Posted 14th February by Peter Byrne
A fungus previously unknown to the science world has been discovered
In a ground-breaking find, mycologists at Kew Gardens have proved the Big Blue Pinkgill (Entoloma bloxamii) is at least four different species - it was previously thought to be one.
The discovery of the dark blue Entoloma atromadidum - one of four similar looking species - was made by a group studying fungi at the National Trust's Wolstonbury Hill and was later confirmed by the Lost and Found Fungi project based at Kew.
Big Blue Pinkgill has identified one of 100 Target Species for the project, which started in 2014 and concludes next year.
Previously, mycologists had suspected Big Blue Pinkgills had comprised of more than one species but didn't have the necessary DNA and photographic evidence to prove it. The find made at Wolstonbury Hill - a South Downs landmark with a rich history - ensured their suspicions can now be confirmed in the record books, and there are at least four different species.
Dr Martyn Ainsworth, Research Leader (Mycology), Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, said: "After more than a year of detective work and DNA sequencing at Kew we finally reached a position where we could confidently describe and name this new species in a publication. This work could not have happened without the keen eyes of many volunteers searching sites such as Wolstonbury for suitable specimens to analyse as part of our Lost & Found Fungi Project. It is always exciting to add a new name to the fungal kingdom and I’m still amazed that, even in a well-studied country such as ours, there are still fungi such as this very striking blue mushroom to be discovered."
National Trust ranger Graham Wellfare looks after the land around Wolstonbury, and said: "This is a really exciting discovery and a real spectacle of science. Fungi are a bit of a neglected kingdom but they are fascinating organisms, and among the oldest on our planet. These days, we’re able to unearth hidden truths about them through modern science and technology and there’s so much potential to discover even more."
Martin Allison, fungus recorder for Sussex, said: "It sometimes happens that a rare or unusual fungus is identified during a study day, but to find a newly-described species is a very special event indeed."
The four species of Big Blue Pinkgill now recorded are Entoloma atromadidum, Entoloma bloxamii, Entoloma madidum and Entoloma ochreoprunuloides.
The find at Wolstonbury Hill was not the only major discovery made at National Trust places in recent months. During a count of grassland fungi on the Longshaw Estate in Derbyshire, a group discovered another UK first in the shape of the Ermine Bonnet (Mycena erminia), a slender white toadstool typically only found in The Netherlands and Denmark.
Last Autumn, volunteers at the Trust's Clumber Park in Nottinghamshire found the extremely rare Powdercap strangler, a parasitic toadstool that body-snatches another grassland fungus.
Image courtesy of National Trust Images