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The landmark State of Nature report is a stark call to action, published by the RSPB. The headlines are alarming, with species populations in decline, species communities changing and extinction rates increasing. The report makes it clear that to protect our wildlife we need cohesion and mobilisation of all sectors of society.

Against this backdrop, and under the weight of responsibility to the environment, communities are now rallying together to ask for change. From small online actions such as signing petitions at home, to organising rallies in our capital, such as the Restore Nature Now demo organised by Chris Packham and his team in September 2023.

 

Who is speaking up for plants and fungi?

A group of protestors with banners reading 'restore nature' and 'our species need us now'

That’s what we asked ourselves when we were invited to join the Restore Nature Now rally.

Plantlife hasn’t traditionally taken much of an active stance as an organisation, but amidst the list of NGOs who would be attending, there was a stark absence of anybody to fly the flag for our flora and funga.

We recognise our own responsibility to step up for the plants and planet we love.

A group of children and adults painting banners in a room

Plantlife advocated for the need for plants and fungi to be prioritised and valued at all scales, from landscape management planning right up to government decision making.

We emphasised that our species need us now, that they are the fundamental building blocks of biodiversity, and we simply can’t afford to lose them.

We attended alongside over 40 organisations, enlisting the help of community art groups to help up visualise our mission into a banner and meeting with supporters who had responded to our call to action.

Ways you can stand up for nature

The loss of our plants and fungi is a political issue in that it affects every one of us, and is beyond party politics. Despite the central role they play in biodiversity support and carbon storage, plants and fungi are still overlooked and undervalued by decisionmakers.

Here’s some ways you can ask for change:

 

Take part in organised protests

The atmosphere at Restore Nature Now at DEFRA was exciting and energising, with talks, speeches, poems, songs and readings from scientists, artists and all kinds of empowered nature-lovers. Most organised events are inclusive, positive, safe and legal. It is awe-inspiring to hear people’s stories, hopes and visions. Look out for events shared by local groups and charities.

Spread the word

Regardless of which species or habitats we advocate for, each is interconnected and interdependent on each other. Like the formation or start of a whole new ecosystem, we need to make connections and have conversations with people beyond our organisations and groups. We need new friends and allies, people with a shared vision for change.

Support us

The money that supports us doesn’t just save wild plants through practical action for our most at-risk habitats and landscapes. It also fuels our passionate team of wild plant and fungi advocates to demand change at all levels, from local action to national governments. We can’t do this without you.

More ways to get involved…

How to Start a Community Meadow?

How to Start a Community Meadow?

Want to start a community meadow, but not sure where to begin? Read our guide to creating a flower-filled haven for your local community.

How to Grow a Wildflower Meadow
Wildflower meadow landscape with a variety of species near Cardiff, Wales

How to Grow a Wildflower Meadow

Whether it’s your back garden, local park, community field or lawn, wildflower meadows are amazing spaces with so much to offer.

The Wildlife in our Meadows
Duke of Burgundy butterfly on cowslip.

The Wildlife in our Meadows

From bumblebees to birds and moths to mammals – meadows are micro-cities of wildlife. Here's what to spot in your wildflower meadow.

The autumn spectacle of multicoloured waxcaps is an important indicator of ancient grasslands that have been unploughed for decades, and which are rich in carbon and soil biodiversity.  

Unfortunately, many of these irreplaceable grassland fungi sites continue to disappear under tree planting, new houses, intensive farming, transport infrastructure and more. It is certain that many more are also lost unseen, because of a series of interlinked issues that place the conservation of fungi far behind that of other taxa like mammals and birds. 

What issues do grassland fungi face?

The first, and perhaps most important, is the shortage of skilled field surveyors able to identify and record fungi (known as mycologists). Fortunately, there does seem to be an increasing interest in fungi amongst the public. The 1,500 members of Plantlife’s #WaxcapWatch Facebook page is a reflection of this, and is very encouraging.

However, the number of people working professionally as field surveyors remains very low. Most ecological consultancies, who undertake survey work to protect wildlife during development, don’t employ mycologists. 

This lack of expert recorders and recording means that we still have very little data describing the distribution of fungal species across large parts of the country, especially compared to other taxa.

What happens when there is no data?

