Category Archives: News

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 Eyre Peninsula and 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.

Surveys of fungi on Kangaroo Island (1)

Part I. Above-ground fungi

Entoloma ravinense, a new species described in 2016. Photo: D. Catcheside.

The annual surveys of fungi were carried out in the last week of June 2017 by Pam Catcheside (State Herbarium of South Australia), Teresa Lebel (National Herbarium of Victoria), Helen Vonow (Herbarium Collection Manager, State Herbarium of South Australia) and David Catcheside (Flinders University). The group was joined for a few days by Fungimap Co-ordinator Sapphire McMullan-Fisher (National Herbarium of Victoria).

Mutinus cartilaginous (top) and an undescribed species of Leucoagaricus (bottom). Photo: D. Catcheside.

Pam and David Catcheside have been surveying the fungi in Flinders Chase National Park since 2002. Reports on the larger fungi of Kangaroo Island were prepared for the Wildlife Conservation Fund. The fund provided grants to study fungi from South Australia from 1999 to 2005 and specifically to collect data on fungi after fires on Kangaroo Island in 2008 and 2009 (unpublished data). Pam and David have a number of sites in the Chase which are revisited each year. They now have data at these sites for six years before the devastating bushfires of December 2007 and for eight years after those fires.

A dry lead-up to the fieldwork meant that the fungi were not fruiting as much as in previous years. However, some interesting collections were made and some good field photos of some difficult species were taken.

In 2017, the main foci were not only on continuing with making lists of fungi at the different sites visited, but also on disc fungi, truffles and on collecting data for a project on the evolution of truffles. Over 80 specimens were collected, quite a few of which are potentially new or species previously unknown for Kangaroo Island. Details of truffles will be reported in the second part of this blog.

The survey team at work. Photo: H. Vonow.

Over the years, a number of rare and under-collected species of fungi have been found including a new species of a small, white, shell-shaped gilled fungus Entoloma ravinensis P.S.Catches., Vonow & D.E.A.Catches. (1.8mb PDF) This species has previously been collected from one site only in the Ravine des Casoars. A collection was made at a second site at Rocky River, Flinders Chase National Park. The millionth specimen to be databased at the State Herbarium of South Australia was one of this fungus so it has special significance for AD.

Spores of Plicaria species under the light microscope: spiny (left) and alveolate spores (right). Photo: P. Catcheside.

One of the interesting results for this year was a new discovery for South Australia of Mutinus cartilagineus J.H. Willis, one of the Stinkhorns. Stinkhorns produce a mass of evil-smelling, slimy spores on the top of a club-like structure. Flies are attracted by the smell, hence spreading the spores. This collection seems to be the first from the State, though the fungus is relatively common in Victoria and Tasmania.

Two unknown species of Peziza. Photo: D. Catcheside.

A good collection was made of an undescribed species of Leucoagaricus, a lovely delicate pale yellow cap with pale apricot coloured lamellae. Further material will be examined from the herbaria in Melbourne and Adelaide in order to make a formal description, and get a better idea of distribution.

A number of small, black disc fungi were collected including three species of Plicaria, two of them probably new and at least two species of Peziza. Most species of Plicaria are early colonisers after fire but one, with spores ornamented with a fine network, known as alveolate spores, was at an unburnt site. Another, with spores ornamented with long spines (see image above) was in vegetation burnt in 2016. One species of was fruiting in long strands in the centre and along the sides of the track leading to Sanderson Bay. The track was of sand and quarried limestone, obviously a suitable substrate for the fungus. Fruit bodies of these disc fungi are very similar in appearance and so microscopic examination of spores and other structures is imperative. Molecular sequencing is often necessary, too.

Peziza growing on a track near Sanderson Bay . Photo: D. Catcheside.

Contributed by State Herbarium Hon. Associate Pam Catcheside.

New post-doctoral fellowship

The Australasian Systematic Botany Society (ASBS) announced its newest grant: the Marlies Eichler Postdoctoral Fellowship for research focused on the systematics of plants, algae or fungi. Projects can include studies of taxonomy, phylogeny and biogeography. Due date for the very first round of applications is 31 July 2017. The fellowship is available for two years, with up to $10,000 per year.

The fellowship is named in honour of Marie-Luise (Marlies) Eichler, a life-member of ASBS, whose extraordinary generosity over many years made this funding possible. She is also remembered through the eponyms Tribulopsis marliesiae R.L.Barrett (21mb PDF) and Zygophyllum marliesiae R.M.Barker (2.2mb PDF) (both Zygophyllaceae).

New AVH

This week, the revamped AVH was released. Same acronym, but new name: it is now called the “Australasian Virtual Herbarium“. The web-portal encompasses data from all New Zealand and Australian herbaria, i.e. over 8 million specimen records are available through the web-site.

In addition, the advanced search option has been up-graded and new special filters and facets have been added. Other improvements have been implemented, as well, for example in the downloads.

“The Australasian Virtual Herbarium (AVH) is an online resource that provides dynamic access to the wealth of plant specimen data held by Australian and New Zealand herbaria. The AVH is a collaborative project developed under the auspices of the Council of Heads of Australasian Herbaria (CHAH).”