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Winner Picked for New Zealand’s National Fungus

Published: Fri 8 Jun 2018 11:33 AM
Winner Picked for New Zealand’s National Fungus
New Zealand has voted its pick for the national fungus and the overwhelming winner is the sky-blue mushroom Entoloma hochstetteri (also known to Māori as werewere-kōkako).
The little blue mushroom has been our de facto national fungus for a long time, appearing on the NZ$50 bill, the only banknote in any currency with a mushroom on it.
The competition was run by Manaaki Whenua Landcare Research on the back of the 32nd annual New Zealand Fungal Foray at Lake Brunner a few weeks ago where the 65 attendees were asked to nominate their favourite fungus.
Manaaki Whenua mycologist Peter Buchanan wasn’t surprised the blue entoloma was the most popular.
“I’m not surprised as that’s the one on the $50 bank note. It is in people’s face a lot, and the colour is endearing,” Dr Buchanan says.
The mushroom was chosen by the Reserve Bank in 1991 for the story behind it. The whakataukī (story) of Tūhoe is that the North Island kōkako gets its blue wattle by rubbing its cheek against the mushroom – and hence its Māori name werewere-kōkako. It is coupled with the kōkako on the note, with a backdrop of Pureora Forest Park where both mushroom and bird are present today.
The sky-blue mushroom overthrew its closest competitor, Ileodictyon cibarium, commonly known as matakupenga or basket fungus, by about 300 votes.
“The basket fungus has an intriguing geometric structure but smells really bad to attract flies – it’s a stink horn fungus and its spores are spread by flies,” says Dr Buchanan.
With almost 2,500 people voting, the competition included 10 fungi selected from around New Zealand. In third place was Armillaria limonea (harore or honey mushroom), unusual for its fleeting luminescent qualities.
“Its popularity comes from its luminescent properties which were first photographed only recently in 2016. Only at a young stage do they give off light and as it matures this feature fades away.”
Dr Buchanan says the idea for a national fungus came from a blog by American writer Jennifer Frazen on her perception that New Zealand needed a national fungus, and it should be Tylopilus formosus for its black colour - representative of the All Blacks.
This fungus did not fare well in the voting however, coming dead last with only 42 votes.
Dr Buchanan is keen to make the vote an annual affair, adding new fungi to the mix each time.
It would be good to educate people about fungi and the important roles they play in our forests. We are also keen to provide more people with information about fungal conservation. It may surprise people that we do have threatened fungi, arguably with some much rarer than our threatened birds.
ENDS

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