A tiny, fragile-looking mushroom sporting a honey-yellow ‘cap’ found on the campus of the Jawaharlal Nehru Tropical Botanic Garden and Research Institute (JNTBGRI) at Palode here has been identified as a new species.
Turning the spotlight once again on the remarkable Western Ghats biodiversity, the discovery also gives fresh impetus to the study of the region’s fungal diversity.
Researchers at the JNTBGRI identified and described the new species as belonging to the genus Candolleomyces, a relatively small genus with just 35 species recognised worldwide. A paper by C. K. Pradeep, Principal Scientist, Microbiology Division, and P. K. Nayana, Research Student, of JNTBGRI highlighting the findings has been published in the scientific journal Phytotaxa.
The new species, which is quite cute in appearance, has been named Candolleomyces albosquamosus - ‘albosquamosus’ for the white woolly scale-like structures on its pileus or cap. Delicate in build, the mushroom grows to a height of just about 58 mm. The ‘cap,’ or pileus, of a mature Candolleomyces albosquamosus is 12 mm to 38.5 mm in diameter and bell-shaped. The honey-yellow coloured pileus turns brownish-gray or brownish-beige with age. The ‘stipe’ – the stem or stalk of the mushroom – is white in colour and cylindrical.
Specimens from campus
Specimens were collected from the forests on the JNTBGRI campus, which form part of the Western Ghats in Kerala. Detailed morphological and molecular studies confirmed that the specimens represent an undescribed species of Candolleomyces, the paper said. The genus Candolleomyces was created in 2020 based on multi-gene molecular studies of the family Psathyrellaceae. Seven species of the genus Psathyrella reported earlier from India are now recognised as Candolleomyces.
The discovery of a new species of the genus Candolleomyces in India is special given that there are only 35 species in this genus worldwide, Dr. Pradeep told The Hindu. Habitats of Candolleomyces albosquamosus include dead logs or bamboo culms in the natural forest. On the JNTBGRI campus, they were found in two or three spots.
Apart from the novelty of finding a new species, there is another important element to the discovery. “In general, mushrooms constitute secondary saprophytic fungi of the forest ecosystem. Secondary saprophytic fungi play a very important role in the decomposition of plant litter. This is relevant since the turnover of plant litter in tropical forests is huge when compared to temperate forests,” he said.
The Western Ghats region in Kerala is rich in fungi, many of which could also be described as endemic to the region, he said. Specimens have been deposited in the Mycological Herbarium of the JNTBGRI.