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Rare mushroom species found in UK for first time on Hampstead Heath during dams project survey

10:32 11 June 2014

It is the first time the mushroom species Cortinarius irregularis has been found in the UK

It is the first time the mushroom species Cortinarius irregularis has been found in the UK

Archant

A species of mushroom that has never been seen before in the UK has been discovered lurking in the shade of oak trees on Hampstead Heath.

Andy Overall, field mycologist and head of the London Fungus GroupAndy Overall, field mycologist and head of the London Fungus Group

Cortinarius irregularis mushrooms were found during an ecological survey of the Heath for the controversial proposed ponds project, which could see the dams raised by about 18ft to stop them failing in an extreme storm.

But the City of London Corporation, which runs the green space, has been quick to reassure nature lovers that the rare species will be protected and engineering would not take place where it is growing.

Field mycologist Andy Overall, who found and identified the mushrooms while carrying out a survey of fungi on the Heath, said: “To come across something new is always so exciting.

“It’s brilliant for the Heath as well. It is a bit of a hotspot for fungi, Hampstead Heath, mainly because it’s in its own micro-climate.”

It is the second time that Mr Overall has discovered a species of mushroom new to the UK on Hampstead Heath.

Spores from the cortinarius irregularis mushrooms could have come to the Heath from Europe, where the species is known to grow, on the soles of shoes, from a bird, or on the wind.

Foragers should beware as many mushrooms in the same family as the cortinarius irregularis are highly poisonous.

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