Category Archives: The Plant Press

Fungus of the month

The State Herbarium of South Australia‘s Fungus of the Month for May 2017 is Chlorociboria aeruginascens, a species of small disc fungi that is widespread but particularly spectacular in DEWNR’s Park of the Month, Flinders Chase National Park.

Chlorociboria aeruginascens on wood. Photo: D.E.A. Catcheside.

Chlorociboria aeruginascens (Nyl.) Kanouse ex C.S.Ramamurthi, Korf & L.R.Batra has a number of common names including ‘blue-green wood cup’, ‘green elf-cup’ and ‘blue or green stain fungus’. It is a common and widespread fungus, growing in groups on debarked wood or fallen branches, causing the wood to be stained a brilliant blue-green colour. The similarly coloured cup-like fruit bodies are found in very moist conditions in the wetter winter months.

The generic name is derived from the Greek kloros (χλωρός), meaning green, and Latin ciborium, a drinking cup. The specific epithet comes from aerugo, Latin for verdigris, a deep bluish-green encrustation formed on copper or brass, and the suffix ascens, becoming.

The fruit bodies, apothecia, are tiny, stalked cups to 5 mm high, of an intense turquoise colour. The apothecia have a diameter of 4–10 mm and initially are a shallow cup-shape but flatten to a disc with a slightly raised margin. The blue-green upper surface is smooth to wrinkled with a small dimple; the outer surface is smooth and slightly paler with a white bloom. The tiny stem tapers down and is often off-centre; it is the same colour or slightly darker than the cup and black at the base. The stem bases of the fruit bodies are attached to a black mat of hyphae embedded in the wood.

Chlorociboria aeruginascens. Photo: D.E.A. Catcheside.

Chlorociboria aeruginascens is a cosmopolitan, saprotrophic species. In the northern hemisphere it grows mostly on hardwoods, such as poplar, Populus spp., oak, Quercus spp. and ash, Fraxinus spp.; in the southern hemisphere it is on Eucalyptus spp. and Nothofagus spp., although it does grow on other woods. The wood on which it grows is usually soft, giving the appearance that it has been infected by white-rot fungi but C. aeruginascens is not considered a true wood-rot fungus. The blue-green pigment, a quinone derivative called xylindein, is secreted by the microscopic tubular threads, the hyphae, of the fungus. It has been suggested that the pigment may make the wood less enticing for termites and may also reduce competition with other wood-inhabiting fungi.

The green-stained wood was highly prized. It was used in inlaid decorative woodwork such as Tunbridge ware, marquetry, intarsia panels and parquetry. Tunbridge ware was made in Tonbridge and Tunbridge Wells in Kent, England, from the mid-18th century. Small pieces of different coloured woods, including the blue-green wood stained by Chlorociboria aeruginascens, were used to make pictures and patterns and inlaid into small boxes, fire screens and tables. Marquetry involves the glueing of small pieces of coloured wood on to thin veneers for use in furniture-making. Parquetry is a similar technique used mainly for floors. In the older process of intarsia, a solid piece of one material is cut out from a surface such as a table-top or floor and patterns made up of wood, marble, ivory and/or mother-of-pearl are inserted into the excised area (see also this article).

Collection of Chlorociboria aeruginascens (P.S. Catcheside 4378) in the lab before drying. With centimetre scale. Photo: D.E.A. Catcheside.

Chlorociboria aeruginascens is in the family Chlorociboriaceae Baral & P.R.Johnst., order Helotiales Nannf. ex Korf & Lizoň. Seventeen species of Chlorociboria are recognized worldwide, fifteen occur in New Zealand. They may be separated on the basis of spore size and shape, hyphae on the outer surface of the apothecia and on macroscopic differences such as colour of fruit body, some species having a yellow or white disc while some dry orange-brown, others blue-green. Johnston & Park (2005) have described a subspecies from New Zealand, Chlorociboria aeruginascens subsp. australis P.R. Johnst., which is morphologically indistinguishable from a subspecies found in the northern hemisphere, Chlorociboria aeruginascens subsp. aeruginascens. They may be separated only by molecular analysis, an impractical procedure in the field! No molecular work has been done on the specimens illustrated here, but it is probable that they are of Chlorociboria aeruginascens subsp. australis. Only two species from Australia are listed in the ALA, C. aeruginascens and C. aeruginosa (Oeder) Seaver. Both species look very similar, but C. aeruginosa has longer spores and larger terminal cells on the outer surface. An earlier name, Chlorosplenium aeruginascens (Nyl.) P. Karst., still occurs in a number of field guides. (See also Fungi in Australia, Part 2 and references therein; 40.2mb PDF).

