A new species of the shiitake, an edible mushroom native to East Asia, has been discovered by Vietnamese scientists in the forests of the country’s Central Highlands.
It is the eighth known species of shiitake and the second to have been found in Vietnam, according to Assoc. Prof. Dr. Le Xuan Tham, the lead scientist of the group responsible for the discovery.
Shiitake mushrooms, known in Vietnamese as ‘nam huong’ (fragrant mushrooms), grow naturally in moist climates in East and Southeast Asian countries, including Japan, China, South Korea, Vietnam, and Thailand.
Tham and his team have studied the new species since 2009, though the group only recently announced their findings in an article published in an international scientific journal on mycology.
The group plans to name the new species Lentinula platinedodes Thám et Duong after the lead scientists.
After paying close attention to the mushroom-picking habits of locals near Cat Tien National Park, approximately 600 to 1,500 meters above sea level in Dong Nai and Lam Dong Provinces, Tham noticed that the edible mushrooms popular in their meals were different from any known species.
From his initial observation, the Vietnamese professor led a group of his undergraduates to search for and photograph the mushrooms in their natural habitat before taking samples back to their lab at Da Lat University for examination and cultivation.
In 2011, Tham instructed two of his graduate fellows to defend Master’s theses on the genetic analysis of their newly found L. platinedodes at the University of Paris-Sud in France.
The analysis confirmed their initial hypothesis that the species possessed a genome different from any other discovered species of shiitake.
According to Tham, Havard University professor Dr. David Hibbett has made contact with his research team to offer collaboration on a more in-depth study of the rare species as part of the Genomic Science Program sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy.
The group has also worked with the University of Toronto in Canada to analyze the spores of L. platinedodes mushrooms at Da Lat Nuclear Research Institute to further understand the species, Tham said.