Pleurotus in NZ, the good, the bad, and the ugly.

  Posted on 11 August 2021  |    Hyphae  |    4 Comments

In New Zealand, we are lucky enough to have some very unique endemic edible mushrooms. From endemic Shiitake (Letinula novae-zealandiae) to endemic giant Pink oyster mushrooms (Pleurotus parsonsaie). We also have an endemic Lions mein relative called Hericium novae-zealandiae.

The problem with all three endemic mushrooms vs the imported version is: they are really the same mushroom evolving for many years on different sides of the globe. So they are only slightly different, so slight that Pleurotus parsosnsiae was first originally described as P. Djamor and only barely makes the threshold to be a different organism in the gene bank. Perhaps the most interesting development was just a couple of months ago when Dr. Jerry Cooper of Landcare found some differences with the now called (Hericium novae-zealandiae). The name was originally Coral Tooth Fungus, labeled the same name found in the USA. All the fungarium entries had to be renamed and all the observations on inaturalist. 

All of these organisms are so close to their imported relatives that it is extremely likely that they could cross creating hybrids that are the start of the end for our endemic mushrooms. We are so secluded from the rest of the world our genetics are some of the purest in the world much like our water. That was just to explain the threats our endemic Pleurotus parsonsiae faces from commercial people growing its close relation "the pink oyster mushroom" (P. djamor). 

This post has been updated with more information and DNA results 03/03/2020

Pleurotus in NZ:

The above oyster mushrooms some are proved illegal to be grown in NZ were purchased from a local Christchurh market

The Good:

Endemic we have two, Pleurotus parsonsaie and a close relative of Pleurotus australis (Pleurotus purpureo-olivaceous).

Native we have two, Pleurotus pulmonarius (quite different from the import)  forms a distinct clade with P. ostreatus & P. eryngii. We also have a native mushroom commonly found on Kanuka called Pleurotus australis. This mushroom is also found in Australia and is called the Tee tree mushrooms there. 

Endemic means only found in NZ and native means it is found elsewhere in the world but without human intervention, it has arrived and become present in the natural environment.

We like to think we only have these four mushrooms in the natural environment of NZ.

Pleurotus parsonsaie (endemic)

Pleurotus purpureo-olivaceous (endemic) 

Pleurotus australis (native)

Pleurtous pulmonarius (native)


Now for the Bad News

The Bad:

If a mushroom was here pre "HNSO" it is legal to be here, a law made to stop any organism entering NZ after the date it was made and it also says any organisms that were already imported and present in NZ are allowed to stay.

As the pink oyster mushroom (P. djamor) had already been imported before that date it is still legal to import new cultures of it and freely grow it in NZ. 

Recently Dr. Jerry Cooper of Landcare NZ wrote: "I believe it is inter-fertile with P. parsonsiae and so there is a risk of escape and genetic pollution".

But some commercial growers just don't care about the ecology, continue to grow the pink oyster import while painting themselves as environmentally friendly.

Perhaps the most childish response came from a new grower in Christchurch going by the name of Oak and Spore. His response was to start growing both strains in the same room. If growing the pink oyster was not bad enough this could be the start to the end. When asked what he thought about genetic pollution Tom Brain of Oak and spore wrote: "that is just your marketing strategy for your new company" this is the mentality of small commercial growers who do not use filters to stop introducing billions of unwanted imported spores into the environment.

These are the risks now facing our endemic mushrooms.

The grey imported version of Pleurotus pulmonarius everyone grows could be threatening our native version. I believe our native version is like no other in the world. It has a unique flavour, texture, and smell. As they are the same strain it is just a matter of time before our native version evolves with imported genetics.

The most insane part of imported Pleurotus pulmonarius and endemic Pleurotus parsonsiae is Dr. Jerry Cooper of Landcare says "The chance of accidental hybridisation would not be zero". This means spores from both mushrooms could grow and fuse together in physics creating a totally different hybrid organism that could also end up destroying our endemic mushroom Pleurotus parsonsiae. 


The Ugly:


The DNA is back and this mushroom can now be formally called Pleurotus. Sp an undescribed new to science species and that was from a government official. 

Screenshot: Ohau Mushrooms Facebook

As we speak MPI is investigating a threat to NZ that Rochelle Alagar at The Mushroom house has gone public saying:

Screenshot: The Mushroom House facebook page

"It was taken from a market in Hamilton from a Chinese man"

Rochelle Alagar  freely admits growing it and also is on record  posting "MPI has changed the rules so the mushroom house no longer grows this mushroom"

After informing her MPI has never allowed anyone to grow undescribed species Alagar removed her comment. 

The most troubling part is Alagar admits by saying it came from a hamilton market that it came from a questionable source. Just because it is available at an Asian market seller that does not mean anyone can grow it. It amazes me such a professional company can make such careless mistakes. 

I will call this mushroom "Blue Oyster" the problem is no one knows what it is.  The people growing it think they do but two scientists I talked to say it is not what it has been labeled.

There are two possibilities here:

1. If it really came from a Chinese man, if so it is very possible it is an undescribed species from Asia. Not the same strain labeled "Blue Oyster in USA" 

2. If it was not taken from a China shop but it was smuggled into the country. This would be the case if the DNA came back as Pleurotus ostreatus var. columbinus or at least what companies like Fungi perfecti are selling a blue mushroom as.

