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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.