A fungus previously unknown to world science has been discovered on land in the South Downs.
The ground-breaking discovery of the dark blue Entoloma atromadidum was made by a group studying fungi on National Trust land at Wolstonbury Hill.
What was thought to be one species, Big Blue Pinkgill - Entoloma bloxamii - has now been proven by experts to be at least four different species.
Mycologists had suspected Big Blue Pinkgills comprised more than one species, but lacked evidence. The find at Wolstonbury Hill – a South Downs landmark with a rich history – means their suspicions can now be confirmed in the record books.
Kew Gardens mycology research leader Dr Martyn Ainsworth 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, who looks after the land around Wolstonbury, said: “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 of fungi at National Trust places in recent months. During a count of grassland fungi on the Longshaw Estate in Derbyshire, a group came across another UK first in the shape of the Ermine Bonnet - Mycena erminia - a slender white toadstool usually found only in The Netherlands and Denmark.
Last autumn, volunteers at the Trust’s Clumber Park in Nottinghamshire discovered the extremely rare Powdercap strangler, a parasitic toadstool that body-snatches another grassland fungus.