Category Archives: News

Preliminary studies of the fungi in Flinders Chase National Parks after the 2020 fires

Peziza aff. petersii. Photo: David Catcheside.

Fungi play important roles after fire. Their fine, root-like hyphae bind soil particles, stabilising the soil and reducing erosion. Fungi provide nutrients for plants, helping to re-establish plant communities. They reduce the high pH of the ash bed. Many fungi break down the burnt litter and wood, returning nutrients to the soil. A previous Blog on fires and fungi in Flinders Chase National Park was written before a recent survey of the Park.

Plicaria recurva. Photo: David Catcheside.

In mid-July 2020, Pam and David Catcheside surveyed the fungi in Flinders Chase National Park, devastated after the previous summer bushfires. These surveys  augment those made after the 2007 bushfires in the Park (see references below) and enable comparisons to be made of the fungi fruiting after those fire events. In 2020, 96 % of Flinders Chase was burnt, more than the 85 % estimate for the 2007 fires. Preliminary analysis suggests that, although there is some overlap between the species that occurred after the 2007 and 2020 fires, there are differences both in species composition and species richness, perhaps reflecting the differences in severity of the fires.

Pulvinula archeri. Photo: David Catcheside.

In 2020, collections were made at a number of sites, all of which had been severely burnt: near Rocky River, Platypus Waterholes, the Ravine des Casoars, Gosselands and Kelly Hill Conservation Park. The fungi were similar at all sites, though fruiting was less at Gosselands and at Kelly Hill.

Disc fungi made up most of the fungi that were found. These fungi are important colonisers often fruiting in profusion soon after fire. They reduce the strongly alkaline pH (around pH 10) resulting from the ash closer to neutral (pH 7), a pH more favourable for plant growth. The most common species were a fawn to pinkish-brown species of Peziza, possibly P. petersii, black-brown Plicaria recurva (see images above) and the small, brilliant orange Pulvinula archeri. There were a few patches of orange Anthracobia maurilabra and A. muelleri.

Anthracobia aff. maurilabra. Photo: David Catcheside.

After the 2007 fires, Anthracobias were abundant, often in circles around the bases of Xanthorrhoea semiplana var. tateana in contrast with the few patches seen in 2020.  Also after the 2007 fires Pulvinula archeri, though present, was not in the profusion found in 2020. Disc fungi are often difficult to identify to species. Almost all require microscopic examination of often nuanced characters such as spore ornamentation. Samples of some of the disc fungi collected have been taken for molecular sequencing and analysis. Results should help to clarify the tentative identifications made so far on the collections.

Laccaria aff. canaliculata. Photo: David Catcheside.

A few gilled fungi were found, including a species of Laccaria. Laccarias are early colonisers of burnt and bare ground and are mycorrhizal, forming essential partnerships with plants.

In contrast with the fungi found after the 2007 fires, there were few fruit bodies of ‘stone fungi’, species of Laccocephalum.  Their hard, pored, mushroom-like fruit bodies come up almost immediately after fire from a sclerotium, an underground storage tuber. This year, fruit bodies of Laccocephalum tumulosum, the only species of Laccocephalum found, were much smaller than those seen after the 2007 fires, reaching only 5 cm in comparison with the up to 20 cm of the 2008 collections. In 2008 and 2009 five species of Laccocephalum were collected: L. tumulosum, L. mylittae, L. basilapiloides, L. minormylittae and L. sclerotinium. Their sclerotia can be mixtures of fungal tissue and sand (false sclerotia) or consist only of fungal tissue (true sclerotia).

Laccocephalum tumulosum. Photo: David Catcheside.

At one site at the Ravine des Casoars, an undescribed species of coral fungus, Ramaria or Ramariopsis, was pushing up the sandy soil over an area of several metres. When excavated, this fungus was seen to have a false sclerotium, a structure previously unknown for any species of coral fungus (see images below).

