Austwick 1995]

Peter Austwick, a retired mycologist, first collected a strange Amanita in Northland near Mimiwhagata in 1995 growing in pasture (blue star on map).

Known collection sites Amanita nauseosa, 1995-2018

He found it again in Northland on the Whangaparaoa Peninsula at Shakespeare Park in 2003 growing in an area of mowed grass [orange star]. Peter tentatively identified it as Amanita nauseosa. Here it stopped with one or two more collections being made at the same Shakespeare Park site over the next few years.

Amanita nauseosa [illustration Peter Austwick 2003]

The name “nauseosa” came from the original collection when it was described as smelling strong or sickening. Peter wrote in 2003 “I don’t remember any smell but handling the dried [New Zealand] specimens I had a streaming nose and eyes each time”.

Back in 1998, I wrote a summary of the origin of this species – “Amanita nauseosa originally described in I918 from greenhouses at Kew Gardens (Wakefield I918) and rediscovered there, by Reid (I966). Bas (I969) speculated that A.nauseosa was originally either from South Africa, South America, or the U.S.A. Further collections were reported from Mexico (Guzman I975) and India (Watling I985). However, Young (I982) suggested that it was endemic to eastern Australia and this appears to have been supported by subsequent collecting (Young 1994)”.

Rod Tullos is of the opinion that Amanita nauseosa may be the same as Amanita manicata described from Sri Lanka collected before 1910. Thus its origin is still uncertain.


However, this looks like another mushroom species on the move around the world. It arrived in New Zealand at some point and has been sitting quietly in Northland. Then last year and again this year (2017-2018) it started showing up on iNaturlistNZ [the pink spots on the map] and the Facebook groups in the suburbs of Auckland as well as a collection from Great Barrier Island. It will be interesting to see if it spreads in a similar fashion to Amanita sp2. So I will be watching the social media to see where it pops up next.

Amanita nauseosa, Waiwea, Auckland, 5 April 2017[photo Paul Grace]

Amanita nauseosa, Western city fringe, Auckland, 1 May 2018 [photo Ellen Schindler]

Great Barrier Island, Auckland 16 Feb 2018 [photo smartrussell]

Great Barrier Island, Auckland 16 Feb 2018 [photo smartrussell]

Great Barrier Island, Auckland 16 Feb 2018 [photo smartrussell]


Bas C 1969. Morphology and subdivision of Amanita and a monograph of its section Lepidella. Persoonia 5: 285-579

Guzman G 1975. New and interesting species of Agaricales of Mexico. Beihefte Nova Hedwigia 51: 99-118

Reid DA 1966. Fungorum Rariorum Icones Coloratae – 1. Supplement to Nova Hedwigia 11.

RidleyGS 1998. Book reviews. Mycotaxon 66: 515-518

Tulloss RE, Possiel L. Amanita manicata. Retrieved 4 June 2018

Wakefield EM 1918. New and rare British fungi. Kew Bulletin: 229-233

Young AM 1982. Amanita nauseosa: an Australian species? Bulletin of the British Mycological Society 16: 202-208

Young AM 1994. Common Australian Fungi. 2nd ed. University of New South Wales Press, Sydney



Fleur de tan

J.A. Smith wrote in 1878:

Mr. Colenso related the first use of the barks of New Zealand trees for tanning purposes, which took place at Ngunguru (between Whangarei and the Bay of Islands), in the years 1839, 1840, and 1841, which had come under his special notice while living at the Bay of Islands, and often travelling in that district. This was the first place in New Zealand where hides were tanned for leather, the whole process was particularly primitive. Extracts of those several barks there used, with specimens of the trees producing them, he had sent to Sir W. J. Hooker, the Director of the Royal Gardens at Kew, long before New Zealand became a British Colony.

