Chance find of very rare fungus, which is a first for Britain

The rare fungus Byssonectria terrestris.
The rare fungus Byssonectria terrestris.
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A rare fungus, normally found in Russia, Scandinavia and Canada has been discovered in Britian for the first time this century, in a bog near Rothbury.

The byssonectria terrestris, which grows on moss as a modest cluster of tiny orange pinheads, needs a very specialised habitat involving burnt wood and deer urine.

The story of its discovery began in December when Abi Mansley, the Border Uplands co-ordinator with Northumberland National Park Authority, carried out a regular peatlands site visits at a bog at Greenleighton.

She was joined by John Hartshorne, from Albion Outdoors, and Paul Muto, from Natural England.

The bog itself had, at one time, been covered with trees, which were cleared three years ago.

The woodland was partially burnt in a wildfire in spring 2012 and the purpose of the visit was to see how the habitat was recovering.

Abi said: “While stepping across the burnt area, John pointed out the orange fungus and wondered what it might be. I like to identify things so I took a photo of it and a GPS reading of our location.”

After extensive research, it was found that the fungus was so rare it didn’t appear in any British or European books.

Gordon Simpson, the county’s fungi specialist, said: “There is no doubt in my mind that the sudden enrichment of the bog due to the potash from the wildfire made the habitat suitable for this fungus.

“It will happily grow on burnt conifer litter and burnt wood, as well as burnt peat. Some theories also have it that the fungus is closely associated with deer urine, which would be plentiful in this area.”

Because of its rarity, it has been sent to Kew for drying and preservation in the National Collection, described as the best collection in the world.