ISSN 1188-603X

No. 518 May 18, 2017 Victoria, B.C.
Dr. A. Ceska, 1809 Penshurst, Victoria, BC, Canada V8N 2N6


From: Erik Stokstad [With reporting by Elizabeth Pennisi] Originally published in Science May. 11, 2017 DOI: 10.1126/science.aal1175

This week's news that Australian customs officers incinerated irreplaceable plant specimens has shocked botanists around the world, and left many concerned about possible impacts on international research exchanges. Some have put a freeze on sending samples to Australia until they are assured that their packages won't meet a similar fate, and others are discussing broader ways of assuring safe passage of priceless specimens.

"This story is likely to have a major chilling effect on the loan system between herbaria across national boundaries," says Austin Mast, president of the Society of Herbarium Curators and director of the herbarium at Florida State University in Tallahassee. "Without the free sharing of specimens, the pace of plant diversity research slows." As a result of the customs debacle, curators in New Zealand put a stay on shipping samples to Australia. So has the New York Botanical Garden in New York City, which holds the second largest collection of preserved plants in the world. "We, and many other herbaria, will not send specimens to Australia until we are sure this situation will not be repeated," says herbarium Director Barbara Thiers.

Herbaria are guardians of plant biodiversity data. Around the world, about 3000 institutions keep a total of 350 million plants specimens that have been pressed, dried, and stored in cabinets. Some are hundreds of years old; others are rare examples of extinct species. Particularly valuable are so-called type specimens, used to describe species for the first time. Botanists consult these when they are identifying new species or revising taxonomy. Many herbaria have digitized images of their specimens, allowing initial research to be conducted remotely. But some details must be examined first-hand. To do that, biologists often request specimens through a kind of interlibrary loan. "The system works well when the risk of damage or destruction of loaned specimens is perceived to be very low," Mast says.

But sometimes things go awry. Earlier this week, many botanists learned about the destruction of six type specimens of daisies—some collected during a French expedition to Australia from 1791 to 1793—which the National Museum of Natural History (NMNH) in Paris had mailed along with 99 other specimens to the Queensland Herbarium in Brisbane, Australia.

After the package arrived in Brisbane in early January, the specimens were held up at customs because the paperwork was incomplete. Biosecurity officers asked the Queensland Herbarium for a list of the specimens and how they were preserved, but the herbarium sent its responses to the wrong email address, delaying the response by many weeks. In March, the officers requested clarification, but then incinerated the samples. "It's like taking a painting from the Louvre and burning it," says James Solomon, herbarium curator at the Missouri Botanical Garden in St. Louis.

According to Australia's Department of Agriculture and Water Resources, which enforces biosecurity rules, part of the problem was that the samples had a declared value of $2—and its agents routinely destroy low-value items that have been kept longer than 30 days. Michel Guiraud, director of collections at NMNH, says his museum's policy is to put minimal values on shipments. "If it is irreplaceable, there is no way to put an insurance value on it," he says.

Guiraud says the package was sent with the usual documentation and he's trying to find out what went wrong. Concerned about the possibility of other scientific samples being destroyed, the museum is considering stopping loans from all of its collections to Australia. Australia's agriculture department admitted in a statement that it erred in prematurely destroying the specimens, but didn't take sole responsibility for the snafu. "This is a deeply regrettable occurrence, but it does highlight the importance of the shared responsibility of Australia's biosecurity system, and the need for adherence to import conditions." The department has reviewed its procedures for handling delayed items and is considering how package labels could highlight the "intrinsic value" of scientific specimens. On Monday, officials met with representatives from a consortium of Australasian herbaria to help them understand and comply with importation rules. "At this stage it appears we are resolving the matter very positively," says botanist Michelle Waycott of the University of Adelaide in Australia and the Council of Heads of Australasian Herbaria.

A second incident came to light after botanists at the Allan Herbarium in Lincoln, New Zealand, heard last month about the destruction of the French specimens. They inquired about six lichen samples, including a type specimen of Buellia macularis, that they had shipped to the Australian National Herbarium in Canberra last year. It turned out the specimens had been destroyed in October 2016 by biosecurity officers in Sydney, Australia. The department is investigating what happened in this case.

New Zealand herbaria have suspended loans to Australia while they wait for written guarantees that their specimens will be safe. "We are disappointed we have lost an important part of our collection but we're looking forward to further international collaboration," said Ilse Breitwieser, director of the Allan Herbarium, in a statement this week.

Curators elsewhere are reviewing how they ship samples internationally. "We will rethink our policy of lending specimens to countries that would pose a risk for loss of collections," says Christine Niezgoda, collections manager of flowering plants at the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago, Illinois, who, like others, was surprised to learn that specimens would be destroyed rather than returned. The Society for the Preservation of Natural History Collections, which is following the situation in Australia, hopes to increase communication among curators about shipping regulations and border inspection procedures.