There is huge pressure on land use today. We need land for farming, for tree planting, for renewable power generation, for housing: the list goes on. Our ability to deliver nature’s recovery depends on us making good decisions when planning these activities. That in turn ensures that nature is protected, and actually restored, in line with government targets and policies. 

However, picture this: plans are afoot to build a large new housing estate on formerly sheep-grazed agricultural land. Ecological surveys are required. However, a search of databases doesn’t reveal any fungal records, because no field mycologists have ever visited the land.

The ecological consultancy visits the site in summer, because that’s when plants, birds and mammals are best surveyed. They don’t employ a mycologist. The plants in the fields aren’t that interesting- and so the proposal gets the go ahead. In fact, the fields are incredibly rich in waxcaps, but nobody knows, and nobody looks. The site is lost without ever being recognised for its biodiversity. 

The impact of development on our hidden fungi

This is a very real problem that Plantlife is currently observing in multiple cases across Wales at present. Fungal surveys are difficult to do, and often considered unreasonably burdensome for developers, even for large projects. As a result, we are losing precious ancient grasslands before we’ve even been able to recognise them for what they are. You can’t compensate for an impact on something you never knew was there. 

It’s also likely to be an increasing problem in the coming years with large infrastructure projects being planned. For example, in Wales there is a huge amount of work scheduled to reinforce our electricity supply grid, with new cabling going in across the country. Julie James MS, the Minister for Climate Change in Wales, has said the presumption will be that new cables will be underground, to reduce the visual impact. Will the impact on fungi be adequately identified and mitigated? At present, that seems unlikely. 

What can we do to help grassland fungi?

All is not lost, and there are many things we can do to address this problem. 

  • We need government, local authority planners, and developers, to recognise that current systems regularly fail to identify sites that are important for fungi, and make sure that the impacts on our internationally important ancient grasslands are better addressed.
  • We need better legal protection for fungi. For example, there are presently only 27 species protected under Section 7 of the Environment (Wales) Act 2016, compared to 51 birds and 188 invertebrates.
  • We need more investment in surveying fungi before committing to land use change. That means training and employing more field mycologists, but also making more and better use of new techniques such as eDNA surveys. These surveys can identify fungi present in the soil, and help to reduce our dependence on surveys during the autumn fungal fruiting season.
  • We need more data. We can all help with that, by recording fungi when we see them. Even if you aren’t an expert, you can take part in our Waxcap Watch, which only asks for the colours of grassland fungi you see. This helps to identify sites of potential value. When the value of a site is understood and recorded, it makes it easier to fight to defend that value.

More ways we’re saving wild plants and fungi

Peat-free horticulture for plants, people and planet
Yellow flowers of Bog Asphodel among grass and other bog plants.

Peat-free horticulture for plants, people and planet

Extraction of peat for gardening and horticulture continues to damage wildlife and our climate, despite government commitments to phase it out. Plantlife is calling on governments and industry to end the use of peat in gardening and horticulture to benefit nature and our climate. 

We’re speaking up for wild plants, will you join us?
A group of protestors holding a banner which reads 'A world rich in plants and fungi'

We’re speaking up for wild plants, will you join us?

What are we doing to speak up for our wild plants during the nature crisis, and how can you join us on our mission to protect nature?

COP28: Success for farming, food and biodiversity, but fossil fuel agreement was ‘long overdue’
Inside COP28

COP28: Success for farming, food and biodiversity, but fossil fuel agreement was ‘long overdue’

As COP28 draws to a close, it's not just about fossil fuels. We will keep showing that wild plants and fungi need to be central to the climate solution.

Using a hand lens will not only make it easier to identify plants such as lichens, but you’ll also be able to see the beautiful, intricate structures on a plant which are not easily visible to the naked eye. 

A hand lens is a pocket-sized magnifier, which you can pick up from your favourite natural history or ecology suppliers to kick start your botanical explorations. When looking for your new hand lens, start with one with x10 magnification, and expect to spend £10-£20. 

How to use a hand lens 

Hand lenses are not used in the same way as a traditional magnifying glass but are held close to the eye. Here’s how to do it:

1. If you are right-handed, hold the lens in your right hand as close as you can to your right eye (and vice versa for left-handers). If you wear glasses, you can take them off or not – whatever is the most comfortable.

