Delight for biologists as new scientific discovery made in the UK

Press release
Big Blue Pinkgill
Published : 14 Feb 2018

A fungus previously unknown to world science has been discovered on land looked after by the National Trust. What was thought to be one species, Big Blue Pinkgill (Entoloma bloxamii), has been proven by mycologists at Kew Gardens to be at least four different species in a ground-breaking find.

The discovery of the dark blue Entoloma atromadidum – one of the four similar looking species – was made by a group studying fungi at the National Trust’s Wolstonbury Hill and later confirmed by the Lost and Found Fungi project based at Kew. Big Blue Pinkgill had been identified as one of 100 Target Species for the project, which began in 2014 and concludes next year.

Mycologists had suspected Big Blue Pinkgills comprised of more than one species, but lacked the necessary DNA and photographic 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, and that 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, who looks after the land around Wolstonbury, 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.”

Dr Trevor Bines, Plantlife Botanical Specialist, said, “We often associate fungi with trees and woodland, but our meadows are home to over 340 amazing species of fungi like violet coral, pink ballerina and scarlet waxcap. This exciting discovery shows the rich diversity of these overlooked jewels and how little we know of what’s really going on beneath the flowers.”

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.