An ultra-rare mushroom collectors say can fight cancer and dementia is so unique that it is protected by law and caged for its own protection.
The fascinating Bearded Tooth mushroom was spotted by an eagle-eyed volunteer at Cornwall’s Lost Gardens of Heligan after it grew to the size of a football.
Buzzing staff immediately called in big names from both the local and national mushroom industry to advise them on how to handle the fungus.
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Their expert advice warned handlers that due to its supposedly miraculous healing properties, they should protect it from hoards of potential foragers.
The mushroom has the highest level of protection available under Schedule 8 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act, meaning it is against the law to pick it, uproot it or destroy it and anyone who breaches it risks prison.
Toby Davies, wildlife co-ordinator at the gardens, boasted: “Most of the time, when there’s these fungi around, there’s only 15 reports across the whole country. Here we’ve got two within the same vicinity.
“Usually this mushroom is found in dense woodland where members of the public wouldn’t see it.
“This one has grown on the tail end of a log which looks across a playground, and it’s so big you can see it across the field.
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“Nine out of 10 people wouldn’t know what it is, but the cage is mainly there to prevent people from tampering.”
Volunteers didn’t know just how significant the mushroom was at first, he added.
The fungus, known to boffins as Hericium erinaceus, is one of only four across the UK to enjoy such a high level of protection.
It can be found throughout much of the northern hemisphere and has been used within traditional Chinese medicine for hundreds of years.
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