Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Fungal FUN in New Zealand

Fungi event report #1: Fungal FUN in New Zealand: Report from the 27th NZ fungal foray

By Sapphire JM McMullan-Fisher

This is the first year I have managed to attend the FunNZ (Fungal Network of New Zealand). Far from being an infrequent event, this was the 27th NZ fungal foray. Each alternating year this group of enthusiastic fungiphiles visit somewhere in the north or south island for five fungi filled days. Check out their website if you want to find out more – the next one might be Stewart Island?
This years’ event was held in Matawai, midway between Opotiki and Gisborne, in the East Cape region of the North Island. The Matawai location was the impetus to finally get me to a FunNZ foray. In 2010 I made it back to NZ after 30 years, to go to the Childs Workshop - similar to fungi forays but this group are interested in Mosses, Liverworts, Hornworts and Lichens so their workshops are held in November most years. While at the 2010 Childs workshop, I was awed by some of the Nothofagus, podocarp and broadleaf forests (Fig. 1) and said to Shirley Kerr that I would give my eyeteeth to see these forests in the fungi season. So now, at last, I have. My wallet is a bit lighter but I still have all my teeth and I had a wonderful time!

What a great week we had with the folk from FunNZ. A lot of behind the scenes work goes on before such events: about 20 potential foray sites had been checked out, directions and maps worked out and permission and collection permits obtained for the whole group. This meant that each day, drivers would write down where they were going and how many gaps there were in their cars. Thus forays were self-selecting. Everyone was so friendly and knowledgeable that I wanted to go everywhere with everyone. So, after breakfast or the evening before, Roz Hart (Fig. 3) and I would plot and plan our fungal foray wish list for the next day. Each day turned out to be a great adventure with good fungi and lovely company. 

Figure 1: Broadleaf rainforest with red and silver beech (Nothofagus fusca & Nothofagus menzeseii) and emergent Rimu (Da crydium cupressinum). Photo: SJM McMullan-Fisher, CC-BY-SA
Figure 3: Roz Hart in Moanui.
Photo: SJM McMullan-Fisher, CC-BY-SA
Figure 2: The location of Matawai, on the North Island.
Source: Google Maps.

Figure 4: Wanda Daley (left) and Shaun Pennycook adding data to the New Zealand Fungi Database. Petra White hovers behind the scenes making sure the whole process goes smoothly. Photo: Roz Hart, CC-BY-SA
After each foray, everyone would return to the hall where we were based. In there, under much warmer conditions than outside, microscopes, cameras etc were set up ready to use. Most importantly, some of the collections staff from Landcare Research (a bit like one of our state conservation departments and herbarium combined) had set up tables for identification (see Figure 4). Plus a huge bundle of Foray labels each with a unique number and bar code. By bringing back a reasonable example of most of the taxa seen at each site and then databasing it straight away, there are good lists of the fungi observed over the long years of the NZ forays. Laying out of the specimens was ordered if appearing chaotic, new collections went on one table with a minimum of the site collection details on each label and whatever level of identification was worked out, and named specimens were databased as a priority, these moved from the left of the databasers to their right after they had been databased. Often by the time that they had been databased identifications had been made thus looking at the “done” table each night was a great way to learn new species (see Figure 5, below).
Figure 5: The “done” specimen table. Note the many species of named Cortinarius!
Photo: Roz Hart, CC-BY-SA
From the “done” table there was an opportunity to note unusual records or rarely collected taxa which were then immediately vouchered after databasing. In recent years these collections have been analysed for DNA so eventually there should be a good voucher collection for each New Zealand fungal taxa – so systematically developing a “Reference Collection”. Of course, these processes have developed over time, as small, logical improvements have been codified and worked into their system. As Petra White notes, there was a time when the group struggled (as many fungal groups do) with organising all the tasks that are required post-foray. She says, "When I attended my first foray (17th fungal foray, Katikati,, 2003) there was no system at all. The only lists that were recorded were those that were taken back to the PDD. I started recording by hand everything that was collected and also organising the process. There was no system at all and all the specimens, whether identified or not, were just lumped together on one table. I put in place the process that we still use, a table for unidentified, one for identified, and another for databased collections. From the databased table a decision is made as to which collections go to PDD. Some get labelled “Jac” and go to Jerry Cooper, and some others “OTA” and go to the Otago herbarium. It is also possible for individuals to take specimens of their own once they have been databased. In 2005 at Ohakune I was able to stop recording species lists by hand when Shaun turned up with a computer. In 2006 the FUNNZ tracking system was instituted and photographs of collections were taken in addition to the other information that was collected."

The level of identifications of the species found is very high. Many people have taken on “pet” groups and become familiar with their local species, both named and un-named. All the locals know who understands the different groups and direct you to the right person to go and ask questions. So say if you have a Mycena or Bolete you are directed to Patrick Leonard, or if it is an Entoloma or wax gill you are sent to Shirley Kerr or if it is a Psathyrella you see Mahajabeen Padamsee, for Cortinarius you get sent to David Orlovich and Karl Soop, if it is a bracket on wood you get sent to Peter Buchanan, and if it is obscure you get sent to Jerry Cooper!

