Author Archives: Jürgen

Plant of the Month: Aug. 2017

Callitris rhomboidea, branch with immature cones. Photo: T. Robinson.

Plant the Month for August is Callitris rhomboidea R.Br. (Oyster Bay pine), which occurs in DEWNR‘s Park of the Month, Onkaparinga River National Park. It is a conifer from the large and cosmopolitan Cypress family (Cupressaceae), which includes many important timber (e.g. Sequoia sp., the Redwoods of North America) and horticultural species (e.g. Cryptomeria, from Japan). Callitris includes approximately 16 species, 13 of which are restricted to Australia. The majority of these occur in heath and woodlands, extending into semi-arid areas. Recent molecular research suggests that Callitris evolved from rainforest ancestors in response to a drying climate over the past 30 million years (Larter et al. 2017) and in contrast to other Australian conifers, they are remarkably drought tolerant, allowing them to thrive in arid conditions.

Callitris rhomboidea, fruiting cone. Photo: T. Robinson.

This species is commonly referred to as the Oyster Bay pine, in reference to its occurrence on the Georges River, in the vicinity of Sydney (also known as Port Jackson pine). Callitris rhomboidea extends from coastal southern Queensland through New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania. In South Australia, it occurs chiefly on Kangaroo Island and a few scattered localities in the Mount Lofty Ranges, including the Onkaparinga River Gorge, and the Mount Crawford region to the north. While it is widely distributed, Oyster Bay pine is only locally common, occurring on sand dunes and in rocky areas in heath and woodlands. Callitris are intolerant of fire and preferentially grow in areas that are protected by topography or slow rates of fuel accumulation. However, the Oyster Bay pine can readily regenerate from seed, which are held in the thick woody cones that cluster on fruiting branches. Like many plant species of Australia’s fire prone woodlands (for example, Banksia), fire may act as a stimulus for seed release followed by mass germination and generation of dense, even-aged stands.

Callitris rhomboidea in Hale Conservation Park. Photo: T. Robinson.

There are two species of Callitris occurring within the Onkaparinga River National Park. Callitris rhomboidea is perhaps best distinguished from Callitris gracilis (Slender Cypress-pine) by the shape of the cone scales on the female cone, which are rhomboidal (hence the name, rhomboidea) and have a distinct point near the apex.

Callitris rhomboidea is ‘Rare’ within South Australia, and has declined in parts of its range as a consequence of land clearing, grazing and weed competition. While the level of decline is insufficient to warrant listing as ‘Threatened’, factors such as high frequency fires and susceptibility to ‘die-back‘ (caused by the fungal pathogen, Phytophthora cinnamomi) are potential future concerns (IUCN Red List 2017).

Contributed by State Herbarium molecular botanist Ed Biffin.

Our journal’s web-site banners

Swainsona formosa. Photo: H. Owens.

This year, the State Herbarium of South Australia‘s journal changed its name to Swainsona.

When browsing the new journal web-site, you might have noticed that there are changing banners at the top of the page. Each showing a different species of Swainsona. The journal was named after South Australia’s floral emblem, the Sturt desert pea (Swainsona formosa (G.Don) Joy Thomps., but there are about 85 species in the genus (see Joy Thompson’s revision of the genus, 17.7mb PDF). Some of these plants feature on Swainsona‘s web-site.

Below you can find a gallery of the banners that are used at the moment. If you click on the image, you will get more information from the SA Seedbank web-site. More images will be added in the future.

More information on the Australian states’ floral emblems can be found in an article by Sophie Ducker (1999, 930kb PDF) and on the Australian National Botanic Gardens web-site.

Swainsona canescens. Photo: SA Seed Conservation Centre.

Swainsona fuscoviridis & S. fissimontana. Photo: SA Seed Conservation Centre.

Swainsona fuscoviridis. Photo: SA Seed Conservation Centre.

Swainsona leeana. Photo: P.J. Lang.

Swainsona microphylla. Photo: R.J. Bates.

Swainsona oligophylla. Photo: R.J. Bates.

Swainsona pyrophila. Photo: SA Seed Conservation Centre.

Swainsona tenuis. Photo: SA Seed Conservation Centre.

Swainsona tephrotricha. Photo: D.N. Kraehenbuehl.

Swainsona stipularis. Photo: P.J. Lang.

Surveys of fungi on Kangaroo Island (2)

Note that Natural Resources Kangaroo Island have also published an illustrated leaflet on native fungi of Kangaroo Island, explaining 18 common fungi of the island (670 kb PDF).

Part 2. Truffles and truffle-like fungi

Three specimens of “Amylotrama”. Photo: D. Catcheside.

In 2017, the main foci of the annual survey of fungi on Kangaroo Island (22-29 June 2017) were not only on continuing with making lists of fungi at the different sites visited, but also on disc fungi, truffles and truffle-like fungi (2.6mb PDF) on collecting data for a project on the evolution of truffles.

The truffle-like Stephanospora (top) and an unknown species from the Cortinariales. Photo: D. Catcheside.

