Rare fungus find sparks DNA probe
DNA detective work is underway after the chance discovery of a rare fungus in a Suffolk wood.
Woodland Trust conservation volunteers made the fungal find at Abbey Grove, adjacent to the new Millennium Wood, in Felixstowe. Suffolk fungus recorder Neil Mahler told eaenvironment the species was thought to be white basket fungus – a national rarity and only the second ever record for the county. He had been shown it by volunteer Mike Williams.
The species, whose scientific name is Ileodictyon cibarium, was native to New Zealand and was first recorded in the UK in Middlesex in 1954. It was not known how spores arrived in the UK but there has been further finds in the same area. In 1984, an unrelated find was recorded in the Mill River Valley, Brightwell, only five miles from the new site.
White basket fungus was closely related to the well-known stinkhorn fungus but, unlike that species, it preferred to produce fruiting bodies in the winter months, with spores being windblown. “Now that the brambles have been cleared and the rank overgrown grass cut, this should give a new lease of life to the fungus which is now free to be blown about,” said Mr Mahler
The new site was once allotments and spores from Birghtwell may have been in manure that was transferred to Felixstowe. The fungi could have been present ever since. There has been a “strange twist” to the discovery, said Mr Mahler.
Last May, a similar fungus was found near Norwich, but was slightly different to the illustrations available so experts at Kew kept the specimen for DNA sequencing work to see if it could be another rare species this time from Australia – Illeodictyon gracile. Mr Mahler has sent a specimen of the Felixstowe fungus away for similar tests. “This could be more rare than first thought – sometimes, after DNA work, the species turns out to be completely new to science,” he added.
Words from East Anglican Daily Times. Thank you to Bob Stoner who sent in this article.