2. Hold the plant between the thumb and forefinger of your other hand and bring it very close to the lens until it comes into sharp focus. Don’t move the lens.

3. Always try to have contact between the hand holding the lens and your cheek, as well as between your left hand and your right hand. This gives you maximum control and allows you to keep the plant and lens steady. With practice this will become easier and easier, and you’ll find you can do it without shutting your other eye.

Now wonder at the marvels of even our smallest wild plants and fungi, and discover the hidden botanical world around you!

More ways to get involved

How to Start a Community Meadow?

How to Start a Community Meadow?

Want to start a community meadow, but not sure where to begin? Read our guide to creating a flower-filled haven for your local community.

How to Grow a Wildflower Meadow
Wildflower meadow landscape with a variety of species near Cardiff, Wales

How to Grow a Wildflower Meadow

Whether it’s your back garden, local park, community field or lawn, wildflower meadows are amazing spaces with so much to offer.

The Wildlife in our Meadows
Duke of Burgundy butterfly on cowslip.

The Wildlife in our Meadows

From bumblebees to birds and moths to mammals – meadows are micro-cities of wildlife. Here's what to spot in your wildflower meadow.

Waxcap Watch

This autumn, help Plantlife find Britain’s most colourful and important fungi – waxcaps.

Britain is home to some of the most important waxcap grasslands in the world. However many species are becoming rare and declining; they need identifying and protecting.

#WaxcapWatch

A bright orange waxcap mushroom on green grass with a blue sky
  • Go to:

Why we need you to find waxcaps

Waxcaps are an indicator of rare, species-rich grassland. Knowing where waxcaps and other grassland fungi are thriving helps us pinpoint where fragments of ancient meadows survive, so we can protect them for the future.

Not just important for the hundreds of wildflowers they can be home to, these ancient grasslands are also crucial in the fight against climate change. Species-rich grassland can store up to a third more carbon than areas with just a few species.

How to take part in the Waxcap Watch

It’s easy for anyone in England, Scotland and Wales to take part in the Waxcap Watch – all you need is a smart phone or access to a computer!

Click through the instructions below to guide you from start to finish.

  • 1. Download the app

    • Download the free Survey123 app on your smartphone or tablet: 
    • Open this link on your smart device:https://arcg.is/PLT5X 
    • Select ‘Open in the Survey123 field app’ and then ‘Continue without signing in’ 
    • A message will pop up asking for access to your phone’s camera and storage – please click Yes / Allow and you’re ready to go. 

    Alternatively, after you click the link above and select ‘Open in browser’, you can launch the survey in your web browser without having to download Survey123 app. 

    After you submit your first survey, the next time you open the Survey123 app click on the WaxcApp icon (red waxcap with Plantlife logo) and then ‘Collect’ to fill out another survey. 

  • 2. Visit a site

    Visit a field, park, road verge, pasture, heathland, dune or cemetery; in fact, you can visit any grassy area which is open to the public, or for which you have the landowner’s explicit permission,  between September and late November when waxcaps look their best.

    They can be found growing in:

    • Permanent pastures and hay meadows
    • Grassland on cliffs, coastal slopes and sand dunes
    • Upland grassland and heath
    • Urban grasslands including lawns, parks, cemeteries, church and chapel yards
    • Roadside verges

    The easiest way to search an area for waxcaps is to walk in a zig-zag pattern at a slow pace, as some of the mushrooms are only a few centimetres tall!

  • 3. Let us know what you see

    Use the app to complete a few questions about the place you are visiting and to record which colours of waxcaps and grassland fungi you can see.

    There is no restriction on the number of surveys you do – the more the better as this will help build a picture of what can be found at your site throughout the fungus season. Different fungi will come and go as the months change. Some fungi are visible only for a few days or weeks at each time.

Resources

How to Start a Community Meadow?

How to Start a Community Meadow?

Want to start a community meadow, but not sure where to begin? Read our guide to creating a flower-filled haven for your local community.

Peat-free horticulture for plants, people and planet
Yellow flowers of Bog Asphodel among grass and other bog plants.

Peat-free horticulture for plants, people and planet

Extraction of peat for gardening and horticulture continues to damage wildlife and our climate, despite government commitments to phase it out. Plantlife is calling on governments and industry to end the use of peat in gardening and horticulture to benefit nature and our climate. 