The words tannin, tanning and tan are all derived from the Medieval Latin word tannare which means to convert into leather. There are many processes for tanning leather and one is to use the tannins extracted from tree bark as the tanning agent. The bark of certain tree species, those rich in tannin, would be stockpiled for use. This created an excellent habitat for the slime mould, Fuligo septica, to feed and fruit. So when the French botanist Jean Marchant described it scientifically in 1727 he referred to it as “fleur de tan”. Which literally translates as bark flower but has become flowers of tan.

While the stockpiling of bark for tanning has never been prevalent in New Zealand (see footnote) the use of bark, particularly pine bark, and wood chips as garden mulch has become widespread in the last 30 years. This has provided a great habitat for Fuligo septica. I followed the development of a fruit body of the bark flower over 4 days in my front garden.

The slime mould congregates overnight into a single bright yellow mass that begins to develop into a fruiting body.

Fuligo septica ‎6.27am 2 ‎Feb ‎2018 [photo Geoff Ridley]

By mid-afternoon it has started turning brown.

Fuligo septica 4:36pm 2 ‎Feb ‎2018 [photo Geoff Ridley]

By the next day it is beginning to dry out.

Fuligo septica 7.17am 3 ‎Feb ‎2018 [photo Geoff Ridley]

Fuligo septica 10.15am 4 ‎Feb ‎2018 [photo Geoff Ridley]

On day 4 the content of the fruiting body has been converted to a dry mass of brown spores and the outer layer has fragmented and is flaking. The dry spores are now exposed and ready to blow away in the wind.

Fuligo septica 9.40am 6 ‎Feb ‎2018 [photo Geoff Ridley]


Smith JA 1878. On certain New Zealand and Australian Barks useful for Tanning Purposes. Transactions and Proceedings of the Royal Society of New Zealand 11: 570-571

Footnote: The of a bark-based tanning industry is another fungal story to be told later.

A bread and butter knife, a dollar coin, a smartphone, and a white sheet of paper

Spore Prints and Identification

I am on a few facebook fungi groups and one of the continuing frustration is the posting of pretty photos that lack and diagnostic characters. Generally, it is almost unidentifiable.

Elias Magnus Fries (1794 – 1878)

The characteristics we use for identifying fungi were first defined by Elias Magnus Fries (Swedish) who published a series of books between 1821 and 1874. In these books, he developed a classification system using spore colour and the arrangement of the spore-bearing tissue (gills, pores, teeth etc) as key characteristics. While molecular techniques have in recent years resulted in a lot of rearrangement of species the key characteristics are still the bases for field identification.

The arrival of smartphones means that we all now carry a digital camera so information can be quickly recorded. The majority of photos on my blog have been taken with smartphones and not stand alone cameras.

A bread and butter knife

When I am out looking at fungi I always carry my phone, a $1 coin, and an old bread and butter knife. I use the knife to dig up the mushroom I want to photograph so as to make sure that I get the base of the stem.

Leratiomyces ceres, as it is [photo Geoff Ridley]

A dollar coin

I then lay the mushrooms out so as to see the top of the cap, the underside of the cap so as to see the gills/pores/teeth, any ring or structures on the stem, and whether or not there is a bulb or other structures at the base of the stem.

Leratiomyces ceres showing top and bottom of cap [photo Geoff Ridley]

I include the $1 coin in the photo for scale. I also will include the leaves of any dominant plants just to remind me about the habitat.

Leratiomyces ceres showing top and bottom of cap [photo Geoff Ridley]

A smartphone

I may take all of these photos in the field or I might also take some when I get home (hence the carpet background in some photos.

Leratiomyces ceres showing gill attachment at the stem and inner flesh of cap and stem [photo Geoff Ridley]

Then I make a spore print. The British mycologist George Massee described it this way in 1911:

It is wise … to prepare spore-prints … To do this, a mature agaric (mushroom) should have the stem cut off close to the gills, then place the cap gills downward, on a piece of paper, and cover the whole with a tumbler, basin, etc., to prevent undue evaporation. After an interval of eight to twelve hours, if the cap is carefully lifted up, a perfect impression of the interspaces between gills will be formed on the paper by the deposited spores.