A long-standing frustration for many is that the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), like its counterpart in Australia, does not have a separate category for low-risk scientific specimens. "The way that the U.S. and Australian governments are treating these shipments is basically going to bring taxonomic work to a halt," says Ellen Dean, curator of the Center for Plant Diversity at the University of California, Davis. "We are thinking of no longer loaning our specimens to other countries, because we are uncertain that APHIS will allow our own specimens back into this country."

Whatever the destination, veterans emphasize that every detail matters, even the most obvious. "Nothing derails a shipment faster than a wrong address," says Thiers, who maintains a public database of herbaria addresses and contact information. "Sometimes they don't get returned for years, and unless you take extraordinary measures, you won't get them back." (With the volume of specimens that get mailed from the New York Botanic Garden—up to 30,000 a year—Thiers can't afford tracked shipments and uses cheaper library rate shipping.)

Even the most diligent curators confess to late-night worries. "Any time you let something go out the door, there's a risk," says Solomon, who is continuing to send specimens to Australia. "The benefit from making the material available far outweighs the risk." Says Niezgoda: "Collections are meant to be used to promote scientific inquiry and this should not change."


From: Shannon M. Berch (1), Paul Kroeger (2), and Terrie Finston (3) (1) University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, (2) Vancouver, BC, Canada, (3) MycoLogic Inc., c/o Biology Dept., University of Victoria, BC, Canada.

Amanita phalloides (Fr.) Link, the Death Cap mushroom, is an invasive ectomycorrhizal fungus in North America that was inadvertently introduced from Europe. Death Cap mushrooms have caused three recorded poisonings in British Columbia (BC), including one recent death.

In BC, these mushrooms fruit mostly in major urban areas, including Vancouver and Victoria, under planted exotic broadleaf trees such as Castanea sativa Mill. Tilia sp., Carpinus betulus L., Fagus silvatica L. In California, Amanita phalloides was demonstrated to also form ectomycorrhizae with an evegreen native oak species, Quercus agrifolia Neé (Wolfe et al. 2010, Wolfe and Pringle 2012).

Here we report that Amanita phalloides also forms ectomycorrhizae with Quercus garryana Hook., the only native species of oak in British Columbia. Amanita phalloides can be fruiting in association with this tree host. California native Qercus agrifolia is already the dominant host there for Death Caps, while ours is the first report with a native Quercus garryana. If Death Cap mushroom takes hold in Pacific Northwest Garry oaks and expands to fully exploit both Q. garryana and Q. agrifolia habitats, which overlap in the San Francisco area, the risk for serious mushroom poisoning will increase and mushroom harvesters, the medical community, and forest and park managers need to be aware of this increased risk.


Berch, S.M., P. Kroeger, & T. Finston. 2017.
The death cap mushroom (Amanita phalloides) moves to a native tree in Victoria, British Columbia. Botany 95(4): 435-440. doi:10.1139/cjb-2016-0183
Wolfe, B.E., F. Richard, H.B. Cross, & A. Pringle. 2010.
Distribution and abundance of the introduced ectomycorrhizal fungus Amanita phalloides in North America. New Phytol. 185: 803-816. doi:10.1111/j.1469-8137.2009.03097.x
Wolfe, B.E, & A. Pringle. 2012.
Geographically structured host specificity is caused by the range expansions and host shifts of a symbiotic fungus. The ISME Journal (2012) 6: 745–755. doi:10.1038/ismej.2011.155


From: Bryce Kendrick

Recent changes in mycological nomenclatural rules are a mixed bag. On the one hand, the dropping of the need for a Latin diagnosis will be greeted by many with a sigh of relief (perhaps particularly those in Classics Departments of Universities, who were long accustomed to being importuned by mycologists whom they may have considered to have been poorly educated). This deletion was made possible by the implicit adoption of English as the International Language, which has also occasioned many sighs of relief from those whose first language it is.

The acceptance of electronic publication is a little more controversial, but since we are all becoming digitized in a big way (in some quarters we are ourselves already considered to be complex algorithms), it was probably inevitable.

The requirement for registering new names is also a step forward. The centralization of information in large databases is another welcome and inevitable step.

But now I come to the controversial bit: the abandonment of dual nomenclature. After personally spending 60 plus years getting a feel for the anamorph-teleomorph dichotomy, it is hard to accept that, if the anamorph has the older name, it now becomes the accepted generic name for what we used to think of as a pair of very different phases, which frequently: (a) looked nothing like one another, (b) often occurred on different substrates, (c) sometimes occurred at different times of year, (d) frequently occurred in the absence of the other half, and (e) frequently could not be persuaded to transmogrify itself into its ascomycetous or basidiomycetous half. This often made it difficult to be sure what the other half really was (see the quote from Pöldmaa below). Had I been there when the vote was taken, I would have been one of the Nays, recoiling from the complexities unleashed by the new rules. But I was not there. So the edict became law, in my view somewhat prematurely.

Now it will generally be the older name, at both genus and species level, that will be accepted, and combinations will be allowed between former teleomorph- and anamorph-based names.

