Waxcaps of Wales

Wales is a land of grass. 83% of the farmed landscape here is either permanent pasture or rough grazing. While the vast majority of this is intensively managed as sheep and cattle pasture, less intensively farmed grassland – especially in hilly areas - can be home to a remarkable group of fungi, the waxcaps.

Blackening Waxcap. Photo © Trevor Dines/Plantife.

Despite its small size, Wales supports over half the number of waxcap fungi in Britain. Named for their shiny, waxy and often brightly coloured caps (which can look like blobs of red, orange or yellow wax in the turf), the 112 species include some extraordinarily beautiful fungi such as the Pink or Ballerina Waxcap (Hygrocybe calyptriformis), Scarlet Waxcap (Hygrocybe coccinea) and Violet Coral (Clavaria zollingeri). As well as grazed livestock pastures, other habitats such as old lawns, churchyards and amenity grass in parks can all be incredibly important for waxcap fungi and other grassland fungi.

But many of these species are in decline. They are very sensitive to changes in their environment and cannot tolerate the regular ploughing, re-seeding and fertilizing of intensively farmed pasture. As a result some species, like Date-coloured Waxcap (Hygrocybe spadicea) and Olive Earthtongue (Microglossum olivaceum), are now very rare and threatened.

We are still learning about this enigmatic group of fungi and the few fungi experts (mycologists) that exist in Wales have many unanswered questions about their distribution, ecology and conservation needs. Part of the problem is that few people can confidently identify these fungi in the field and record where they’re growing. Our new waxcap project will help tackle these issue.

Can you help?

If you are interested in getting involved in the project please email cymru@plantlife.org.uk

Our goals:

  • Increase the profile of the international significance of waxcap grasslands in Wales and create a better picture of their extent and condition.
  • Engage with people across Wales to raise awareness of these fungi generally though creative activities and public events.
  • Improve the skills and understanding of land owners and site managers so they can care better for waxcap grasslands.
  • Offer training for site wardens, outdoor educators and teachers as well as developing the next generation of field mycologists through a dedicated apprenticeship-style training scheme.

Under threat:

Pink or Ballerina Waxcap (Hygrocybe calyptriformis)

A very distinctive waxcap – it’s the only one that’s pink! In some years, this species can appear in quantity on old lawns, pastures and meadows. The cap is conical when young but quickly expands, the edges lifting and looking like a ballerina’s dress. Photo (c) Ray Woods.

Date-coloured Waxcap (Hygrocybe spadicea)

One of our rarest waxcaps, this species has a preference for lime-rich soil and is sometimes found in dune grasslands. It occasionally grows on neutral and acid soil, but is always sporadic and, with its brown cap, can be difficult to spot. Photo © Ray Woods.

Violet Coral (Clavaria zollingeri)

One of the most remarkable of all grassland fungi, this species grows like a cauliflower of twisted clubs that look just like a purple coral. It can be quite a shock to find it growing on a remote hill farm or a churchyard. Photo (c) Trevor Dines/Plantlife.

How's it going?


Plantlife Cymru secures funding from Heritage Lottery Fund to develop a 3 year project which is due to commence in the autumn of 2017.

The project is launched and attracts considerable attention from the press and people interested in becoming involved.

Anita Daimond, our new Waxcap Officer, gets to work meeting the experts and visiting important waxcap sites, here with Sam Bosanquet of Natural Resources Wales (Photo © Anita Daimond/Plantlife).

Who are we working with?

Heritage Lottery Fund (funder)

Natural Resources Wales