Category Archives: News

High ranking output

Two scientists from the State Herbarium of South Australia have recently collaborated with colleagues to produce research papers that were published in well-known Nature Research journals during the last week.

(1) T. Varga, et al., Megaphylogeny resolves global patterns of mushroom evolutionNature Ecology & Evolution (16 Mar. 2019), DOI: 10.1038/s41559-019-0834-1.

Hon. Research Associate Pam Catcheside is among 62 authors, collaborating in this global effort to produce a phylogeny of 5,284 species of Agaricomycetes. These mushroom-forming fungi have the greatest morphological diversity and complexity of any group of fungi. They have radiated into most niches and fulfill diverse roles in the ecosystem, including wood decomposers, pathogens or mycorrhizal mutualists. This ground-breaking, first comprehensive phylogeny of mushroom-forming fungi reveals large-scale patterns of their evolutionary history.

Phylogenetic relationships and diversification across 5,284 mushroom-forming fungi. A maximum-likelyhood analysis of nrLSU, rpb2, ef1-a sequences.

(2) J.M. Kalwij, et al., Vagrant birds as a dispersal vector in transoceanic range expansion of vascular plantsScientific Reports (15 Mar. 2019), DOI: 10.1038/s41598-019-41081-9.

Some years ago, State Herbarium botanist Jürgen Kellermann was contacted by Jesse Kalwij (now working in Germany) to identify an unknown shrub that was discovered about 25 years ago on sub-Antarctic Marion Island, one of the two Prince Edward Islands (South Africa). This evolved into a study examining the pathways that lead to the establishment of the plant, which turned out to be Ochetophila trinervis, a shrub in the family Rhamnaceae (see also this article). The species is native to southern South America, the closest population being over 7,500 km away. Dr Kalwij involved colleagues from South Africa, Australia, Argentina and Germany in this research, identifying the barn swallow as the most likely vector dispersing seeds of the plant to this sub-Antarctic island.

Ochetophila trinervis on Marion Island. (a) The single shrub, c. 25 years after establishment. (b) Close-up of branch of the plant. Photos: J.M. Kalwij.

Mind the Gap in Brisbane

This week, the annual conference of the Australasian Systematic Botany Society (ASBS) is held in Brisbane. The theme of the conference is Mind the Gap and aims to highlight gaps in the field of systematics (be they biogeographic, taxonomic, data, funding, etc.). It is organised by the Queensland Herbarium and held at the Brisbane Botanic Gardens Mt Coot-tha, Toowong. About 110 delegates from Australia, New Zealand and overseas are meeting to hear 55 presentations. From the State Herbarium of South Australia, Bill Barker and Francis Nge are giving talks on the genus Lindernia and the diversification of Australia’s temperate flora, respectively.

Queensland Herbarium.

The Proceedings of the Conference with abstracts of all presentations are available for download [1.73mb PDF] from the website. Before the Conference, a workshop was held on on how to referee taxonomic manuscripts. A field trip to Springbrook and to the precipice of the remains of the Mt Warning caldera is organised for Friday.

Information on previous meetings can be found on the ASBS website. The last Conference was held in Adelaide and the 2016 meeting took place in Alice Springs. Proceedings of both meetings were published as Swainsona Supplements and can be downloaded from our journal website.

Collecting on Eyre Peninsula

Stenanthemum leucophractum, photograph of herbarium collection JK743. Photo: J. Kellermann.

State Herbarium of South Australia botanist Jürgen Kellermann and PhD-student Francis Nge recently spent a week on Eyre Peninsula to collect plants, in particular Rhamnaceae (Cryptandra, Pomaderris, Spyridium, Stenanthemum ¹) and Myrtaceae (Calytrix ¹).

Cryptandra sp. Hiltaba, collected north of Cowell. Photo: J. Kellermann.

The State Herbarium is host-institution of a project revising the plant family Rhamnaceae for the Flora of Australia, with Dr Kellermann as the lead investigator. Rhamnaceae is one of the 20 largest plant families in Australia and a well-known component of Australia’s temperate and semi-arid flora: 25 genera and over 250 species occur in Australia (see ABRS 2016 Conference abstract; 1 mb PDF). However, the only Australia-wide treatment available to date is by George Bentham (Flora Australiensis, 1863). Together with interstate colleagues, the family will be examined using molecular and morphological methods. The 3-year project is funded by the Australian Biological Resources Study.