It is labeled as a Pleurotus ostreatus strain but here is what one EU genetic company is saying: 

"However Pleurotus ostreatus var. columbinus is sufficiently different that it can either be considered a variation of P. ostreatus, or a separate species, depending on what definition you have for a species, and what you use to test for differences between species. It can certainly interbreed with P. ostreatus, which is why historically it has often been considered as a P. ostreatus subspecies. However papers from 1994 and onward based on molecular studies suggest that there is enough difference from other P. ostreatus strains that it can be considered another species.
Since the MPI lab in Auckland decides based on molecular evidence, there is a good chance that it would not be sufficiently similar to their P. ostreatus standard for it to enter NZ as an P. ostreatus strain."

I asked Dr. Jerry Cooper of Landcare NZ if this was true and he replied:

"Yes, I agree.
My point above was about strains that are misidentified/mislabelled as P. columbinus when they may actually represent another species. For example, there are at least two species labeled P. columbinus with sequences in GenBank and it is uncertain which, if any, represent the 'real' P. columbinus. The name is old and it has not been epitypified, unlike P. ostreatus. However, if entry is based on sequence data and some generally accepted threshold of degree of similarity to verified sequences of P. ostreatus then that is irrelevant. And that is what they say above".

Screenshot: Oak & Spore Facebook

While most growers were just growing the mushrooms most alarmingly Sporeshift mushrooms sold grain spawn labeled "Blue Oyster" for people to illegally grow all over NZ and never contacted the people to tell them they were actually growing an illegal to be in NZ species smuggled in. His tight nit circle that all shares cultures still does not get formal ID. If these people had some kind of logic, just one small piece in their brains they would pay for all their cultures to be formally ID if they had of none of this would have happened. Just a big bunch of cowboys destroying the industry while lining their own pockets. At the expense of the native fauna of Aotearoa. 


This means that MPI would  refuse it entry into NZ. There is also a rumor that two containers containing Chinese ready to fruit mushroom blocks were sent back to China and refused entry into NZ. 

Quite a few growers have destroyed everything in the fear of being raided by MPI and exposed for growing a mushroom that was illegal in NZ. All except one grower that I know of (Oak and Spore) who proudly till this day has YouTube videos of growing it.



The wild card:

Recently Pleurotus ostreatus had its status changed to present by Medow mushrooms. They proved to the EPA that the mushroom had already been grown in New Zealand and there was a record of one appearing on a log in Levin. They provided enough evidence to flip the status of the mushroom to "present". This means people are able to import pure strains of the original mushroom described in Tennessee.

I asked Dr. Jerry Cooper if this mushroom could threaten any of our endemic or native mushrooms in NZ. Quickly he replied with "NO" 

Now don't get me wrong here but if the commercial growers are growing three mushrooms that have the ability to genetically pollute our endemic and native species then why are they not growing this one. The bad side would be the native fauna would have a new mushroom but it only grows on dead wood. So it would actually not threaten anything. My opinion is pointing towards Medow mushrooms may have just helped me save our mushrooms. 


UPDATE: 31/05/2020

Rochelle Alagar The Mushroom House 

Since posting this Rochelle Alagar from the Mushroom House has tried to lay a complaint to the police for harassment after I asked for people to film her for a documentary I am making. The police officer called me on my cell phone and from what I told him he confirmed that Alagar was wasting their time as there was no harassment or anything that the police could do.

This did not stop Alagar after this she contacted Net Safe about this post.  I received a Facebook message stating Alagar had made a complaint.  

UPDATE: July 12, 2021

I have just been notified of MPI's findings and it seems Rochelle Alagar from the Mushroom House saying "it was from a Chinese market" was actually either lies or she has been told lies by her spawn supplier. It was infract illegally smuggled into NZ by a mushroom grower. 

MPI has linked it all on this post: 

Page 30 Outlines the way the petrie dish was divided. MPI did an outstanding job of back tracing it. So it sounds like but not yet to be confirmed her spawn supplier may have illegally imported it and told her it came from a Chinese market. I have never named him also...

UPDATE: July 30, 2021

Had a very interesting phone call with meadow mushrooms, it appears so far out of the whole industry this is the only company that has ever considered the environment while being falsely painted as the problem with the industry.

The people who grow import shiitake decided to slay Medow in the media for importing blocks and taking the market. But Medow do not harvest with open skirts so the spores remain in the fruits. But that is not the case with the people who threw them into the media. These people are growing mushrooms that can destroy native versions of shiitake but Medow posts little or any risk. One home grower could actually do more damage growing a log or grow bag from an imported culture.

Medow mushrooms changed the Pleurotus ostreatus law so they could import a sporeless version. Yes, that's right folks a sporeless version while the rest of the industry is responsible for the deterioration of local species (Pleurotus pulmonarius is widely clustered with imported Asian species in NZ) But the scientist was unware the sporeless version of Pleurotus ostreatus was unable to be imported as it was not the pure species first described in Tennessee.



more to come soon... 





List of Pleurotus present in NZ

Pleurotus parsonsaie (endemic)

Pleurotus purpureo-olivaceous (endemic)

Pleuortus Sp. (I also believe there is one more species a possible cross between the above and below)  

Pleurotus australis (native)

Pleurotus pulmonarius (native)

Pleurotus pulmonarius (clustered with import on cabbage trees) 

Pleurotus pulmonarius (import) common grey cultivated oyster

Pleurotus djamor (import) common pink cultivated oyster

Pleurotus ostreatus (not sure a pure strain has been imported yet, MPI published all have been refused so far)

Pleurotus Sp. (Blue Oyster) DNA Back undescribed new to science species 


If you would like a more scientific approach to Pleurotus in NZ please read Dr. Jerry Cooper of Landcare NZ's notes on it here: