I got an email last week with the subject line ‘Mud fungus’. Di Batchelor had attached three photos of a very wet and muddy small dark greyish mushroom. Di described it as “It’s kind of hairy and looks like it’s risen from the mud” and asked the question is this Amanita inopinata. And it is. And she found it on Somes Island in the middle of Wellington Harbour.
I don’t know
I first met this Amanita 30 years ago as three unnamed herbarium specimen collected that I described at the time as ‘mouldy or badly insect damaged’. Two of the collections were from Auckland (1964 and 1972) in the North Island and one from Lincoln (1971) in the South Island.
I wrote that ‘So far it is known from under Chamaecyparis, Cupressus and possibly Pinus, suggesting that it has been introduced into New Zealand from Europe or North America’. I never gave it a name because I just didn’t know what it was. I simply called it ‘Amanita sp. 1’.
After publishing the Amanita of New Zealand I stumbled across my own collection of this fungus. I was working and living at Flock House, an agricultural research farm, just outside Bulls in the southern North Island. Walking home I saw a couple of blackish mushrooms growing on the lawn two doors down from my house. It was ‘Amanita sp. 1’! But more confusion as the habit included lawns, native plants, Australian plants and plants from Asia, Europe and North America.
In 2000 while flicking through the latest issue of the Field Mycologist I came upon Geoff Kibby’s article on Amanita inopinata with a good photograph. I looked at it and thought – I know you. Amanita inopinata was originally described from Kew Garden and appeared not to be native to southeast England and also appeared to be spreading. I wrote to the Field Mycologist about the New Zealand experience and said it wasn’t likely to be native to New Zealand either.
Old world arrogance
Amanita inopinata jumped the Channel and started turning up in the Netherlands. Writing about this Kees Bas of the Dutch National Herbarium said:
Ridley (2000) assumes that A. inopinata is not native in New Zealand. But in my opinion it is more probable that it has been recently introduced into England, that from there it has now reached the Netherlands, and that it originally came from New Zealand. In this connection it seems significant that in New Zealand, from a mycological point of view still rather under-explored, …
This smacked a bit of old world arrogance. This opinion is still rife in Europe.
The new information
Subsequent work has shown that Amanita opinata sits in a small group of non-mycorrhizal Amanita – A. codinae (southern Europe and Morrocco), A. singeri (Mediterranean Europe and introduced into Argentina) , A. pruittii (Oregon, North America). This suggests that its origin is the Northern Hemisphere and simply hasn’t been discovered yet.
And now here it is from Somes Island in the middle of Wellington Harbour.
Ridley GS 1991. The New Zealand species of Amanita (Fungi: Agaricales). Australian Systematic Botany 4: 325-354..
Kibby G 2000. Fungal Portraits No. 2: Amanita inopinata. Field Mycologist 1(2):39-40.
Ridley GS 2000. The New Zealand connection- Amanita inopinata. Field Mycologist 1(4): 117-118.
Bas C 2001. The ‘unexpected one’ jumped the North Sea. Field Mycologist 2(2): 40-41.