Francis Nge is using Rhamnaceae and Calytrix as case-studies for his PhD thesis on the evolutionary history of the Australian temperate flora. He is based at The University of Adelaide and the State Herbarium.

Calytrix tetragona at Warrow Road. Photo: F. Nge.

Francis & Jürgen traveled mainly in middle and northern Eyre Peninsula, especially the area around Kimba, Pinkawillinie Conservation Park, Cleve, Cowell and Hincks Conservation Park, with a short trip to Wanilla Settlement Reserve. During the field-trip, they collected 168 specimens, many with duplicates, as well as leaves in silica gel for DNA analyses and flowers preserved in 70% ethanol. Almost all collections were documented with close-up photos, habit and habitat shots.

Camping at Wharminda Soaks, near Hincks Conservation Park. Photo: J. Kellermann.

¹ The links provided are to VicFlora genus factsheets, as there are no current South Australian or Australia-wide treatments.

Contributed by botanist Jürgen Kellermann.

A letter from the UK – State of the World’s Fungi

Although primarily in the UK to visit family and friends, I was delighted to find that a symposium was being held on fungi on 13th and 14th September while we were in the London area. Moreover, it was to be at Kew where I had spent many happy days in my youth amongst its strange, beautiful and amazing plants. A previous Kew project in 2016 (updated in 2017) to report on the ‘State of the World’s Plants’ had been hugely successful and it had been decided that it was timely to consider the fungi.

At the September meeting this year the report ‘State of the World’s Fungi’ was launched. It covers fungal diversity, the fungal tree of life, new discoveries, useful fungi, plant-fungal interactions, fungal genomes, fungal conservation, threats posed by fungal pathogens and climate change. Over 260 people attended the symposium, not only mycologists but botanists, plant breeders and plant pathologists, industrial chemists, those working in bioinformatics and systematics, conservationists, lichenologists, growers of fungi – anyone with a serious interest in fungi. The main aim was to review the current state of knowledge of all aspects of fungi.

Entoloma ravinense, a fungus from Kangaroo Island, described by Pam Catcheside and colleagues in 2016

There were seven sessions: conservation of fungi; plant-fungi interdependence; importance of lichens; threats and benefits of fungi to ecosystems; fungal networking; commercial value of fungi; discussion of ‘dark taxa’, i.e. those with only a molecular signature. Sixty-seven posters complemented the talks. See the programme and Conference Booklet (31mb PDF) for details and full abstracts.

Two species of fungi collected during a field survey in Kangaroo Island. Photo: D. Catcheside.

The whole conference ran like clockwork, starting with a rationale for the symposium and report and an overview of current knowledge of fungi and given by Professor Kathy Willis, Director of Science at  the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. With an approximate number of 3 million species, knowledge of what fungal species there are is relatively scant, with only 144,000 or 5% named. With respect to conservation status, only 56 fungi are on the IUCN Red List, compared with 25,452 plants and 68,054 animals.

The symposium was by no means doom and gloom though. The estimated 350 species of edible fungi are worth approximately US$42 billion each year. The medical benefits of fungi are inestimable from their use as antibiotics such as penicillin, cholesterol-reducing statins such as lovastatin produced from Aspergillus terreus and the immunosuppressant drug cyclosporine which has made organ transplant possible and is produced from Tolypocladium inflatum. Fungi are also being used to make biofuels, in washing detergents, cotton processing, bioremediation and of course yeasts which underpin the baking, wine and beer industries. I was intrigued to learn that fungi are being used to make leather shoes, easily biodegradable when the user is tired of them. I also had not realised that Lego is made using itaconic acid derived from a species of Aspergillus.

Cortinarius austrovenetus, a species native to the Southern Lofty Region. Photo: D. Catcheside.

Especially exciting is that whole genomes have been sequenced for more than 1500 species, more than the number sequenced for plant and animal species combined. Knowledge of the genes and metabolic pathways is helping the design of effective therapies against pathogenic fungi. Genome sequencing of mycorrhizal fungi is providing insights into how to manage ecosystems more effectively and to deal with problems facing humanity such as climate change.

