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I wrote about just this point in a 2005 article on distribution of amanitas in the Americas. The distribution of narrow-spored species of Lepidella in the coastal plains of the eastern U.S. and the U.S. states of the Gulf of Mexico may owe something to dark interiors of hurricanes. I agree life time of spores might be extended in that scenario. It’s an interesting hypothesis. To test it maybe someone could build a circular wind tunnel! Start writing a grant proposal, somebody! :-) I’m too busy to do that, but I’d love to be a project consultant!
Storms tend to be quite dark and gloomy inside/underneath due to the thick, tall clouds. Wouldn’t that be expected to extend the lifetime of a spore traveling in a storm?
As for “hotspots”, I’ve definitely noticed this too. Both patches for particular species and areas of greater or lesser diversity.
Where I reside in WV I have notices the same phenomena. I run into large area basically void of any fungi and then I com a across areas that are the same as the void areas but will have 20 to 100 different species within a 20 foot radios. i call them fungal zones..
How about the species of trees in your woodlot vs. the species on the other properties. Do you have more oak or more pine (or both) than other areas? One reason that you might have more mushrooms is that you have more symbiotic mushrooms because you have more of the hosts for those mushrooms. Of the mushrooms that grow on the ground (rather than, say, on dead wood) many are mycorrhizal (their hyphae can combine with root hairs of host plants to form a “fungus-root” combination that is the symbiotic interface). Most of the species of Amanita require a symbiont; the same goes for many other groups such as Russula, Lactarius, the boletes, etc.
Eventually, my still unreleased new website on the Amanita family will have blog-like pages for interaction with people asking questions. I’ll tell you I’m a bit scared about the effort necessary on my part to maintain such a thing and still be able to do research and writing. So the future may hold a place to have discussions on a broad range of topics related to Amanita.
With regard to your higher fungal biodiversity than your neighbors’…you could also have something in the soil, but you could just be “lucky” to live at a hotspot. Fungal distribution is by no means uniform (say in terms of density of a given species), sometimes a small number of fungi seem to get a “lock” on the local roothairs and other fungi are not so successful at barging in. The history of disturbance of the soil also makes a difference, a “young forest” has different fungi from a “mature forest” even if the mix of tree species doesn’t change (such as in a plantation). This probably doesn’t go for all genera or even for all amanitas; but once population of an amanita is established the spread by spores and growth of hyphae in the soil seems to be very, very slow. We have a 60+ year old pine plantation in NJ that is famous for having been the cause of introduction of one cluster of Amanita phalloides in our state. After 60 years the average cluster of fruiting bodies that have arisen from an originally “infected” tree root is is LESS THAN a couple of meters in diameter. AFTER 60 YEARS.
Rod, since MO doesn’t have a forum to chat about such things I suppose I came a little out of left field with the hurricane thought. We moved on to this piece of property a little over a year ago. It’s 2/3 of an acre and since September of last year I have photographically documented nearly about 300 different kinds of fungi (this includes some of the slime molds, too). If you told me a year ago I would be doing this I would have said your nuts. But it’s been a learning experience I’ll never forget. One of the reasons I mentioned Hurricane Katrina is the fact that the previous owners had trees that fell during the storm. They had them cut and stacked in basically two piles. A third of our back yard is wooded with a lot of growth and this is also where the log piles reside. I cut paths into this wooded area a year ago and that’s when I started to discover a few mushrooms. I had no previous knowledge of fungi but I started to see different kinds and took pictures. When I explore adjacent properties I find very little compared to the plethora of fungi on ours. I know we have a lot of dead wood but so do other parts. I’m just trying to find an answer as to why I’m finding so much diversity on such a small piece of land. One theory I came up with is the “Hurricane” theory. When you mentioned Central America it triggered that thought and wondered of the possibility. I appreciate you and others on here that are helping me to learn and understand how this all fits together. It’s an amazing journey!
I think your material is like a species I would expect to find (and have seen) in the Gulf Coast’s sandy Coastal Plain and in similar habitat away from the coast.
I think it is possible that hurricanes have helped in some small way to affect or maintain distribution in Amanita, but I don’t think that that is common occurrence. No experiment has been devised to test the hypothesis.
To answer your question in more detail, I’m sure that hurricanes have been moving spores around for a long time; however, in the case of thin-walled spores with colorless spore walls, they are often moving very dead spores. Current evidence indicates that Amanita spores (which fall into the colorless, thin-walled category) live less than 24 hours if exposed to UV (i.e., sunlight). If amanita spores happened to be released into a hurricane and were NOT driven to the ground by rain, they might travel a ways in the winds as the storm continued to travel. A few amanitas from the U.S. Gulf Coast do seem to have spores that would stay aloft longer than most spores because they are extremely elongated and would tumble more (and fall more slowly) even in still air.
Movement of spores by a hurricane would usually be from the coast proper into the continental U.S. or along the coastal plain or out into the Atlantic. One would have to explore history for storms moving very, very fast from a landfall in Mexico up into the U.S. I think most storms that move onto land in Mexico cross that country from east to west (roughly) and don’t come northward into the U.S. But I am absolutely NOT a weather expert. All the evidence I have is that close relatives to North American taxa that occur south of the Mexican northern deserts have been genetically isolated long enough to differ in both macro and micro characters (e.g., Amanita flavoconia var. inquinata vs. var. flavoconia)—they don’t seem to be having their spores moved northward. There are exceptions such as A. polypyramis that occurs all through the southeastern U.S. (up to Cape Cod, Massachusetts) and southward to central Mexico; however, this species is more probable to have had a very wide range in the distant (geological) past and had its two current, separated range parts by formation of the desert, rather than having had its spores jump the desert in a hurricane. These judgments are made on the basis current morphological taxonomy, the history of oak and pine distribution in northeastern Mexico, and without the addition of DNA evidence (so far as I know).
Could it be a possibility that Hurricane Katrina brought in some of these fungi? I don’t know what’s indigenous to this area but something tells me something weird is going on here. Is it possible for Hurricanes to pick up spores or the like from one area (i.e. Cuba, South America) and transport them faraway elsewhere?
This species is similar to Amanita sororcula (Central America southward to the Colombian Andes) among the named taxa and VERY similar to the unpublished species often called A. ceciliae (incorrectly) in much of eastern North America. My provisional name for that species is Amanita borealisorora [i.e., the northern sister of the little sister of Cecilia).
I have material from east Texas that may be the same species as is depicted in this nice set of photos. But I don’t have material from Louisiana or other of the Gulf Coast states. Good dried material accompanied by good photos of the same material in the fresh state would be very welcome…even more welcome when accompanied by detailed notes on the fresh material.
Note the dark ring above the stipe base. This is typical of sororcula and borealisorora both. It is the oxidized remnant of the internal limb of a fragile volval sac that has been reduced (by time, oxidation, precipitation, and the expansion of the fruiting body to a small cup on the stipe’s very base.
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