Fungal fruiting is rain and temperature dependent and it is difficult to select the optimal time for surveys and collections. June and July are usually good months for fungi in South Australia. In 2008 Pam and David spent a week in early June when they collected 14 species of disc fungi, approximately 17 species of gilled fungi, two boletes (soft pored fungi with a central stem), a few club, bracket and coral fungi, in all approximately 40 species. The conditions prior to their collecting trip in 2020 were dry and would have had a somewhat detrimental effect on fungal fruiting. Nonetheless, the results were unexpected: only nine species of disc fungi, four of gilled fungi, two coral fungi with a total of 18 species. These preliminary results from the two sets of surveys suggest that both species composition and richness are less after the more extensive and more severe summer fires of 2020.

Ramaria sp. Sclerotium (left) and habit (right). Photos: David Catcheside.

References

  1. Catcheside, P.S. (2009). The phoenicoid discomycetes on Kangaroo Island. Fungimap Newsletter 38: 5–7 (1.2mb PDF).
  2. Catcheside, P.S., May, T.W. & Catcheside, D.E.A. (2009). The larger fungi in Flinders Chase National Park, Kangaroo Island. Surveys 2008. Report for Wildlife Conservation Fund and Native Vegetation Council.
  3. Catcheside, P.S. & Catcheside, D.E.A. (2010). The larger fungi in Flinders Chase National Park, Kangaroo Island. Surveys 2009. Report for Wildlife Conservation Fund and Native Vegetation Council.

Contributed by Pam Catcheside (State Herbarium Hon. Associate)
David Catcheside (Flinders University).

White, hot, or wandering: three new mushrooms described

Lactifluus albopicri from the Northern Territory. Photo: Teresa Lebel.

Dr Teresa Lebel, Senior Botanist & Curator Cryptogams at the State Herbarium of South Australia, mentored a citizen scientist, Fran Guard (PhD 2020-), and a summer intern, Lachlan Tegart (Hons 2018), in publishing descriptions of three new species of mushrooms.

On Monday, these new species were published in the “Fungal planet” series of the mycological journal Persoonia.

Lebel, T. & Tegart, L. (2020). Fungal planet 1086: Lactifluus albopicri T.Lebel & L.Tegart. Persoonia 44: 404-405 & online supplement. (880kb PDF).

Lebel, T., Tegart, L. & Verbeken, A. (2020). Fungal planet 1087: Lactifluus austropiperatus T.Lebel & L.Tegart. Persoonia 44: 406-407 & online supplement. (830kb PDF).

Guard, F.E., Barrett, M.D., Farid, A., Smith, M.E. & Lebel, T. (2020). Fungal planet 1091: Marasmius vagus Guard, M.D.Barrett & Farid. Persoonia 44: 514-415 & online supplement. (960kb PDF).

Lactifluus austropiperatus and Lactifluus albopicri belong in a group of mushrooms called the ‘milkcaps’, all of which produce a milky latex when the fruiting body is broken. Both of these species are white or pale cream in colour and have a hot-peppery taste, which lingers on the tongue for some time afterwards!

Marasmius vagus is, as the name suggests, ‘a wanderer’. While the species is quite widely distributed in natural habitats in northern and central Queensland, Fran discovered that it appears to have recently been transported to Florida, USA, where it has become established in gardens and nature strips in urban areas.

Written by State Herbarium mycologist Teresa Lebel.

World Environment Day 2020

Celebrating Biodiversity on World Environment Day 2020

World Environment Day is an international opportunity to raise issues requiring environmental action. This year, the theme is biodiversity!

Through our own experience here in South Australia with the recent massive bushfires across South Australia concerns about the recovery of biodiversity from the fires is in the front of mind for many members of the community.

The Botanic Gardens and State Herbarium of South Australia has some COVID-19–appropriate options for engagement this year!

Take the quiz‘ on biodiversity available on the Global World Environment Day website to learn more!

Best wishes from the Science and Conservation Team at the Botanic Gardens and State Herbarium.

Contributed by Michelle Waycott

Happy National Eucalypt Day 2020!