Cyanthus olla, the birds nest fungus. Photo: B. Baldock.

If I had my fungal time over again I would work with fungal endophytes. These live within plant root, stem and leaf tissue and it is thought that they occur in all plants. Though some may be harmful, many confer advantages to their host such as resistance to stresses such as drought, heat, salinity and pests. Trials have been conducted with a seed treatment containing fungal endophytes with a view to improving crop production and mitigating the effects of climate change.

The poster session was introduced by each of the 67 presenters explaining their poster in 45 seconds. The whole ‘performance’ was accomplished most impressively in one hour!

A copy of the full ‘State of the World’s Fungi’ report can be downloaded from the website. You can also listen to an interview with Dr Tom May, senior mycologist at the National Herbarium of Victoria, discussing the report with Phillip Adams on ABC’s Late Night Live program.

Contributed by Hon. Research Associate Pam Catcheside.

Darrell Nairn Kraehenbuehl 21.1.1934 – 2.8.2018

Darrell at State Herbarium vaults obtaining records to assess regional conservation status. Photo: P.J.Lang.

Darrell Kraehenbuehl, a botanist, historian and naturalist who had a long association with the State Herbarium of South Australia, died earlier this month.

Darrell first became involved as a plant collector in 1957 soon after the establishment of the State Herbarium, and over the ensuing years contributed over 7000 collections. He also wrote the botanical history section prefacing the 1986 edition of the Flora of South Australia (Kraehenbuehl 1986), as well as a number of stand-alone papers on notable South Australian botanists.

At age 19 Darrell became a foundation member of the Nature Conservation Society of South Australia. He was also an active member and one-time president of the Field Naturalists Society of South Australia. Darrell drew on his detailed knowledge of the flora to help secure the conservation of many areas now protected as National Parks and Wildlife Reserves.

In the 1980s and 90s he worked in the Native Vegetation Management Branch of the then Department of Environment and Planning where he pioneered assessments of plant conservation status within specific regions, a crucial tool in assessing vegetation clearance applications.

He was also influential as a popular speaker, sharing his knowledge of the State’s flora and remnant native vegetation with numerous local groups and schools.

Left: Darrell taking field notes in scrub at Desert Camp (now Conservation Park). Right: with Crinum flaccidum at Murtho Native Forest Reserve. Photos: P.J.Lang.

Darrell’s early interest in the flora of the Adelaide plains began as diversions into remnant patches whilst on delivery runs in a scrap-metal business with his stepfather. It culminated in the publication of his definitive and highly acclaimed book documenting the pre-European vegetation of the Adelaide Plains (Kraehenbuehl 1996).

In 1998 Pultenaea kraehenbuehlii, a bush-pea endemic to the Tothill Ranges, was named in honour of Darrell and in recognition of his botanical exploration of that area (see also original description of the species in the Journal of the Adelaide Botanic Gardens; 776kb PDF).

Pultenaea kraehenbuehlii photographed by Darrell in the Tothill Ranges, Northern Lofty Region.

A more detailed account of Darrell is available here from a speech by State Herbarium honorary associate Bill Barker on the occasion of Darrell’s retirement in 1999.

Darrell was a colourful character who is remembered for his diverse contributions to botany and passionate commitment to plant conservation, as well as his sense of humour, generous nature and infectious enthusiasm.

Contributed by State Herbarium botanist Peter Lang.

Key Publications

Kraehenbuehl, D.N. (1986). History of botany in South Australia (1800-1955). In: Jessop, J.P. & Toelken, H.R. (eds), Flora of South Australia. Fourth Edition. Part 1, pp. 13-39. Government Printer: Adelaide. (0.9mb PDF)

Kraehenbuehl, D.N. (1996). Pre-European vegetation of Adelaide: a survey from the Gawler River to Hallett Cove. 317 pp. Nature Conservation Society of South Australia: Adelaide. (see book review).

Lang, P.J. & Kraehenbuehl, D.N. (1987). Plants of Particular Conservation Significance in South Australia’s Agricultural Regions: interim report. 178 pp. South Australian Dept. of Environment and Planning: Adelaide.

Callitris gracilis woodland, The Pinery, Grange. Original slide taken by Darren Kraehenbuehl in 1955.