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UArizona student discovers rare, purple mushroom on Mount Lemmon

Never before documented in Southern Arizona
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Posted at 11:16 AM, Apr 22, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-23 11:40:05-04

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — The University of Arizona is crediting one of its students for discovering a rare, purple mushroom on Mount Lemmon.

Caitlin Dowd, senior studying geology, found the rare mushroom on their second foraging expedition.

"I consider myself just a total amateur forager," Dowd said. "It was a big surprise when we found it."

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According to researchers, this is the first documented Entoloma occidentale in all of Arizona.

This mushroom was first studied in 1911, reports the USDA Forest Service. Since then, scientists' information stems from only a handful of northwest collections.

"So this mushroom has only really been spotted as far south as northern California," said Dowd. " Most of the observations are further east like in Ohio and stuff and it's really only been documented a handful of times, but never this far south."

Low to mid-elevation mixed conifer stands are usually where Entoloma occidentale is found, and this year's wet monsoon and Mount Lemmon's high elevation made for the perfect habitat for the mushroom.

"Mushrooms need certain conditions to fruit and that one needed, probably, a lot of water, and we got a lot of water last year."

Dowd says finding something so unique and beautiful isn't something they'll forget. They plan on returning to that spot this July to see if the new Entoloma occidentale has grown.

"I almost remember that moment exactly, like spotting it and the first glimpse of the purple. It was just so brilliant against the forest floor."