This is what sets the cat among the pigeons. Penicillium (the anamorph generic name) is older than Penicilliopsis (a teleomorph generic name associated with some penicillia). Fusarium (an anamorph generic name) is older than Gibberella (a teleomorph generic name associated with some fusaria.)

Over the past year I have been tasked with preparing a new (fourth) edition of my perennial mycological textbook, The Fifth Kingdom. There was no escaping the various major phylogenetic changes that had been introduced in the past decade since the publication of the third edition. But rearranging all the generic names according to the new rules was much more of a challenge, and it may have to wait until the Fifth Edition, since many of the new combinations have not yet been sorted out.

Let's take a look at a pretty well-known pair – Hypomyces (Ascomycetes) and Cladobotryum (Hyphomycetes). Hypomyces aurantius is an orange ascomycete (Hypocreales) which attacks some species of Russula and renders them infertile, because the mycelium and ascomata of the parasite cover and essentially smother the gills of the agaric. The generic name of the ascomycete dates from 1860. The anamorph of this ascomycete is Cladobotryum varium, a name that dates from 1817. In this case it seems clear that the name of the fungus as a whole must now be Cladobotryum.

Here is a quotation from a 2011 article by Pöldmaa: "Twelve species of Hypomyces/Cladobotryum producing red pigments are reported growing in various tropical areas of the world. Ten of these are described as new, including teleomorphs for two previously known anamorphic species. In two species the teleomorph has been found in nature and in three others it was obtained in culture; only anamorphs are known for the rest. None of the studied tropical collections belongs to the common temperate species H. rosellus and H. odoratus to which the tropical teleomorphic collections had previously been assigned. Instead, taxa encountered in the tropics are genetically and morphologically distinct from the nine species of Hypomyces/Cladobotryum producing red pigments known from temperate regions."

That does not sound too unreasonable, since the anamorphs of Hypomyces are usually found in Cladobotryum.

See what Pöldmaa did? He just cited both generic names together whenever it suited him. He also mixed them together in his cladogram (you can find it on the web).

Samuels and Rogerson (1994), dealing with agaricicolous species of Hypomyces, wrote: "The anamorphs are hyphomycetes and have been previously distributed among the anamorph genera Arnoldiomyces, Cladobotryum, Dactylaria, Dactylium, Eurasina, Hansfordia, Moeszia, Pseudohansfordia, Septocylindrium, Sibirina, Sympodiophora, Trichothecium. The patterns of branching, arrangement of conidiogenous loci, or the number and arrangement of conidia on the conidiogenous cell, which is a reflection of proliferation [sic, actually meaning extension] of the conidiogenous cell, are not significant as generic determinants when seen in the light of the apparent phylogenetic homogeneity of their teleomorphs. Most of the species that are anamorphs of Hypomyces are placed in Cladobotryum. The anamorph of Hypomyces chrysostomus is referred to Acremonium. Chlamydosporic synanamorphs (Blastotrichum) have been linked to six species." "Thirteen species of Hypomyces occur on gilled fungi. Most are found on members of the Russulaceae; other hosts include Amanita spp., Crepidotus spp., Leptonia strigosissima, and Pholiota sp. Anamorphs have been proven only for the four species, H. armeniacus (Cladobotryum verticillatum), H. odoratus (C. mycophilum), H. succineus (Verticillium succineum), and H. tremellicola (Verticillium sp.). Anamorphs have been putatively linked to H. lateritius (C. tulasnei), H. lithuanicus (C. arnoldii), and H. petchii (Verticillium sp.). To put it mildly, these comments are confusing if we are restricted to single generic names.

If you check Index Fungorum, you will find that Helotium (long an ascomycete name, even at the ordinal level) now appears in the Tricholomataceae, since the type of the name is a basidiomycete. At the ATCC website, anamorphs are now listed as "alternate states" Where do we go from here? I offer a quote from the Preamble to the most recent edition of the Code: "The main provisions adopted in Melbourne to minimize consequent nomenclatural disruption are to be found in Art. 14.13, by which lists of names may, after review by the appropriate committees, be conserved en bloc and included in Appendices to the Code. In addition, a new Art. 56.3 provides for similar lists of names to be rejected, while a new Art. 57.2 specifies that, where both kinds of names were widely used for a taxon, an anamorph-typified name that has priority is not to displace the teleomorph name(s) unless and until a formal conservation or rejection proposal has been submitted and rejected."

I have to admit that in the light of the potential instability imposed by the various pieces of that paragraph, I think it is early to adopt the system imposed by the recent changes in the Code. This is why I have postponed a possible full adoption of this system until the Fifth Edition of The Fifth Kingdom.


Põldmaa, K. 2011.
Tropical species of Cladobotryum and Hypomyces producing red pigments Stud. Mycol. 68: 1–34.
Rogerson, C.T. & G.J. Samuels. 1994.
Agaricicolous species of Hypomyces. Mycologia 86: 839-866.

{Note: McNeill, J. et al. International Code of Nomenclature for algae, fungi, and plants (Melbourne Code) July 2011 is available on-line at]

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