There is the “field book”, which contains most species, a version of this can be found at http://www.landcareresearch.co.nz/resources/identification/fungi. There are a number of “guides” or manuals where those interested in the group have pulled together images, text and even made draft keys to the local species within the group. These are not polished documents but rather a place to bring together information so that the differences between species can be worked out. So some species might just start out with a tag name and an image and a few descriptive sentences. This may then evolve to several images, several pages of text about the species both macro and microscopic and even a trial key.

Everyone is very keen on fungi and the developing fungal knowledge is awe inspiring to see. This group may only get together for a week a year but in that week they pack in conversations about taxonomy, nomenclature, ecology, molecular work, conservation and all things mycological. It’s lovely to see that enthusiastic beginners are made welcome. It is a great place to learn about fungi and the congenial atmosphere, good humour made it all so easy and fun.

In the middle of the event was the “Mycology Colloquium” which was a fascinating day of talks about all things mycological. I think this was a wonderful opportunity to see the interests and also research which is going on in NZ. It was fabulous to see some students researching fungi. At the end of the day Jerry Cooper introduced to a website NatureWatch – Fungi NZ. (If you want regular internet fixes about what fungi are popping up in NZ you should join up – or even post the fungal delights you find when foraying in NZ!)

The delightful “Truffle Lady” (Teresa Lebel) was present – no surprise there as NZ appears to be another hot spot for wonderful truffle like fungi (second only to Australia of course?!) New to me were – red pouch fungi (Leratiomyces erythrocephala) (Fig. 7, below), Rossbevera pachyderma and Cortinarius porphoroides (pouch fungi).
Figure 6: The delightful “Truffle Lady” (Teresa Lebel) at Wairata. Photo: SJM McMullan-Fisher, CC-BY-SA.

Figures 7 (left) and 8 (right). 
Fig. 7: Red pouch fungus (Leratiomyces erythrocephala) found under Rimu (Dacrydium cupressinum). This fungus is is a truffle relative of the mushroom Leratiomyces ceres that is commonly found in mulch. The
fruiting bodies (below) are compared to a Passiflora berry (above). It is thought that Red pouch fungus is spread by animals due to the similarity in colour and form to plant berries. Fig. 8. The fungus being photographed and collected by Japanese mycologist Takamichi Orihara. Photos: SJM McMullan-Fisher, CC-BY-SA

Figure 9: Rossbeavera pachydermus. This truffle stains blue and has chololate coloured gleba. The genus was named after the wonderful New Zealand mycologist Ross Beever, who sadly passed away in 2010. He is still much missed at the Foray. Photo by: SJM McMullan-Fisher, CC-BY-SA

Other mycological highlights were Mycena roseoflava (see Figure 10), Mycena flavovirens (Fig. 11) and and Mycena interrupta (Fig. 12). While these are very common species in New Zealand, Mycena as a genus was quite a highlight of this foray because of the many different substrates it was found on, such as Dicksonia spp.

These delicate and colourful species brought great photographic opportunities. There was also a welter of Cortinarius species particularly under Nothofagus. Here again it was interesting to find Cortinarius (C. cycneus) growing in Blechnum discolor and Astelia nervosa; the mycelium obviously extend up into the stems of these plants These beauties with amazing shapes, colours, sizes and varying amounts of sticky gluten were “easily” identified by David, Karl and many others. I expect many years of collaborative work has occurred to understand this important mycorrhizal group. However it made it seem “easy” to those new to the area. Those in the know, including the us two from Australia, know how difficult this group still is.

Unlike most Australian fungal groups there are a large contingent of people who are enthusiastic foragers and eaters of fungi. With the good level of identification expertise, microscope access to check with and northern hemisphere vegetation, a good feed was had most nights. The list of fungal culinary delights is:
Agrocybe parasitica (Poplar mushroom), Armillaria limonea (Lemon honey fungus), Calvatia gigantea (Giant Puffball), Coprinus atramentarius (Common inkcap), Coprinus comatus (Shaggy inkcap), Stropharia rugoso-annulata (Burgundy mushroom), Suillus granulatus (Weeping bolete), Agaricus campestris, and Tremella fuciformis (Jelly fungus). I think I doubled the number of “European” fungi species that I have eaten in this single week so thanks to the great foragers and cooks.

Perhaps one day all the Australasian fungiphiles can get together for a group foray.
I suggest New Caladonia or Norfolk Island could be adventurous venues?!

Figure 10: The colours of a good dawn, Mycena roseoflava is often laterally attached and is found on wood. Photo by: SJM McMullan-Fisher, CC-BY-SA
Figure 11: Amazing green Mycena flavovirens is not very commonly found. For some reason green is not a common colour for mushrooms. Photo: SJM McMullan-Fisher, CC-BY-SA
Figure 12: This species seems to be less “blue” than when I have seen it in Tasmania and Victoria. Most of the ones I saw on the FunNZ 2013 Foray were faded to this blue grey colour. Need more observations to be sure of this. Photo by: SJM McMullan-Fisher, CC-BY-SA


Figure 13: Congenial foray to Wairata: Roz Hart (left), Petra White, Chantal Probst, Alexandra Ohare, Ann Redpath & Teresa Lebel (Right). Photo by: SJM McMullan-Fisher, CC-BY-SA