A sheet of white paper

Stems removed from caps [photo Geoff Ridley]

Caps placed gill side down [photo Geoff Ridley]

I always make my spore prints on good quality white photocopier/printer paper. Some people say to use black paper for white-spored species but I find that white paper lets you see the difference between white, cream and pale yellow spores which is less obvious on black paper. I also will wet the tips of my fingers and flick a little water on to the top of the cap before covering it as this will help to maintain the humidity. It’s also worth noting the other reason for covering the caps is to stop air movement carrying the spores away and instead they drop straight to the surface of the paper. Although only gill mushrooms are mentioned it can be used for mushrooms with pores and teeth and for coral fungi as well.

Caps covered with mugs [photo Geoff Ridley]

When you uncover the finished spore print you should record the spore colour as soon as possible as the spores will begin to dry out and may change colour slightly.

Caps removed to show spore print [photo Geoff Ridley]

Have a good look at these two spore prints. They superficial are dark or black prints. However, the one on the left is a very dark chocolate brown going on to brown-black. Whereas, the one on the right is a dark purple-brown. While not necessarily useful at the species level it can be useful for separating genera. In this case Leratiomyces on the left and Psilocybe on the right.

The spore print can be folded in half and stored in an envelope indefinitely.

School holidays at Zealandia

I had the chance to help with Zealandia’s school holiday programme on the 24th April (see my previous blog from 2016). The weather has been all over the place so while there where fungi to find they were few in number.

Zealandia staff members use Nature Watch to record what they find at Zealandia and this includes the holiday programme. Here are two groups being shown how to upload photos to Nature Watch before we hit the bush. All of these fungi were found along the Te Mahanga Track between the lower and upper reservoirs.

[photo Geoff Ridley]

Not a great photo of this little wood decay mushroom. It’s got me stumped at the moment. I had thought Heimiomyces neovelutipes but the stipe is too smooth and the gill too white I think.

Heimiomyces neovelutipes? [photo Geoff Ridley]

Hypholoma fasciculares [photo Geoff Ridley]

We only saw one fruitbody of Psilocybe weraroa. Not a great photo of this very pale blue secotioid fungus.

Psilocybe weraroa [photo Geoff Ridley]

Auricularia cornea [photo Geoff Ridley]

Favolaschia calocera [photo Geoff Ridley]

A nice little group of Cyathus striatus – This larger birds nest is easy recognised by the dark brown hairy cup with a shiny fluted interior.

Cyathus striatus [photo Geoff Ridley]

I’m guessing a Mycena but only saw the one and I don’t have a specimen.

Mycen? [photo Geoff Ridley]

Another tiny white Mycena. Looking at the stipe of the larger fruitbody in the second photo I’m thinking Mycena austrororida.

Mycena austrororida? [photo Geoff Ridley]

Mycena austrororida? [photo Geoff Ridley]

These little Mycena were growing deep inside a hole in the trunk of a standing living tree.  It is similar to Jerry Cooper’s  Mycena sp. ‘Ahuriri Reserve (PDD80918)’. See also my find of this from Otari-Wilton’s Bush.

Mycena sp. ‘Ahuriri Reserve’ [photo Geoff Ridley]

The next two photos are what is probably a little Lepiota growing in the litter around the base of a fern. It has a white spore print.

Lepiota [photo Geoff Ridley]

Lepiota [photo Geoff Ridley]

Otari-Wilton’s Bush Annual Foray, 22 April 2018

Wow, 50 to 60 people turned up for the foray this afternoon. It was a beautiful day but the fungi didn’t live up to it as the wettish summer and autumn resulted in lots of small fruiting flushes. And today wasn’t one of them. Despite that, it was an enthusiastic group with lots of questions.

Wilton, Wellington, looking across the Otari Native Plant Museum. Evening post (Newspaper. 1865-2002) :Photographic negatives and prints of the Evening Post newspaper. Ref: 1/2-088441-G. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. /records/22916054

The forayers met at the house in the middle of the photo above which is now the Leonard Cockayne Centre.

