A RARE mould found in the North-East, that looks like jelly beans, has left naturalists jumping with excitement.

One of Britain’s rarest slime moulds has been found in County Durham, the first time the species has been spotted in the UK since 2006 and the first ever recorded sighting in the North-East.

The mould, so rare it is known only by its scientific name badhamia foliicola, was spotted in Castle Eden Dene Nature Reserve, near Peterlee, by an eagle-eyed member of the public during a Fungus Foray guided walk last October.

Loading article content

Initially thought to be a more common type of fungus, experts have since been analysing the discovery and it has now been confirmed by Tom Kirby, of the North-East Fungus Study Group, as the rare species.

The Association of British Fungus Groups only knows of 24 sightings of the species in the UK since 1965, the last being in Kent five years ago.

Joe Davies, of Natural England, said: “The identification of badhamia foliicola at Castle Eden Dene is an unexpected new record for Castle Eden Dene National Nature Reserve and a significant addition to the bio-diversity of the site.

“The discovery underlines the Dene’s role as a natural treasure house for a wealth of wildlife, which ranges from the tiniest fungi to huge and ancient yew trees.”

Despite their uninspiring name, slime moulds are remarkable organisms with characteristics of both animals and plants.

Far from being mouldy, badhamia foliicola is unexpectedly eye-catching with its distinctive colourful reproductive blooms, which look like tiny, yellow jelly beans.

For most of their lifespan, the amoeba-like slime moulds live in dark and humid habitats but, in some conditions, switch to a completely different form and their colourful reproductive bodies, or sporangia, appear on the surface of rotten wood, plant debris or earth.

As many as 50 different types of fungus are thought to thrive at Castle Eden Dene, including scarlet elf cup, razor strop and Dryad’s saddle.

The next fungus foray will take place on September 16.