Contributed by Hon. Research Associate Pam Catcheside.

Plant of the Month: April 2017

The State Herbarium of South Australia‘s Plant of the Month for April 2017 is Leptospermum lanigerum, a species that also occus in DEWNR’s Park of the Month, Deep Creek Conservation Park.

Leptospermum lanigerum near the SA-Vic. border. Photo: C.C. Clarke, ALA.

Leptospermum lanigerum (Aiton) Sm. has the common names of “silky” or “woolly tea-tree”. It is found in Deep Creek Conservation Park along its permanent creeks, around its waterfalls and in its swamps. There it is often associated with other wetland species such as Eucalyptus ovata, Leucopogon lanceolatus, Correa eburnea, Goodenia ovata and Blechnum ferns.

L. lanigerum, seeds. Photo: SA Seedbank.

The plant’s scientific name is derived the Greek words “leptos” and “sperma” meaning “slender seed”, which directly relates to the seeds of the type species L. scoparium, but also applies to L. lanigerum; “lanigerum” is from Latin for wool–bearing, describing the hairy fruit, buds and leaves of the species. The genus is commonly called “tea-trees”, a name which originated from the crews of Captain Cooks voyages who brewed tea from the leaves in an attempt to prevent scurvy.

L. lanigerum, flower, Photo: R.Wiltshire, Wikimedia (CC-BY-SA).

The silky tea-tree occurs from the Mt Lofty ranges east to Victoria, New South Wales and Tasmania. The Type was from material cultivated in Kew Gardens from Cook’s second voyage in 1773 after seed was collected by Captain Furneaux of the HMS Adventure in Tasmania, so becoming the first Leptospermum brought into cultivation.

In South Australia, it grows into a small tree but can become quite large in springs on Western Kangaroo Island. Its white flowers are prominent in late spring and attract many insect pollinators such as jewel beetles. The seeds are held in woody capsules and are released after fire or other disturbances, but the species also possess lignotubers and epicormic buds and can grow back quickly after fire.

As its common name describes, the silky tea-tree’s hairy leaves gives the plant an attractive grey-silver sheen, it commonly grows with the greener foliaged “prickly tea-tree” Leptospermum continentale, and hybrids with intermediate characters are fairly common. A green variant of L. lanigerum also occurs in the South-east of South Australia and Western Victoria and was considered by Joy Thompson in a revision of the genus (Telopea 3(3): 301-449, 1986, 17.7mb PDF) to be a possible relict influence of L. nitidum that now occurs in Tasmania.

L. lanigerum, fruit. Photo: Lyn Allison, ALA.

The recent high prices for New Zealand’s Manuka honey from L. scoparium has created much ongoing interest and research into Australian Leptospermum species. Many Australian species have been found to have significant levels of DHA (dihydroxyacetone), with one website report noting that L. lanigerum “ticks many boxes”. Selection of high yielding populations and breeding programmes are continuing (see ABC report).

Note that the related species Leptospermum laevigatum (coastal tea-tree) from Victoria, Tasmania and New South Wales, is a highly invasive weed in most Australian states and now declared in South Australia (580kb PDF fact sheet from Biosecurity SA).

Contributed by Martin O’Leary.

Plant of the Month: Feb 2017

Native Pig-Face, Carpobrotus rossii

Park of the Month in Feb. 2017 was Hallett Cove Conservation Park

Carpobrotus rossii

Herbarium sheet – before the plant is dried, of Carpobrotus rossii. Photo: State Herbarium.

