A mycology of New Zealand in 10 fungi

I posed the question to myself – if I had to pick 10 fungi to epitomise mycology in New Zealand what would they be and why would I choose them? In some cases, I have blogged about them before and some I will do so in the future. So here is my choice.

1. Amanita muscaria is number one as this exotic fungus would be one of the most obvious and abundant mushrooms in our autumn landscape. It is beneficial in that it is an ectomycorrhizal fungus and is important in enhancing the growth of our pine and Douglas-fir plantations.

[photo Geoff Ridley]

Amanita muscaria [photo Geoff Ridley]

2. Armillaria novae-zelandiae and Armillaria limonea are two native species that have wreaked havoc in our tree plantations and kiwifruit orchards. They actively attack the roots and root collar of wood plants and are capable of killing them.

Armillaria novae-zelandiae [photo Geoff Ridley]

Armillaria novae-zelandiae [photo Geoff Ridley]

3. Entoloma hochstteri – this beautiful blue native mushroom is everyone’s holy grail to find. It is also the only mushroom to appear on currency, NZ$50, anywhere in the world. See Hochstetter’s blue pinkgill.

The new $50 note

Entoloma hochstteri on the $50 note

 

4. Pithomyces chartarum is an exotic microfungus that you will never see that decomposes dead grass. However, it can produce spores in great numbers at times, such as this year, and causes the disease known as facial eczema in sheep and cattle. The spores contain a toxin which can severely damage the liver of the affected animal and can lead to death. See Brown Grenades.

Pithomyces chartarum [photo ??]

Pithomyces chartarum [photo ??]

5. Gloeophyllum sepiarium, Gloeophyllum trabeum, Oligoporus placenta and Antrodia sinuosa – I am treating this functional group of four native wood decay fungi as one. They cause cubical brown rot and are the most prevalent species causing damage in leaky house syndrome in New Zealand. They rose to prominence in the 1990s after changes in building regulations saw the use of unsuitable material and building styles resulting in buildings not being weatherproof. See Fungi in leaky homes.

Heavily degraded framing caused by brown rot fungus within the wall cavity [photo Dirk Stahlhut]

Rotting framing timber caused by brown rot fungus [photo Dirk Stahlhut]

6. Ileodictyon cibarium is our most common native stinkhorn and once seen never forgotten. I included this one as it one of the few species that has some Maori lore associated with it so bridges the gap between traditional knowledge and western science.

The common-basket stinckhorn: Ileodictyon cibarium [photo Geoff Ridley]

Ileodictyon cibarium [photo Geoff Ridley]

7. Neotyphodium lolii is another exotic microfungus that you will never see but which has had a significant effect on New Zealand pastoral farming. The fungus is an endophyte growing between the cells in a ryegrass plant. It produces a toxin that affects the nervous system of grazing animals. Modern ryegrass cultivars have been bred and inoculated with non-toxic strains of Neotyphodium lolii to overcome this significant disease.

2016.08.07 endophyte

Neotyphodium growing between the cells in ryegrass [photo Grasslanz]

8. Cyttaria gunnii is a distinctive Gondwanan element of our fungal flora. It is a parasite on southern beech [Nothofagus]. Cyttaria species occur in New Zealand, Tasmania, SE Australia, and southern Chile and Argentina. See Cyttaria galls on silver beech.

Cyttaria gunnii [photo Forest Research]

Cyttaria gunnii [photo Forest Research]

9. Auricularia cornea is a very common native wood decay fungus and was the basis of the first fungal export industry in New Zealand. See Taranaki wool.

Auricularia cornea [photo Geoff Ridley]

Auricularia cornea [photo Geoff Ridley]

10. Melampsora larici-populina is an exotic fungus causing rust on poplars. It arrived in the mid-1970s defoliating poplars across the country. It was the first well-documented case of a fungal disease blowing in from Australia in a process that was to become known as trans-Tasman transport. See Melampsora leaf rusts in New Zealand.

Melampsora larici-populina infected poplars [photo Landcare Research]

Melampsora larici-populina infected poplars [photo Landcare Research]

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Hochstetter’s blue pinkgill

Latin binomials can be scary enough to the beginner but when those names are the Latinised words from other languages it is even scarier. Take as an example the New Zealand blue pinkgill, Entoloma hochstetteri. Whoa! Where did that name come from and how do you say it? Most can cope with the Entoloma part of the name but in a predominantly English speaking nation why hochstetteri and how do you say it? The simplest pronunciation, although German speakers will shudder, is hock-shtetter-ree.

Christian Gottlieb Ferdinand von Hochstetter

Christian Gottlieb Ferdinand von Hochstetter

The blue pinkgill is named in honour of Christian Gottlieb Ferdinand von Hochstetter. Hochstetter was an Austrian geologist and naturalist who visited New Zealand in 1858 to 1860 (Fleming 1990, The Prow 2009). Although his work here was mainly geological he also made notes on natural history including fungi. On returning to Vienna he passed his notes including a drawing of this fungus to the mycologist Erwin Reichardt who describe it as Cortinarius hochsetteri in 1866.

For the first 60 years of the twentieth century there was almost no taxonomic investigation of the mushrooms of New Zealand. This drought was broken by a series of publication by Dr Greta Stevenson who in 1962 re-determined the blue pinkgill as Entoloma hochstetteri. Below is a plate from the 1962 paper with the blue pinkgill lower middle of the plate and numbered 7. The colours are muted due to the poor reproduction from the original art work by the printer and this was a great disappointment to Dr Stevenson.

Assorted Entoloma [Stevenson, 1962]

Assorted Entoloma [Stevenson, 1962]

Dr Stevenson’s papers kicked-off a new interest in mushrooms and further popularised through two small pictorial field guides by Marie Taylor. Below are Marie’s original water colours on which the illustrations in her books were based.