Immediately outside the back door to the Centre was a small group of Psathyrella corrugis – a typical woodchip fungus in the Native Garden.

Psathyrella corrugis [photo Geoff Ridley]

All at several spots around the native garden was another woodchip fungus – Parasola leiocephala – a typical coprinoid parasol fungus. There was also one very small group of Leratiomyces ceres which is generally fruiting all through the Native Garden at this time of the year.

Parasola leiocephala [photo Geoff Ridley]

At the north end of the Information Centre is a grove of podocarps which includes Podocarpus totara. Growing on the lower trunk of this specimen is the tiny mushrooms of Mycetinis curraniae. The question arose why only on the lower trunk? My only suggestion is that this part of the tree stays damp the longest so promotes the growth of this bark decomposing fungus.

Mycetinis curraniae [photo Geoff Ridley]

Over in the Fernery, the last sad remains of an Agrocybe parasitica fruitbody quietly decomposes. This fruitbody was growing from the base of a living Beilschmiedia tawa that has been consistently producing fruitbodies every year for the last twelve years.

Agrocybe parasitica [photo Geoff Ridley]

In the bush behind the Alpine garden is log which has consistently produced fruitbodies Lentinellus novae-zelandiae, the native shiitake, for the last twelve years. However, on this visit, there was only one to be seen.

Lentinellus novae-zelandiae [photo Geoff Ridley]

Just off the path, below the concrete retaining wall at the edge of the car park was a standing dead tree with Auricularia cornea and also a fallen branch with Favolaschia calocera.

Favolaschia calocera [photo Geoff Ridley]

We ran out of time so didn’t go down the track to the waterfall however during my reconnaissance on Saturday, 21 April, I saw Clitocybe nebularis and ….

Clitocybe nebularis [photo Geoff Ridley]

… one sad old Macrolepiota clelandii. This is the only place in the Bush that I have seen this species and my son saw a bigger fruiting in the same place three weeks ago (31 March), his pictures are below.

Macrolepiota clelandii [photo Geoff Ridley]

Macrolepiota clelandii [photo Lachlan Ridley]

Macrolepiota clelandii [photo Lachlan Ridley]

Note that all my photos in this post were taken 21 April.


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.

Cover of the Department of Botany prospectus [cartoon Bell 1978-1988]

“Amanita ID” [cartoon Bell 1978-1988]

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:

“The dung fungus lifestyle” [from Bell 1984]

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.

“Achieving consensus 1” [cartoon Ann Bell 1986]

Ann later redrew a portion of the “identification process” to illustrate a short report of the Foray in a newsletter.

“Achieving consensus 2” [cartoon Bell 1986]

She also drew this grumpy little elf to illustrate the advertisement for the 1987 foray in the same newsletter.

“Grumpy little elf” [cartoon Bell 1986]

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.

“Russel the Russula spore” [Cartoon Ann Bell 1988]

Russula acrolamellata spore [Photo Geoff Ridley]

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.

Cartoon by Ann Bell, 1988

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.

“A troop of helmets” [Cartoon Ann Bell 1988]

And the last was “the romantic love story of Mucor”. I have also included Ann’s more scientific drawing of Mucor from 1984.

“The romantic love story of Mucor” [cartoon Ann Bell 1988]

Mucor life cycle [illustration Bell 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:

“Feral knitting” [cartoon Bell 1989]

The beginning of 1989 marked the completion of my PhD and Ann’s cartoon of students completing their degree sums it up.

“Taking flight with a new degree” [Cartoon Bell 1989]

Although in Ann did remind us not to let it go to our heads (in Green, 1979).

“Wearing nothing but his qualifications”[Cartoon Bell 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.


Bell A, 1983. Dung fungi: an illustrated guide to coprophilous fungi in New Zealand. Victoria University Press, Wellington [this book is still available from Victoria University Press]

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