It’s amazing what is right under our noses without being noticed. A species of mushroom that can look remarkably like stick-figure humans has been discovered, and far from being in some sparsely inhabited jungle, they were found by a road in England
Jonathan Revett has a hobby for collecting mushrooms, which he tracks on his fenfungi website. In 2000, he noticed some specimens with an unusual shape by a roadside in Norfolk. While Revett recognized the specimens as being a type of Earthstar mushroom, he doubted they were Rayed Earthstars, the most similar species.
It took many years after his sending samples to be checked, but Revett’s hunch has been confirmed. This is a new species, named Geastrum britannicum, that was identified in Persoonia as part of a DNA analysis to establish the relationships between the variety of related Earthstar species.
The paper identifies seven new species, but G. britannicum’s distinctive shape makes it stand out (sorry, not sorry) from the common mushroom herd. In Field Mycology, the authors report that G. britannicum is “surprisingly common,” having been found at 15 locations across southern Britain.
As Rivett’s photographs show, G. britannicum doesn’t always look like a human—sometimes the resemblance is closer to something out of Star Wars.
G. britannicum is not the first fungus to look suspiciously human. G. fornicatum was initially known as Fungus anthropomorphus for their humanoid shape, but few do their impersonations quite as well as the newest entrant. (G. fornicatum’s species name comes from the Latin word for arch, by the way, just in case you were getting ideas.)
Revett has been taking tours to the site where he first found G. britannicum and has found the new species there ever since.
The new species is not considered edible. Now, the remaining question is whether they scream when repotted.
Photo credits: Jonathan Revett.
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