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This autumn, help us find the Britain’s most colourful and important fungi – waxcaps.
Plantlife’s Big Give Christmas Challenge 28 Nov- 5 Dec, make a positive impact in protecting remarkable lichens.
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Embedding the principles outlined in Plantlife’s latest guidance into your Local Nature Recovery Strategy will drive tangible, positive change for your local wildlife and local communities.
Discover how, by targeting conservation efforts towards wild plants and fungi, you can deliver the greatest knock-on benefits for all species and habitats.
Local Nature Recovery Strategies (LNRSs) are a crucial element of the UK government’s commitments to turn the tide on species loss in England. If they are properly informed and implemented, they could deliver huge gains for biodiversity and serve to reconnect communities with nature recovery.
The intention is that each of the 48 LNRS regions (broadly following county lines) will produce a locally owned and informed action plan to;a) spotlight and map high priority areas for biodiversity where nature can be conserved, restored, and connected andb) establish a sense of local ownership and responsibility for wildlife.
As these strategies are going to target a lot of future conservation work in England it’s absolutely vital that we get them right, and make sure they deliver the wide range of environmental benefits that we urgently need.
Plantlife are using this opportunity to advocate the indispensable role that wild plants and fungi play in ecosystem function, and to help responsible authorities design and deliver LNRSs with species protection at their hearts.
1. Including specialist data on habitats and species to produce a really well-informed knowledge base of local biodiversity.
Having this knowledge base early on will produce the most reliable map of opportunities for biodiversity protection and enhancement going forwards.
2. Implementing measures to boost species diversity and prevent the further loss of species.
Increasing the structural diversity of a habitat will create more niches for different species to occupy, and it’s important that bespoke plans for priority species present are always included within habitat management. This will prevent extinctions, while improving the condition of the overall habitat.
3. Recognising our grasslands for the powerful nature-based solutions that they are.
Species-rich grasslands are some of our most reliable habitats for carbon storage and wildlife support, but they are being lost at an alarming rate.
Designing LNRSs which protect and restore species rich grasslands will support whole communities of wildlife and create stable, long-term sub-soil carbon stores.
4. Promoting a diversity of management approaches across our treescape to reflect the unique requirements of each woodland type.
Woods and trees need to be managed to sustain the breadth of species they can support, this means diversifying our woods in terms of tree species and age, creating open spaces and transitional habitats, and preserving ancient trees for lichen and bryophyte diversity.
5. Always working to the principle of ‘Right Tree, Right Place, Right Management’ when designing tree planting schemes.
Increasing tree cover cannot come at the cost of our existing priority wildlife and carbon stores.
6. Mitigating the damaging impacts of air pollution, through nature-based solutions and emission reduction measures.
Air pollution is a serious issue nationally, and it threatens wildlife as well as human health. LNRS provide an opportunity to tackle this threat both by mapping sources of emissions and areas of high deposition and implementing measures to mitigate the impacts of pollution.
7. Improving the condition and extent of green infrastructure networks.
Well-designed and protected urban green space such as road verges and amenity grasslands connect urban habitats with the wider countryside.
This reverses habitat fragmentation, locks away carbon, supports biodiversity, reduces pollution, tackles heat extremes, minimises flooding and improves health and wellbeing.
8. Taking steps to improve local ecosystem health and climate resilience.
Many of the threats our species and habitats are currently facing are projected to worsen with rising global temperatures, but by leveraging the power of local each LNRSs can make a difference at a small scale which, scaled up across England, can improve our overall resilience.
Download a copy of Plantlife’s guidance for local action – ‘How to Design your LNRS to Deliver for Plants and Fungi’
If you live in England, contact your local council to find out what’s happening with the LNRS for your area and how you can get involved.
Discover how Plantlife is working with governments to protect and restore temperate rainforest along the Atlantic coast of Britain.
Drive positive change for your local wildlife and local communities with Plantlife's LNRS Local Nature Recovery Strategy guidance.
Since the 1930s, 97% of wildflower meadows across England and Wales have disappeared – and we're creating positive change.
It’s waxcap season in the Upper Ystwyth and Plantlife’s Sheena Duller explains why fungi and farming can go so well together.
I have recently joined the Plantlife team on the Glaswelltiroedd Gwydn (Resilient Grasslands) Project, at a time when grassland fungi are at their peak.
