In an interview this morning, staff at The Donkey Sanctuary Revealed that a second rare fungus has been discovered at one of The Donkey Sanctuary premises near Sidmouth.
Following on from the recent discovery of violet coral fungi on one of the charities farms, Conservation Officer, Helen Cavilla, today gave Sid Valley Biodiversity Group details of a second rare fungi discovery at The Donkey Sanctuary. A rare Ballerina fungi has now been found on one of the farms.
Violet coral the size of a cauliflower
The first rarity to be discovered was the violet coral, Clavaria zollingeri. It was discovered by one of the charity’s conservation officers, Helen Cavilla, at Paccombe Farm which is home to more than 350 donkeys.
The sighting is only the second time this fungus has been recorded in Devon, while other records are from just a handful of sites across the UK.
“I spotted something looking oddly like it was from an aquarium nestled amongst moss and leaf litter,” said Helen. “It was really exciting to realise what it was when I got closer.”
The violet coral’s global population is decreasing and it is listed as ‘Vulnerable’ on the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) Red List of Threatened Species and Global Fungi Red List.
Threats include habitat loss, pollution, agricultural intensification, over-exploitation and climate change.
The pinky-purple fungus, which is about the size of a cauliflower and has finger-like projections, tends to be found in old, unfertilised grasslands, though this one was found in woodland.
A Ballerina graces the fields
The second rarity, also discovered by Helen Cavilla and the conservation volunteers, is the pink waxcap, Hygrocybe calyptriformis. It’s a lover of old short grassland and pastures and was found in a field regularly grazed by donkeys at Slade House Farm.
Often called the ‘Ballerina’ due to its tutu shape and delicate appearance, it has a pointed rose-pink cap that feels waxy, plus pink gills and a pinky-white stalk.
Though slightly more frequently found in the UK than the rest of Europe, where is appears on the Red List of Threatened Species and Global Fungi, most fungi lovers rarely see one in a lifetime of searching.
Ballerina fungi favour acid or neutral unimproved grassland which has significantly decreased in recent years. Along with coral fungi, waxcaps are associated with grasslands that have not had artificial fertilisers applied and are low in macronutrients. They are very sensitive to changes in their environment and cannot tolerate the regular ploughing, fertilising and re-seeding of intensively farmed land. The unimproved grasslands at The Donkey Sanctuary are not only good for botanical diversity and grazing donkeys, they are providing good conditions for fungal diversity too.
Both rarities, and the dozens of other fungi found on The Donkey Sanctuary farms, will continue to be monitored over the years and it is hoped more rarities will come to light.