Field mycologist Andy Overall, who is head of the London Fungus Group, was conducting an environmental fungi survey for the City Corporation’s Hampstead Heath Pond’s Project, which is designed to upgrade the ponds’ flood defences to meet modern safety standards.
The survey was being conducted in a fenced off area – not accessible to the public - on the west bank of the Mixed Bathing Pond, to discover which species of fungi are present, and to develop a management plan on how best to encourage any fungi found.
The find is considered to be an important discovery for field mycology and for the ecology of Hampstead Heath. It is thought that the mushroom’s spores may have been lying dormant for many years and could have come in from the European content, where the species is known to be present - by bird, on the soles of shoes, or even by wind.
Overall said: "I was very surprised and excited when I spotted the Cortinarius. I knew I had found something important and my heart raced. Hampstead Heath is a green treasure trove, smack bang in the middle of London, and I have been fortunate enough to have discovered one of its hidden gems."
City fo London Corporation ecologist Adrian Brooker said: "Hampstead Heath gets seven million visits a year, and this exciting find just shows the diverse ecology that can be found at even the most popular of green spaces."
The species has been verified as Cortinarius irregularis by UK fungi authorities at Kew’s Mycological dept.