Entoloma hochstetteri [Marie Taylor}

Entoloma hochstetteri [Marie Taylor}

These books brought awareness of the blue pinkgill to a much bigger audience and it became the ‘must find’ of new forayers. Mary Smiley wrote of her quest for the blue Entoloma of New Zealand in the American magazine Fungi. Mary wrote – crawling through the mud, wet leaves, sticker bushes, on my belly like a Navy Seal on a combat mission but all the while thinking “This is so much fun, I don’t ever want it to end!” and “… there were blue Entolomas everywhere …”.

In the late 1980s the New Zealand Reserve Bank decided to completely revamp our banknotes. After wide consultation with the public the reverse side of the fifty dollar notes now features Pureora forest, the kokako (the blue wattled crow), supplejack whose fruits are eaten by kokako, and the blue pinkgill. As far as I know this is the only currency to feature a mushroom.

New Zealand $50 note

New Zealand $50 note

The reason for putting the blue pinkgill on the fifty dollar note is artistic in that the blue of the mushroom is similar to the blue wattles of the kokako. The similar colours was also noted by the Tuhoe people who call it werewere kokako or literally the kokako’s wattle (Best, 1942).

In 2002 New Zealand Post issued a set of stamps featuring native fungi with Entoloma hochstetteri on the 80c stamp. This was the first set of New Zealand stamps to feature fungi. The photos were taken by Don Horne.

NZ Post’s 80c [photo Don Horne]

Our interest in the blue pinkgill is possibly about to go culinary. The Metabolomics lab at the University of Auckland has been researching biological pigments to replace non-biological pigments used as food colourings. As they note:

Food colouring now represents a $1.2 billion global market, with natural colours capturing 31% of the food market, but growing at a rate of 5%. However, these natural colours are largely plant extracts that have the disadvantage of variability and seasonal supply. Microbial cell production, in contrast, offers a reliable and scalable pigment production technology.

Entoloma species are very difficult to grow in artificial culture but the Metaboloic Lab now has the blue pinkgill in culture. It still has to be determined whether or not it has toxic or psychoactive properties. If it hasn’t then one day we may see kokako blue lollies or cosmetics.

Extracted pigment from Entoloma hochstteri

Extracted pigment from Entoloma hochstteri

The lead researcher Silas Villas-Boas jokes “that if it is edible, blue mushroom risotto could become an iconic New Zealand dish” (Gates, 2013) It would seem however that blue risotto is already a signature dish in Mallorca Spain and in Malaysia.

Risotto

Spanish blue risotto

Malaysian nasi ulam

Malaysian nasi ulam

P.S. 16 July 2014. How we almost lost Hochstetter’s blue pinkgill!

In 1976 Egon Horak studying Entoloma species from around the world concluded Entoloma hochstetteri and the Japanese species E.aeruginosum was the same as an older named species E.virescens. As a result Barbara Segedin noted in 1988 “Hygrophorus cyaneus Berkeley, later called Entoloma hochstetteri by Stevenson and now called E. virescens, described first from Bonin Is., Japan”. Then the Japanese mycologist Tsuguo Hongo (1990) visited New Zealand in the late 1980s and studied both Entoloma hochstetteri and the Japanese species Entoloma aeruginosum and decided that they represented different species thus saving the name for us.

P.S. 20 March 2015. Banknotes redesign.

In November 2014 the Reserve Bank of New Zealand launched a new set of banknotes. Although redesigned they maintained the native biodiversity theme. Note that the blue pinkgill has moved from the lower right hand corner to centre stage.

The new $50 note

ReferencesBest E 1942. Forest lore of the Maori. The kokako or crow. http://nzetc.victoria.ac.nz/tm/scholarly/tei-BesFore-t1-body-d2-d6-d16.html

Fleming CA 1990. Hochstetter, Christian Gottlieb Ferdinand von, (from the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography). Te Ara – the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, updated 30 October 2012. http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/biographies/1h30/hochstetter-christian-gottlieb-ferdinand-von

Gates C 2013. Mushrooms might yield major value. Stuff.co.nz http://www.stuff.co.nz/science/9354061/Mushroom-might-yield-major-value

Hongo T 1990. New and noteworthy agarics from New Zealand. Report from the Tottori Mycological Institute 28: 129-134.

Horak E 1976. On cuboid-spored species of Entoloma (Agaricales). Sydowia 28: 171-236.

Landcare Research. Flora, fauna and fungi on the other side of our new bank notes. http://www.landcareresearch.co.nz/about/news/blog/flora-fauna-fungi-bank-notes

Metabolomics Lab. Microbe-derived pigments. University of Auckland. http://www.metabolomics.auckland.ac.nz/index.php/home-top/14-projects-detail-cat/52-pigmentsdetail

New Zealand Post. Native fungi. http://stamps.nzpost.co.nz/new-zealand/2002/native-fungi

Reserve Bank of New Zealand. The history of banknotes in New Zealand. http://www.rbnz.govt.nz/notes_and_coins/notes/0094089.html

Segedin BP 1988. An historical view of the larger fungi. Auckland Botanical Society Journal 43: 23-24.

Smiley M 2010. Quest for the blue Entoloma of New Zealand. Fungi 3(4): 4-6. http://www.fungimag.com/fall-2010-articles/NewZealandLR.pdf

Stevenson G 1962. The Agaricales of New Zealand: III. Rhodophyllaceae. Kew Bulletin 16: 227-237 + plates 4-5.

The Prow 2009. Ferdinand Hochstetter (1829-1884). http://www.theprow.org.nz/people/ferdinand-hochstetter-1829-188/#.UpKDBF329D9