Juniper on the Peaks: A Foot High Forest 

Juniper on the Peaks: A Foot High Forest 

Discover the gnarled woodlands on the wildest peaks in Wales, as Robbie Blackhall-Miles reveals the secrets of Eryri’s miniature but magical Juniper forests.

FAQ

  • What happens with the results from my survey?

    By taking a part in our survey you will help us to:

    • Discover previously unknown waxcap grassland sites across the UK
    • Get an indication of habitat condition at each site to aid more informed conversations with landowners and land managers
    • Make the case to policy makers for better protection for waxcaps
    • In Wales, we will look to share new findings with Natural Resources Wales, Fungus groups and other experts to investigate further
    • In Scotland, results from the survey will inform conversations with landowners on how best to restore and protect local waxcap grasslands in key project areas such as the Cairngorms National Park

    Much of this app is based on the work by Gareth Griffith, John Bratton and Gary Easton. Original publication: Griffith, G.W., Bratton, J.H. & Easton, G. (2004) Charismatic megafungi; the conservation of waxcap grasslands. British Wildlife. October 2004, pp 31-43.

  • How do I stay safe during a survey?

    You are responsible for your own health and safety; Plantlife do not accept any liability or responsibility for the wellbeing of surveyors. Similarly, they do not accept any liability or responsibility for damage to, or loss of, personal property.

    We always recommend visiting sites and undertaking surveys with someone else and taking the following precautions:

    – Check the forecast and make appropriate arrangements. If the weather changes you may need to rethink your plans.
    – Take care on uneven or slippery ground and keep to footpaths where necessary.
    – Take a mobile phone and let someone know where you are going and when you expect to return.
    –  Most fungi are non-toxic; even toxic ones are safe to hold. However, always wash your hands after handling fungi.

  • What are my access rights?

    England and Wales

    Grassland fungi can be found across a variety of different sites, many of which are publicly accessible, such as playing fields, parks or cemeteries. Where there is no open access, keep to public rights of way (footpaths and bridleways). If you plan to carry out a survey on private land, please make sure you obtain the landowner’s permission to access the site.

    Scotland

    Make sure you follow the Scottish Outdoor Access Code when carrying out this activity.

These days it seems there is an app for everything, including finding out what creature critter or plant you are looking at. But are they useful? Are they accurate?

We tested 10 popular apps out on the field to put them through their paces, and picked 3 of our favourites. We looked at ease of use, accuracy, costs involved and what additional features they have.

flora incognita logo

Flora Incognita

Our favourite app from the ones tested, this is free to download with no intrusive adverts or other costs involved.

The aim of the Flora Incognita research project is mapping plants, therefore they record and use the location of where the plants are found.

That means using this app is not only beneficial to your learning, but also makes an important contribution to biodiviersity monitoring and research.

This app combines traditional plant identification with the latest methods of AI. To identify, simply click on the plus symbol which takes you through your options.

Ease of use 5/5
Identification skills 4/5
Range of features 4/5

Download

picture this logo

Picture This

Claiming to be ‘the botanist in your pocket’, this app uses advanced artificial intelligence and was accurate for a wide range of species, from Sea Thrift to trickier species such as Mouse-ear Hawkweed.

Advertised as £24.99 a year, you can use the app indefinitely to identify plants without paying: when you open the app you come to a pre-home screen where you click cancel.

Other benefits include the app’s ability to identify common grasses, sedges and fungi – but we recommend some caution with these due to the cryptic nature of IDing these species. Picture This also has common questions and answers for each plant, along with stories and other interesting facts such as flowering times.

Ease of use 5/5
Identification skills 4/5
Range of features 4/5

Download

inaturalist logo

iNaturalist (and Seek)

iNaturalist was created with the aims of recording your observations and sharing them with the ability to crowdsource identifications. The app is free and has a range of handy features that make uploading a breeze, including an automatic location based on the photos’ GPS tag, and the ability to record other wildlife such as insects and birds.

We found the app very accurate to a plant’s genus, a group of similar species, and sometimes even down to the specific species when multiple photos are added. This makes it the perfect tool for you to take your plant ID knowledge further with a field guide.

Seek is a simpler version of iNaturalist with an easier interface for the family. We found Seek had less accuracy in the field, so if you’re looking for something more thorough, we recommend downloading iNaturalist.

