How little we know

If you follow this blog, you know that I focus a lot on Wellington and the surrounding area at the bottom of the North Island of New Zealand. This area is serviced by the Greater Wellington Regional Council (GWRC) who at the end of 2018 published Forest Ecosystems of the Wellington Region. This an amazing resource that identifies and maps the extent of pre-European ecosystems, describes their biological and physical characteristics, and gives an estimate of how much of each ecosystem still exists.

I recently read Ngā uruora: The Groves of Life. Ecology and History in a New Zealand Landscape by Geoff Park (1995). I was particularly taken by his chapter on the Kaipiti / Horowhenua coastal / lowland forests where he talks of the extent of the pre-European forest, how quickly it was cleared and how little is left today.

Geoff Park’s writes of “subtropical lushness that cloaked Horowhenua’s low country. … Mātai, tōtara and rimu wooded the drier flats and sand dunes, kahikatea and pukatea the swamps and lake margins. ‘Shaded with lofty forest … banks clothed with beautiful evergreens to the water’s edge, studded with lovely wooded islets … fringes of raupo alternating with overhanging bush.’”

Of interest to me is the kahikatea, pukatea swamp forests which are considered critically endangered in the Wellington region as they have been reduced to 1% of their pre-European area. It now only exists as remnant pockets of forest. One remnant is Ngā Manu nature reserve in Waikanae. I first visited Ngā Manu 35 years ago, when it was first established, and it seemed at the time to be this isolated piece of bush in the middle of no where. Today its surrounded by urban development and motorways.

Nga Manu, Waikanae [Google maps]

We know very little about the fungi of this coastal plain and even less about the fungi that are associated with this swamp forest ecosystem. A list of fungi was drawn up by Jerry Cooper after the Fungal Network of New Zealand annual foray in May 2009. The list consisted of about 69 collections (not species).

Campanella vinosolivida (FUNNZ2009/1667)

Jerry wrote:

The list contains predominantly indigenous fungi which is unusual for an urban locality and emphasizes the unmodified nature of this reserve. The obvious introductions are Amanita muscaria, Favolaschia calocera, Leratiomyces ceres and Phragmidium violaceum. The first two are known fungal weeds of indigenous forests. The third is a cosmopolitan wood chip species originating in Australia, and the last is an introduction from Europe by way of Australia and specific to Rubus fruticosus, itself an invasive weed.

The remainder of the list are reasonably common, except Melanotus vorax, currently only known from two other collections and Campanella vinosolivida which isn’t especially common. The highlight is a very distinctive Macrotyphula growing on dead Phormium leaves alongside the board walk. No name has been found for the fungus and its presence on a common host indicates a potentially locally restricted and nationally uncommon taxon.

Melanotus vorax (FUNNZ2009/1689)

This report is very much a snapshot of what was collected in one afternoon and does not represent any systematic sampling. I’m keenly looking for funding to support systematic sampling and to develop a management strategy to ensure the survival of the fungi that naturally occur in this “critically endangered” ecosystem

So, watch this blog.


Cooper J 2009. Fungal Network of New Zealand (FUNNZ) 23rd Annual Foray, Waikanae, May 2009. Site List for Nga Manu Reserve, 12th May 2009.

Singers N, Crisp P, Spearpoint O 2018. Forest Ecosystems of the Wellington Region. Greater Wellington Regional Council, Publication No. GW/ESCI-G-18-164, Wellington