Meet the prettiest native mushroom in New Zealand

You may recognize this cute-as-a-button fungi from the NZ$50 bill.

Words: Kristina Jensen

This vivid mushroom is NZ’s very own Entoloma hochstetteri. It stands around 8cm high and lives in our native forests. If you think you’ve seen it somewhere before, it’s pictured on the back of the NZ$50 bill.

Last year  won a Manaaki Whenua Landcare Research competition to find NZ’s favourite native mushroom, with more than 2500 fungi fans voting on 10 options.

“I’m not surprised as that’s the one on the $50 bank note,” says Manaaki Whenua mycologist Peter Buchanan. “And the colour is endearing.”

It’s not known whether the blue mushroom is edible. Tests by Auckland University scientists a few years ago who were researching possible commercial benefits didn’t indicate toxins, but more expensive testing would be required to confirm if it is edible or not.

Entoloma hochstetteri is also found in Brazil and India, but mycologists have observed NZ ones appear to be a more intense blue colour. Here, it grows in lowland forests featuring broad-leaved and Podocarpus trees, particularly on the western side of the country.

Second in the vote was Ileodictyon cibarium, commonly known as matakupenga or basket fungus, and third was Armillaria limonea (harore or honey mushroom), unusual for its fleeting luminescent qualities.

Basket fungi (Ileodictyon cibarium). Photo: Bernard Spragg

Peter 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.

Harore or honey mushroom (Armillaria limonea). Photo: Sid Mosdell

“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.”

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NZ Lifestyle Block This article first appeared in NZ Lifestyle Block Magazine.
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