Truffle expert Teresa Lebel (National Herbarium of Victoria) made over fifty collections of truffles, some of which are very likely to be new species. These included three distinct species in the undescribed truffle-like genus “Amylotrama”. One was brightly coloured chrome yellow with red and blue staining, the other two were rather nondescript.

Amongst other interesting finds was a new species of the truffle-like genus Stephanospora and a strange little translucent pearlescent parachute-shaped fruit-body with dark chocolate spore bearing tissue. This last taxon was collected during last year’s survey on Kangaroo Island and preliminary DNA work on this collection gave a hint that it fitted in the Cortinariales. This is a very large order, and further work is needed to narrow down likely affinities.

A new species of truffle-like Amanita (previously known as Torrendia) was close to a species known from Western Australia, Amanita grandis, but does not conform completely to this taxon. It is a very fragile little white fungus, whose fruit-bodies were buried up to 3-4 cm and were very difficult to dig out of the ground intact as the volva and veils were stuck to the encasing soil and broke off easily.

A species of Amantia, possibly related to A. grandis. Photo: D Catcheside.

Four further collections were made for a project investigating the molecular basis of how truffle-like fungi, which fruit underground, have evolved from mushroom-like fungi. In Australia alone, this has happened at least 58 times in different genera over the past few million years.

The truffle-like habit reduces desiccation of fruit bodies and thus increases spore survival in arid conditions. Most such fungi are in a tripartite symbiotic association. They provide trees with water and minerals and small mammals, that find them by smell, with food. In turn the trees supply them with sugars and the small mammals disperse their spores. The genomes of twelve pairs of related fungi, one a truffle the other a mushroom, will be sequenced and the genes active during development of the fruiting body identified.  The project is supported by the US Department of Energy through the Joint Genome Institute and is conducted by an international team of mycologists led by David Catcheside (Flinders University).

Mycologist Teresa Lebel collecting data and specimens for the “truffle project”. Photo D. Catcheside

Contributed by State Herbarium Hon. Associate Pam Catcheside.

New SA plants named after actors

Mike Crisp in the herbarium. Photo: S. Hay (ANU).

Earlier in the year, Australian National University’s Emeritus Prof. Mike Crisp made headlines, when he named two new species of Daviesia (egg and bacon peas) after Danny DeVito and Arnold Schwarzenegger.

The monograph, published in the journal Phytotaxa, is the culmination of over 40 years of research into the genus. It is the first comprehensive account since Bentham‘s treatment in Flora Australiensis (1864), which included 55 species. Crisp and co-authors now recognise 131 species and several subspecies.

Among the newly described species that occur in South Australia are Daviesia schwarzenegger and D. devito. These have now been added to the South Australian Census of plants, algae & fungi.

While variation with in Daviesia was known for a long time, only modern DNA sequence analyses made the recognition of the two taxa possible, by showing that D. benthamii subsp. humilis comprised two cryptic species that are more closely related to other species than to D. benthamii. The two species were named after the actors, as they are “unlikely twins“, similar to the two characters Schwarzenegger and DeVito play in the movie Twins (1988).

Daviesia Schwarzenegger occurs from the “southern Flinders Ranges in South Australia, through northern Victoria and as far north as Condoblin in New South Wales”. Photo: M. Crisp.

Daviesia schwarzenegger is also named after Arnold Schwarzenegger, in recognition of his “leadership (as governor of California) in pioneering the reduction of carbon emissions, and for advising the Australian government to do the same“. It is the larger and more robust of the two species, whereas D. devito is the less vigorous of the two cryptic species“.

Sirdavidia solannona, a monotypic genus in Annonaceae. Photo: T.L.P. Couvreur (CC-BY).

Watch Mike Crisp talking about the new taxa in this video.

Plants are often named after persons, for example the collector of plant specimens, an explorer or important naturalist. While early botanists also named species after benefactors or royalty, in modern times, celebrities and politicians have been used. Recent examples include:

Systematics conference in Adelaide

The University of Adelaide, Barr Smith Library in the foreground. Photo: M. Seyfang (CC-BY).

The joint meeting of the Australasian Systematic Botany Society (ASBS) and the Society of Australian Systematic Biologists (SASB), and including the biennial Invertebrate Biodiversity and Conservation Meeting, will be held in Adelaide later this year, co-organised by staff from the State Herbarium of South Australia, the South Australian Museum, The University of Adelaide and Flinders University.

Systematics 2017 — Integrating Systematics for Conservation and Ecology

The conference will be held at The University of Adelaide from 26 to 29 Nov. 2017. The theme of the meeting, “Integrating Systematics for Conservation and Ecology“, aims to provide a globally relevant application of the work that the study of systematics, and the application of taxonomy, has to a broader scientific community and society. This meeting which will be an excellent opportunity to see cutting edge research presentations, network with members of societies from affiliated groups and meet with colleagues and friends.

Plenary speakers will include Johnathan Coddington (Smithonian Institution), Gonzalo Giribet (Harvard University), Judy West (Parks Australia) and Nerida Wilson (Western Australian Museum). More program items will be released shortly.

Registration is now open. Please visit the Conference web-site for more information.