Amanita muscaria at Dunedin Northern Cemetery

Regardless of the season, there is always something interesting to see at Dunedin Northern Cemetery. This remarkable graveyard, one of the city’s oldest, has become a wonderful park in nearly 150 years of existence. Its luxuriant, diverse vegetation, its abandoned graves and, first and foremost, its tranquility have created a rich environment for many New Zealand and introduced birds to thrive. Over twenty bird species can be observed on just 8 ha. Wild rabbits, too, are well established and seem to have digged tunnels underneath sunken graves, where they typically run to hide.

Dunedin Northern Cemetery

Dunedin Northern Cemetery, view from Opoho Park. Credit: Yalakom

It is very regrettable that the Dunedin City Council recently decided to allow dog walking at the Northern Cemetery, where it used to be prohibited. Dogs may disturb the resident birds, especially in spring when they are breeding, as well as individuals looking for piece and quiet in this holy place. This is particularly true given most dogs are runnnig loose instead of being on a leash, as is required.

In autumn, the Northern Cemetery progressively becomes a humid habitat and remains so throughout the winter. All sorts of mushrooms regularly grow along its grassy alleys and over stumps and tombstones. On a recent visit, I was lucky to encounter fresh colonies of fly agarics (Amanita muscaria) growing in somewhat imperfect fairy rings. This beautiful, bright-colored fungus originates from the boreal and temperate woodlands of the Northern Hemisphere, but was accidentally introduced in New Zealand where it is now widespread.

Fly agarics (Amanita muscaria)

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Location: Dunedin Northern Cemetery, Dunedin

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