Ease of use 5/5
Identification skill 5/5
Range of features 4/5

Download

 

Tips on using your phone to identify wild plants

  • There are ways to use your phones built in search assistants, however as they’re not purpose built for plants the results aren’t as accurate, unless they are obvious looking species.
  • We strongly advise you to only use plant ID apps as training tools rather than solely for identification. You could use the app to narrow your identification to a genus, then use your favourite plant guidebook.
  • From a health and safety note, the plant apps drained our phone charge extremely quickly therefore ensure you bring a portable phone charger to contact people if required.
Juniper on the Peaks: A Foot High Forest 

Juniper on the Peaks: A Foot High Forest 

Discover the gnarled woodlands on the wildest peaks in Wales, as Robbie Blackhall-Miles reveals the secrets of Eryri’s miniature but magical Juniper forests.

Why the Wild Leek is a Symbol of Wales

Why the Wild Leek is a Symbol of Wales

The Wild Leek has been a symbol of Wales for so long that its stories date back to St David himself.

COP28: Why Food and Farming Matters
Small square hay bailer in field

COP28: Why Food and Farming Matters

One of the most important discussions at COP28 is about – food and agriculture. Find out why they are so important for global governments.

Wild Cotoneaster

This is our only native species of Cotoneaster in Wales, Cotoneaster cambricus, and in the 1970s it was down to as few as only 6 plants in the wild, making it international critically endangered!

It’s only found in the Great Orme IPA near Llandudno, where our vascular plants officer, Robbie, works alongside the National Trust, Conwy County Borough Council, Natural Resources Wales, PONT, and the tenant farmer, Dan Jones, to graze the land in a way that benefits the species.

How we’re helping Wild Cotoneaster

This, paired with efforts to plant out young plants have been a resounding success, and we’ve gone from 6 to well over 70 plants. We are now working with research students, Dan and Treboth botanic garden to understand the impacts that changes to grazing practices have on this species, so that we can understand how best to manage for it in the future.

What we’re finding is that managing to support this species is having knock-on positive effects on other species on the Great Orme, which demonstrates how targeted species recovery work can have a cascading positive benefit beyond that species, out into the wider ecosystem.

Snowdon Hawkweed

Snowdon Hawkweed

This small, sunny Welsh plant, a member of the dandelion family, is internationally critically endangered. It makes its home on the most inaccessible mountain slopes of Eryri (Snowdonia), where it is safe from disruption.

However, due to the changing climate, even these sanctuaries are becoming inhospitable, it is both literally and figuratively out on the very edge.

Its preference for inaccessible places, makes it problematic (to say the least) to monitor. However, conservation and extreme sports aligned when Robbie, Alex Turner and Mike Raine went out on ropes to survey for this mountain treasure. Their efforts have revealed that the plant’s population has increased from 2 individuals, to 4!

While that is still terrifyingly few, it represents a doubling of the global population of this species, and gives us hope that with support, these populations can recover.

How we’re helping Snowdon Hawkweed

We are delighted to have received funding for Natur am Byth!, Wales’ flagship species recovery project which we are part of, along with nine other environmental charities. Robbie will be leading on the Tlysau Mynydd Eryri (Mountain Jewels of Snowdonia) to provide an invaluable lifeline to species like Snowdon Hawkweed.

Once the project begins in September we’re going to be working with the National Trust to manage the grazing of sheep and goats on the mountain, which will hopefully create more undisturbed habitat for this species to colonize.

Rosy Saxifrage - Robbie Blackhall-Miles

Rosy Saxifrage

This mountain jewel is part of a suite of species that was once widespread all across the UK and Europe, the Arctic-Alpines.

Following the last Ice Age it would have been found over a large extent of Britain, but colonisation of species from the south as temperatures have risen has saw it retreat to all but our highest mountain tops, where the annual temperatures are sufficiently cool.

How we’re helping Rosy Saxifrage

This species is classed as threatened on the UK level red list, even though globally it’s been assessed as Least Concern (it can be found across the alpine landscapes of Europe). Each species is really important part of our natural heritage and to lose a species native to a country represents a significant loss, not only culturally, but ecologically too.

