Submitted to: Mycologia
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 7/8/2013
Publication Date: 1/1/2014
Citation: Elliott, T.F., Bougher, N.L., O'Donnell, K., Trappe, J.M. 2014. Morchella australiana sp. nov., an apparent Australian endemic from New South Wales and Victoria. Mycologia. 106(1):113-118. Interpretive Summary: True morels (Morchella) fruit for only a few weeks each spring in temperate regions throughout the Northern Hemisphere. Morels are among the most intensively collected wild edible fungi collected by mycophiles. To date, relatively few collections of morels have been reported in the Southern Hemisphere, so the discovery of an abundant fruiting of black morels in northwestern New South Wales (NSW), Australia in August 2010 by a scientist at Oregon State University warranted further study. Macro- and microscopic features of the morel resembled several species from North America; however, genetic analyses of DNA sequence data from portions of four genes indicated that the Australian collection represented a novel species. DNA analyses of seven other Australian collections revealed that two made in 1994 from southeastern Australia (NSW and Victoria) were identical to the 2010 collection, which appears to be endemic, whereas the other collections from Western Australia probably were introduced from North America. In recognition of the first morel native to Australia, this species was formally described as Morchella australiana. Pure cultures of the morels included in this study were deposited in the ARS Culture Collection (NRRL) where they are available to biotechnologists interested in commercial production of morels. Results of this study should benefit foresters and conservation biologists develop robust conservation policies to help insure that this valuable genetic resource is managed responsibly.
Technical Abstract: An abundant fruiting of a black morel was encountered in temperate northwestern New South Wales (NSW), Australia, during a mycological survey in August 2010. The collection site was west of the Great Dividing Range in a young, dry sclerophyll woodland forest dominated by Eucalyptus and Callitris north of Coonabarabran in an area known as the Pilliga Scrub. Although the Pilliga Scrub is characterized by frequent and often large, intense wildfires, the site showed no sign of recent fire, which suggests this species is not a post-fire morel. Caps of the Morchella elata-like morel were brown with blackish ridges supported by a pubescent stipe that became brown at maturity. Because no morel has been described as native to Australia, the collections were subjected to multilocus molecular phylogenetic and morphological analyses to assess its identity. Results of these analyses indicated our collection, together with previous collections from NSW and Victoria, represented a novel, genealogically exclusive lineage, which is described and illustrated here as Morchella australiana Elliott et al. sp. nov.