Where To Find Waxcaps
You don’t have to look skyward for bursts of colour and sparkle at this time of year. Walk through a field and you might see the red, green, pink and orange hues of waxcap fungi glistening amongst the grass.
A cemetery might not be the first place you think of to look for fungi but they can be a haven for wildlife, especially within busy cities. Cathays Cemetery was opened in 1859 as a place for burial and also to provide a natural green space for the local community to enjoy.
Walking through the arches and gates into the cemetery, you begin to realise how large it is – it actually covers 110 acres. Like many cemeteries, the grass is kept relatively short for visitors – ideal for waxcap fungi.
A closer look underfoot starts to reveal some of these grassland gems. Waxcaps are often brightly-coloured with a waxy, slippery-looking cap so are can be easy to spot. First found is the meadow waxcap (Hygrocybe pratensis). This is actually one of the least colourful waxcaps with a creamy buff domed cap:
Spotted next is the vibrant scarlett waxcap (Hygrocybe coccinea), the vivid red cap contrasting with the green grass:
This waxcap often appears in large groups known as troops.
It’s not long until I find my favourite fungi, the parrot waxcap (Hygrocybe psittacina):
It can be found in shades of green, yellow and even purple and is usually quite slimy! When you look at the lively, varied colours you can see how it got its name.
Spangled waxcap (Hygrocybe insipida) is also found. The orange caps look like little tangerines nestled amongst the grass.
Despite its small size, Wales supports over half the number of waxcap fungi in Britain, but unfortunately many of these species are in decline. They are very sensitive to changes in their environment and can’t tolerate disturbance, fertilisers, herbicides or nutrient rich soils. Plantlife provides advice to people managing grasslands to help them keep the soil and conditions just right for waxcaps.
I’ve heard that cemetery has dozens of waxcap species but I only find the more common ones. Waxcap enthusiasts have commented that they have seen fewer fungi than usual this autumn. Perhaps the hot dry summer has taken its toll and affected their ability to fruit this season.
Next time you are walking through grassland remember to look underneath your feet. Waxcaps can also be found in lawns, sand dunes and old pastures – I even found some in the middle of a rugby pitch in Cardiff last year!
Find out more:
Waxcaps and Grassland Fungi
A guide to the identification and management of Waxcaps and grassland fungi.