Rosy saxifrage is one such species that we’ve lost, it is now extinct in the wild in Wales. But efforts are underway to reintroduce it to a trial site later this year. Fantastically, the plants that will be used are of Welsh provenance, saved from a cutting taken in the 1960s, meaning that our national genetic identity for this species will be preserved and allowed to repopulate our landscape one more.

Why do we even bother?

Wildflowers in pink, purple and yellow among grass in Cae Blaen-dyffryn.

Our species are the fundamental parts of biodiversity – the more species there are in a habitat, the more diverse that habitat is. It is this diversity that allows ecosystems to function healthily and be more resilient.

This means, when we lose species to extinction, it undermines our ecosystem’s ability to adapt and respond to climate change and other existential threats. This is the primary reason why recovering species is one of our priorities at Plantlife. With partners, we plan to recover 100 plant species, and move them out of high extinction risk categories, into lower risk categories.

We are proud supporters of the global Reverse the Red campaign – a movement dedicated to spotlighting all of the work that’s being done to try and stop extinctions and prevent further species decline.

Tune in across the month to find out more about the species that we and our partners are working on to Reverse the Red and fight back against extinction.

Juniper on the Peaks: A Foot High Forest 

Juniper on the Peaks: A Foot High Forest 

Discover the gnarled woodlands on the wildest peaks in Wales, as Robbie Blackhall-Miles reveals the secrets of Eryri’s miniature but magical Juniper forests.

Why the Wild Leek is a Symbol of Wales

Why the Wild Leek is a Symbol of Wales

The Wild Leek has been a symbol of Wales for so long that its stories date back to St David himself.

COP28: Why Food and Farming Matters
Small square hay bailer in field

COP28: Why Food and Farming Matters

One of the most important discussions at COP28 is about – food and agriculture. Find out why they are so important for global governments.

This ‘death by a thousand cuts’ is pushing many species to the brink of extinction. Yet in local communities around the UK, people are running fantastic campaigns to stand up for wildlife and protect their local sites from being destroyed.

Plantlife’s top tips

If you believe that wild plants and fungi are at risk at a site near you, here’s a few ideas for what you can do:

1. Knowledge is power

Find out which species are found on and around the site – fungi, plants and animals. Your local Wildlife Trust, environmental records centre or a botanical group might already have information about the site’s wildlife. If not, organise your own survey – this is best done in the summertime. You may be able to get help from your local botanical society or other local experts. (Remember to get the landowner’s permission beforehand if necessary.)

2. Share the love:

Share any records of species found with your Local Records Centre and/or a national monitoring scheme. These will be verified and then taken into account by the local planning authority and others. (It’s always important to share your wildlife sightings, as this is vital to help us understand what’s happening to wildlife across the UK – and you never know when your data might help to protect those species that you’ve enjoyed spotting.)

3. Connect the dots

Check the ecological assessment or environmental statement which should be available as part of the planning application or development plan. Assess it against your own information and ask questions such as: Did the field survey include lichens, mosses and fungi? Was it done at a time of year when any species present could be found (i.e. not in winter)?

4. Make some noise

Raise any concerns directly with the ecologist (if there is one) in the local planning authority, with your elected councillors, with your friends and neighbours and with the local media.

5. Follow up

Many planning applications are approved with conditions to protect local wildlife – in this case, you can monitor whether these conditions are actually followed during and after construction of the development. In England, you can monitor whether Natural England’s Standing Advice on Protected Species is being followed.

6. On that farm

Where you think a site is at risk from a change in its use – such as ploughing, drainage or chemical spraying on a wildflower meadow – then the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) (Agriculture) regulations may apply. These regulations protect land that hasn’t been ploughed or had fertiliser added in the past 15 years and the landowner must apply for permission before changing its use.

– England
– Scotland
– Wales

More information:

  • Use the Wildlife Assessment Check, a free online tool designed to help check whether a proposed site and works are likely to require expert ecological advice
  • Consult the relevant government websites for up-to-date information about legislation and planning processes:

– England: here and here
– Scotland
– Wales

 

Send us your news

Please send details of ‘live’ cases happening close to you by emailing conservation.enquiries@plantlife.org.uk

Plantlife can’t take action on all cases, but we’ll use this evidence to put more pressure on government and local authorities, and to raise awareness of what’s at stake.