Eucalyptus pimpiniana​, growing in front of the State Herbarium. Photo: A. Thornhill.

March the 23rd marks National Eucalypt Day (see fact sheet from 2018, 360kb  PDF) in Australia. Prior to COVID-19 the Botanic Gardens and State Herbarium had been preparing for two different eucalypt themed tours at Adelaide Botanic Gardens with State Herbarium and Botanic Gardens staff on the 22 and 23 March 2020. Unfortunately we have been forced to cancel them.

We will reschedule these tours sometime in the future but until then we will share some thoughts about this interesting group of plants that marks the occasion.

The eucalypts are actually three genera of predominantly Australian plants: Angophora, Corymbia and Eucalyptus (see also Australian Plants Society fact sheet, 4.5mb PDF). There are over 800 named species of eucalypts. While the majority of eucalypts are purely native to Australia there are a handful of species that have escaped the continent to the north and are native to Timor, New Guinea, Indonesia and the Philippines. The revised Flora of South Australia treatment for eucalypts was published in 2014 (33.8mb PDF).

May Gibbs Stamp, 2016

The living species that occur outside of Australia have fossil ancestors. In fact, the oldest known eucalypt fossil comes from Patagonia and is 52 million years old. Eucalypt fossil leaves have also been found in New Zealand, estimated to be about 20 million years old. We know though that eucalypts are not now native to either South America or New Zealand so at some point they became extinct in those countries and left Australia with an iconic plant group. An article on The Conversation last year discussed how the eucalypts came to dominate Australia.

The eucalypts gained great popularity through the creative works of May Gibbs in 1920s. These artworks have also been celebrated in Australian Stamps.

May Gibbs Stamp, 1985

It is poorly known that when May Gibbs first came to Australia as a child she first lived in South Australia, including in Norwood for a short time. Her family then moved to Western Australia where she spent most of her formative years. May Gibbs’ most famous characters, the gumnut babies Snugglepot and Cuddlepie, use various parts of eucalypts for their clothes. The most well-known pictures of the gumnut babies sees them sitting in big gumnuts which in fact are Corymbia fruit and not of Eucalyptus, most likely Corymbia ficifolia a native tree of Western Australia, and also a common street tree all around Australia. The hats that the gumnut babies wear are the calyptra (cap) of a eucalypt — petals that have evolved to form a protective bud cap. When a eucalypt flower opens the bud cups are pushed off and hundreds of anthers pop out. To raise public awareness for the Spanish Flu outbreak in 1919 May Gibbs painted a scene of a Kookaburra and a gumnut baby both wearing gum leaf facemasks — apt for our times.

On that note we want to say — Happy Eucalypt Day!

We hope that you stay safe and tucked away in your gumnuts until it is safe to come out.

Compiled by Andrew Thornhill, State Herbarium of South Australia & The University of Adelaide.

State Herbarium temporary closure

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic and the declaration of a public health emergency in South Australia, the State Herbarium of South Australia and the Library of the Botanic Gardens and State Herbarium will close its doors to visitors from next week, Monday, 23 March 2020. We will get back to normal operating procedures once we have been advised that it is appropriate to reopen.​ 

Volunteers and Hon. Associates will also not be working in the building during this time. Some staff may work from home or only come in once or twice per week. If you want to contact the State Herbarium or individual staff members, please do not phone, but send an email.

Click here for a message of the Director of the Botanic Gardens and State Herbarium, Dr Lucy Sutherland.

The general email address of the State Herbarium of South Australia is stateherbsa@sa.gov.au.

This illustration, created at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), reveals ultrastructural morphology exhibited by coronaviruses. Note the spikes that adorn the outer surface of the virus, which impart the look of a corona surrounding the virion, when viewed electron microscopically. A novel coronavirus, named Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), was identified as the cause of an outbreak of respiratory illness first detected in Wuhan, China in 2019. The illness caused by this virus has been named coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). Image: A. Eckert & D. Higgins