Victoria mycologist Oluna Ceska, who is working on a fungi inventory for scientists at the National Research Council's Dominion Astrophysical Observatory, found the Squamanita paradoxa mushroom Nov. 27, and has now had its identity confirmed.
It's the first time the Squamanita has been found in Canada, she said.
Ceska's husband, Adolf, former botany curator at the Royal B.C. Museum, was with her when the strange mushroom was found.
"Adolf almost wanted to throw it away and I said, 'My God, put it back and take pictures,' " said Ceska, who did not know exactly what it was, but sensed it was rare. "I thought it was just a new species of a genus I knew, but when I got home I couldn't find out what it was."
When she realized what she had found, her excitement grew and she contacted other mycologists around the world.
Squamanita was described by University of Washington mycologists in Seattle in 1948 and some have been found in the Mount Hood area.
There was another report of the species from Priest Lake, Idaho.
"Our find is the first in Canada and perhaps only the third record from North America," said Adolf Ceska.
Even in Europe it is rare, with about half a dozen reports from areas such as France, Italy and the Czech Republic, said Oluna Ceska. What makes the mushroom particularly interesting is that it grows parasitically on more common species of mushrooms, she said. That means the bottom of the fungus, which resembles the yellow boots, is a completely different species.
Samples of the mushroom have been sent to the University of B.C. herbarium and to the University of Tennessee, where a DNA analysis will be conducted.
Photos have been sent to other researchers and the find will probably be included in a paper written by a U.S. mycologist on North American species of fungus.
The Squamanita could also be growing in other areas of Vancouver Island, said Ceska, who would like to hear from anyone who thinks they have seen the mushroom.
Southern Vancouver Island has a wealth of fungi, said Ceska, who believes someone should be compiling an in-depth inventory of species in B.C. During the five years Ceska has been working on the Observatory Hill inventory, she has documented 850 species. "And I am sure that is not close to the final number," she said.
Ceska can be contacted at email@example.com.