Among the amazing geological features of an ancient landscape a plant which might go unnoticed except when flowering is the native coastal species of Pig-Face, Carpobrotus rossii. In fact, Carpobrotus (Pig-Face) is a world-wide genus of succulent plants, with species native to South Africa, Australia, South America and California.

In South Australia there are four species of Carpobrotus and two species in a closely related genus Sarcozona. Carpobrotus modestus and C. rossii are native to South Australia as are the two Sarcozona, S. bicarinata and S. praecox.

In the coastal areas of Hallett Cove the native species, Carpobrotus rossii is an important member of the ecosystem forming dune protecting ground cover and fruits that animals eat.

Carpobrotus edulis backcross

Carpobrotus edulis flower type, this plant likely to be a hybrid backcross to C. edulis. Photo: C. Brodie.

However, South Australia also has a species of Carpobrotus that is an introduction from South Africa, Carpobrotus edulis, which is listed in the Global Invasive Species Database for 24 countries.

Honorary Research Associate Dr Hellmut Toelken from the State Herbarium of South Australia has been researching the taxonomy of this group and discovered that some pairs of species may form hybrids in South Australian locations. A partnership between the State Herbarium, The University of Adelaide and The Samphire Coast Icon project and Adelaide and Mount Lofty NRM applied molecular techniques to work out what was going on. The DNA analysis that this project conducted revealed that Dr Toelken was correct, and in fact there are many hybrids forming between the local native species and the introduced one. Hybrids are widespread in many areas, in fact where the two species come into close proximity.

A big problem is that while the yellow flowered C. edulis is relatively easy to identify, the hybrids in South Australia appear to be typically pink flowered plants.

Hallett Cove Conservation Park is well known for its geological and archaeological features, and is just outside of Adelaide.

From the parks webpage:

‘In the park ‘glacial pavements’ show evidence of a large glacier that covered the park and surrounding areas 280 million years ago when Australia was part of Gondwana. Over the past 600 million years the Park has undergone a number of changes from being beneath the sea and covered in an ice sheet to being a mountain range. Throughout the Park there is informative signage along the trail that help you understand the story of Hallett Cove Conservation Park.’

F1 C. rossii X C. edulis South Australia. Photo: C. Brodie.

More information is available on the Carpobrotus hybrid project:  Waycott, M. (2016). Hybridisation in native pigface, Carpobrotus rossii. (State Herbarium of South Australia, Adelaide). 8 pp. ISBN 978-1-922027-47-4

Plant of the Month: Jan. 2017

The Sea Nymph — Amphibolis antarctica a seagrass only found in the cooler ocean waters of Australia

The Park of the Month January 2017 was Encounter Marine Park

Sea-nymph, Amphibolis antarctica, South Australia in foreground. Photo: KJ van Dijk.

Our plant of the month for January, the ‘sea nymph’, Amphibolis antarctica, is an Australian endemic species of seagrass which typically occurs in cooler temperate oceanic waters. The earliest collections of Amphibolis antarctica are likely to have been made on the Baudin expedition which were then used by P. Labillardière in 1807 to describe the new species. Plants of the genus Amphibolis are characterised by having a cluster of leaves at the end of sinuous, wirey stems.

Amphibolis antarctica is often found growing attached to rocky or harder substrates, the rhizome and root mat helping them attach by growing into crevices and enabling plants to cling to locations where other seagrasses might become detached. For this reason, Amphibolis antarctica is associated with rocky reefs, limestone and granitic underwater reefs. Amphibolis plants create a significant 3 dimensional surface area for other plants and animals to use as their home and these epiphytes and epifauna are often very obvious elements of local communities.

There have been declines in areas of Amphibolis antarctica and its sister species Amphibolis griffithii closer to the Adelaide Metropolitan region historically, and some areas on Kangaroo Island. The declines have been shown to be due to poor water quality.

