Islander discovers first-of-its-kind rare mushroom in British Isles

Stacked spores (Geoffrey Kibby) (37434978)

A MUSHROOM discovered in Jersey has been confirmed as the first record of its kind in the British Isles.

Fungi enthusiast Charlotte Shenkin came across what she believed to be a rare species called Russula stenocystidiata while driving back from Jersey Zoo with her toddler.

“I spotted an eye-catching pink mushroom growing on a grass verge,” she said. “After a sharp detour, I found myself looking at something that definitely felt unusual and possibly rare.”

Having previously worked as a zookeeper, lab technician and science teacher, Ms Shenkin knows her way around a microscope. Nevertheless, the process of identifying a rare mushroom was a complex one.

The identification process involved using special chemicals to stain and look at the mushroom. (37434981)

Ms Shenkin said: “To identify Russulas you have to do quite a few standard tests, things like; what they smell like, do they bruise a different colour, what colour are the spores, using a microscope to look at the shape of the spores.”

After carrying out these tests, she posted her results on a specialist Facebook group.

British expert Geoffrey Kibby, who is a research associate at Kew Gardens, got in touch confirming that there were no previous records of this species in the British Isles.

With help from Dutch and Italian mycologists (someone who works with fungi), Ms Shenkin used special chemicals to stain and examine specific cells in the mushroom’s gills and cap to confirm its identity.

Wild mushroom lover Charlotte Shenkin spotted the Russula stenocystidiata in August. (37434982)

She said: “That and a few other defining features seemed to have confirmed it. But as scientists, we always want to be really sure and get as much evidence as possible to make sure we’re recording valid data.

“So I was still hanging on for the DNA sequencing before I could jump for joy!”

Mr Kibby arranged for the Surrey Fungus Study Group to do DNA sequencing.

“With their help, my collected samples and Geoffrey organising it, we managed to prove this new record for the British Isles without doubt,” she said.

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