Northumberland National Park has been propelled into the mycological spotlight due to the discovery of a rare and elusive species of fungi at a site in the Coquet Valley.
National Park ranger, Shaun Hackett, came across what he suspected was the newly-classified Jubilee waxcap (Gliophorus reginae) while carrying out the annual waxcap grassland survey.
Recognising the find’s significance, Shaun sent a sample to fungi experts, known as mycologists, at London’s Royal Botanic Gardens, who have been monitoring the waxcaps’ whereabouts through the Lost and Found Fungi Project.
After a 10-month wait, DNA testing has now confirmed that it was a Jubilee waxcap, making the discovery the most northerly sighting of the mysterious mushroom in the UK.
“It’s incredibly exciting to finally have my suspicions confirmed,” said Shaun. “Through an ecologist friend of mine, Liz Holden, I sent the sample to the team at Kew’s Lost and Found Project for identification.
“Having never physically seen a Jubilee waxcap before, I only recognised it by its distinct colouring from the photographs I’d seen.
“Advances in DNA testing have seen the number of known species of waxcap nearly double in recent years, some of which are recognised by the International Union for Conservation of Nature as being ‘vulnerable to extinction’.
“It’s amazing to think that we have a haven for these rare species of fungi on our doorstep right here in Northumberland.”
Distinguishable from regular mushrooms and toadstools by their jewel-bright colours and unique waxy tops, waxcaps are fungi of unimproved grassland that is often rich in moss and grazed by cattle and sheep.
Recognisable by its royal purple fruit body, the Jubilee waxcap was new to science in 2013. Named in commemoration of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, the Jubilee is one of 33 varieties of waxcap to be found at grassland sites across the Northumberland National Park.
Northumberland National Park Authority is keen for visitors to report any sightings of waxcaps, both common or unusual, as part of its waxcaps survey. Please send your waxcap photos along with details of where you saw them within the National Park to email@example.com and Park ecologists will try to identify them for you.
To find out more about waxcaps, visit www.nnpa.org.uk/things-to-do/enjoy-nature/wildlife/fungi