Worm-eating mushroom discovered near golf course

The newly described marram oyster mushroom Hohenbuehelia bonii. Picture: Martyn Ainsworth
The newly described marram oyster mushroom Hohenbuehelia bonii. Picture: Martyn Ainsworth
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A worm-hunting mushroom has been discovered in Littlehampton.

The small but deadly marram oyster mushroom has been hailed as Kew Gardens’ find of 2016 after being found on sand dunes near Littlehampton Golf Club.

As a plant scientist I expect to find species new to science in tropical forests, it’s my job. But at the beach in Sussex? That is shocking

Dr Martin Cheek

It is believed to produce sticky blobs which trap tiny worms that are consumed as the fungus grows through their immobilised bodies, absorbing nutrients as it goes.

The mushroom, named Hohenbuehelia bonii, is one of 22 species of fungi discovered in 2016 by scientists at Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew. It clings to the dead stems of tough marram grass found in sand dunes.

It has since been recorded in other parts of the UK, including the Welsh and Scottish coasts, and France.

Dr Martin Cheek, a senior researcher at Kew, described it the “find of the year”. He added: “It truly is. We may have published more than 200 species of plants and fungi from around the world at Kew, but this for me is definitely the most gobsmacking one.

“As a plant scientist I expect to find species new to science in tropical forests, it’s my job. But at the beach in Sussex? That is shocking.”

At least 75,000 species of fungi have been discovered worldwide, but estimates suggest there could be as many as 1.5 million. However, there are only about 200 recorded as being carnivorous.