All-fungal taxa inventory at a drumlin archipelago

The Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation Area is the only drumlin archipelago in the USA, comprising 34 islands and peninsulas scattered between the protection of Boston’s inner harbor and its vulnerable outskirts. Drumlin deposits are mounds of sedimentary material left behind by the retreat of glaciers, which were subsequently flooded as sea levels rose after glacial retreat. The result of this process is the Boston Harbor as we know it today, dotted with drumlin islands and peninsulas.

Outer islands are dominated by bare rock, blasted by sea spray, wind, and waves. The inner-island habitats are varied, characterized by sandy coastlines, bluffs, and rocky intertidal areas transitioning into densely vegetated interiors, tidal estuaries, and meadows. Over hundreds of years, several of the Boston Harbor Islands have been subjected to human disturbances: agricultural clear-cutting and grazing; construction of fortifications and hospitals; introduction of exotic species; and fire exposure. For example, Peddocks Island still houses a group of privately owned cottages. Bumpkin Island has a very rich history of land use—home to fish-drying industries and a children’s hospital, while later becoming a recreational area. Georges, Lovells, and Peddocks Islands saw the construction of military bases, which fell out of use after World War II. 

Peddocks Island, with cottages, some in better shape than others, a church, and tunnels of a former mortar battery that has been abandoned for more than half a century (air shot of East Head by Doc Searls, other pictures by Danny Haelewaters).

In December 2012, a fungal All-Taxa Biodiversity Inventory (ATBI) program was initiated, targeting three islands (Grape, Peddocks, Thompson) and one peninsula (World’s End). Calf Island, Great Brewster Island, Slate Island, and Webb Memorial State Park were occasionally sampled. These islands were chosen to reflect a variety of proximity to the mainland, history of anthropogenic disturbance, and size of landmass, all factors that are expected to affect the diversity and distribution of fungi. About 1,000 collections have been made, of which 511 are currently identified. The survey has thus far yielded 232 species in 24 orders, 11 classes, and 2 phyla. (Note that the published Preliminary Checklist of Fungi listed 172 species, which means an additional 60 species have been identified since 2018.) The following species were newly described based on material from the Boston Harbor Islands: Orbilia renispora, Trochila bostonensis, and Xylaria finismundoensis (= the end of the world, named after World’s End peninsula). And more species await description, including in the genera Amanita, Lactarius, Orbilia, and Simocybe.

Overview of BHI-F collections [updated January 2021]


Vandegrift R. 2021. Xylariales (Sordariomycetes, Ascomycota) of the Boston Harbor Islands. Northeastern Naturalist 25(Special Issue 9): 150-199. [pdf]

Gómez-Zapata PA, Haelewaters D, Quijada L, Pfister DH, Aime MC. 2021. Notes on Trochila (Ascomycota, Leotiomycetes), with new species and combinations. MycoKeys 78: 21-47. [pdf]

Shao Y, Baral H-O, Ou X, Wu H, Huang F, Zheng H, Liu B. 2018. New species and records of orbiliaceous fungi from Georgia, USA. Mycological Progress 17(11): 1225-1235. [pdf]

Haelewaters D, Dirks AC, Kappler LA, Quijada L, Vandegrift R, Buyck B, Pfister DH. 2018. A preliminary checklist of fungi at the Boston Harbor Islands. Northeastern Naturalist 25(Special Issue 9): 45-76. [pdf]