The Dog’s thoughts on mushrooms

There won’t be many New Zealanders’ who didn’t follow the life and love of Murray Ball’s (1939-2017) Wal Footrot and the Dog in Footrot Flats. As Shaun Bamber wrote:

When I was 11, I bought a copy of Murray Ball’s first Footrot Flats book off a classmate at school for $2.50 and a pack of sandwiches. It’s sitting here beside me right now as I write these words.

I was already well familiar with The Dog, Wal and the rest of the Footrot crew by then of course – had in fact been almost obsessively collecting the anthologies ever since some relative or other got me one to read while recovering from getting my tonsils out.

And in a great blog looking at the history and reason for the popularity of Footrot Flats by Bob from Temuka wrote:

And that popularity was deserved, because it was a rich strip from a simpler, less media-saturated time. It did romanticise the rural lifestyle, but never hid the dirt and filth of the farmyard. Ball, who lived the life he drew about, could get into devilish detail on a rotting goat’s carcass, or a steaming pile of rank manure – everyday sights for the farmer, but endearingly shocking to everybody else. You could smell the silage in the ink, and that gave the strip a raw, sketchy vitality It was also wildly popular because the characters were so recognisable, (at least in NZ). There was the upright farmer, the hippie neighbour, the cheeky hussy, the stern Aunt and the pampered pet. And there was the Dog.

I have three comic strips cut from 1982 editions of the Wellington Evening Post. They are badly yellowed from years of hanging on my office wall. I don’t know if they were ever reprinted in the many Footrot Flats’ anthologies? So here is the Dog’s thoughts on mushrooms.

[Murray Ball, 1982]

[Murray Ball, 1982]

You can read my blogs about facial eczema here.

[Murray Ball, 1982]

Murray Ball 1939-2017 [photo Fairfax NZ]


Shaun Bamber, 2017. Footrot Flats: Murray Ball’s enduring gift to New Zealand.

Bob of Temuka, 2017. Footrot Flats: Goodbye, Murray. From The Tearoom Of Despair.


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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]