Amphibolis plants produce unusual seeds – they in fact form seedlings which remain attached to the mother plant for months after they are formed and then detach and float away to settle as seedlings. This allows them to travel long distances and gives the seedlings of the sea-nymph a better start in life. Research in partnership between the State Herbarium, the University of Adelaide and Murdoch University is studying how genetically diverse populations are and how far the seedlings might travel. A field guide is available that explains more information on Southern Temperate Seagrasses including the sea-nymph.

The Encounter Marine Park is covers 3,119 square kilometres of the Gulf St Vincent and Coorong Marine Bioregions and extends from southern metropolitan Adelaide waters around the Fleurieu Peninsula and past the Murray Mouth to the Coorong coast. A baseline report on the Encounter Marine Park published last year summarised our knowledge of the reserve.

This Encounter Marine Park region contains some very large areas of seagrass and supports numerous fisheries species and other species of conservation value such as the Leafy Sea Dragon. In fact, the density of leafy sea-dragons was surveyed by divers using photo-identification methods near West Island, with density estimated at 57 per hectare (see baseline report on EnviroData SA).

Plant of the Month: Mar. 2017

Cryptandra tomentosa. Photo: C. Lindoff, CC-BY 2.5 AU (

The State Herbarium of South Australia has chosen Cryptandra tomentosa Lindl. as Plant of the Month. It is widespread in south-eastern Australia and also occurs in DEWNR’s Park of the Month for March 2017, Anstey Hill Recreation Park. The Park includes the site of the former Newman’s Nursery, which featured in an article by Taplin & Symon, published in the Journal of the Adelaide Botanic Gardens (21.3mb PDF).

Cryptandra tomentosa was named by British botanist John Lindley from plant material collected by exporer Thomas Mitchell in the Grampians, Victoria. From the account of Mitchell’s journey, it is clear that the collections were made on 15 July 1836, when the expedition party was on Mt Willam. The new species was described to be “remarkable on account of its downy leaves”.

Typical Cryptandra tomentosa plants are small shrubs, with inconspicuous white flowers clustered towards the end of the branches; the flowers tend to turn reddish or pinkish when older. Leaves are narrow and up to 5 mm long, rarely longer, the margins are usually tightly rolled so that only the midrib is visible on the lower surface. The upper surface of the leaves is glabrous and smooth, however, not “downy” as described by Mitchell. What is hairy in C. tomentosa are the stems, especially young ones, and the lower surface of the leaves, which is usually obscured. Some early botanists believed the red- and white-flowered forms were different and described them as separate species, e.g. C. erubescens F.Muell. was published as a name for a red-flowered specimen of C. tomentosa.

Typical Cryptandra flower. Modified from K.R.Thiele, J. Adelaide Bot. Gard. 21: 64, Tab. 1 (2007).

Flowers in the plant family Rhamnaceae are quite unique in that the petals are placed opposite the stamens (obhaplostemonous) and “hooding” the anthers, whereas in “standard” angiosperm flowers, the stamens are opposite the sepals. Sepals in Rhamnaceae are colourful and are the most conspicuous parts of the flower; the typical condition for angiosperms is that the sepals are green and smaller than the petals. Most Rhamnaceae flowers also have a conspicuous nectar-secreting disk that covers or surrounds the ovary. In the genus Cryptandra, all flowers are also surrounded by numerous brown bracts.

C. tomentosa, older flowers turning red. Photo C. Clarke, CC-BY 2.5 AU (

The name C. tomentosa was applied wrongly to many plants in south-eastern Australia, even Western Australia. The taxa related and similar to C. tomentosa and C. amara Sm. are currently being revised by State Herbarium botanist Jürgen Kellermann and his colleague Frank Udovicic from the National Herbarium of Victoria. Some taxa that had been named in the past as C. tomentosa are now known as Cryptandra sp. Floriferous, Cryptandra sp. Hiltaba, Cryptandra campanulata Schltdl., C. nutans Steud. and C. myriantha Diels (interestingly, the only species of Cryptandra to occur on both sides of the Nullarbor).