Chris and I have farmed our small slice of west–facing Cambrian mountain for the last 22 years. In that time, we have seen the variety and diversity of plant life quietly improve, and this has extended to the amazing fungi in our grassland.
Our land is a mosaic of rock, bog, wet and dry grassland, with a little bit of improved pasture so we can ensure we produce our Welsh Black cattle purely on grass (with no bought in feed) – minimising our environmental impact. Maintaining a species–rich grassland has benefits for soil health and overall environmental resilience above and below ground, which expands into the wider environment – encouraging insects and birds and even safeguarding water quality.
Fungi are fickle in their appearance and may not throw up fruiting bodies every year, or in the same place, but generally in autumn, the fungi that are particularly spectacular are the family of waxcaps. They are a colourful and magnificent family of 60 or so grassland fungi.
On our farm, we’d already counted 21 species of waxcap, but this year that was surpassed by the first appearance of species number 22, the Yellow Foot Waxcap Cuphophyllus flavipes. It has a domed grey cap and pale gills that run down the stem, which is white with distinct yellow colouration to the base.
This summer was unusual, with August and September being almost constantly wet, bringing out a large number of Blackening Waxcaps, Hygrocybe conica, early in the season (there is a second flush now). This was followed swiftly by solitary Citrines, H.citrinovirens, which appeared in some unlikely places (including the edge of an ‘improved’ field).
A particularly pleasing waxcap to appear recently was the aptly named and rather large Splendid Waxcap, Hygrocybe splendidissima. The large, bright red cap quickly expands, spreading as it matures and is similar to other red ones but generally larger. All types of red waxcap are indicators of particularly good quality waxcap habitat.
And we can’t forget the small orange ones that are devilish to identify! We are expecting more species to appear as the autumn progresses.
Having at least some species-rich grassland on a farm is important to help restore balance within the system. In simple terms, providing refuge for beneficial insects and a food source for birds, which then prey on pests, strengthens the ecosystem. Plus, just like us, grazing livestock will appreciate a varied diet and as with us, it helps to improve gut health. The fungi pose no risk to livestock and they tend not to eat them.
The financial impact of maintaining some species-diverse and fungi-friendly grassland on a farm needn’t be an issue. Steeper slopes and poorer areas of farmland are not economic to maintain as highly productive swards, so there can be a net gain by returning these areas into species-rich grasslands, which provide resilient grazing areas at difficult times of the year.
One of the challenges with fungi identification is that they can change shape and colour as they expand.
But, if you’ve spotted some waxcaps, here are some handy things to look out for:
Britain is home to some of the most important waxcap grasslands in the world – but many species are becoming rare and declining. We need your help identifying and protecting them through the #WaxcapWatch.
Fungi are particularly sensitive to soil damage due to their predominantly underground life cycle, so it is the undisturbed grassland with no artificial inputs that they thrive in. This may be grassland with a good diversity of wildflower and grass species, but it’s important to note that many outstanding waxcap grasslands are botanically quite nondescript.
What links waxcap grasslands with flower-rich ones is that they have declined dramatically across the UK through changes in agricultural practices and urban development. These grasslands are multifunctional and could have an important place in mitigating climate change through carbon sequestration, resilience against drought and flood, improving water quality and the wellbeing of both environment and people.
If you want to improve fungal communities on your farm, here are some simple actions:
Images: Cows in field Photographed by: Lydia Nicholls
Our Global Advocacy Coordinator, Claire Rumsey, will be at COP28 to speak up for the vital role of wild plants and fungi in the fight against climate change.
Three Hagges Woodmeadow Site Manager Kara shares what volunteers do, from coppicing to nature surveys, and how you can get involved.
Discover the activities and work that our volunteers in the Cairngorms do with Sam Jones of the Rare Plants and Wild Connections Project.
A biodiversity-boosting project, working with landowners, to restore and create 100 hectares of species-rich grasslands.
Since the 1930s, 97% of wildflower meadows across England and Wales have disappeared due to pressures from intensive agriculture and development.
We want to go beyond caring for the 3% that are left.
The Meadow Makers project will work with landowners to restore and create, as well as monitor and manage, 100 hectares of species-rich meadows over the next 15 years.
We’ve received a record-breaking £8million from National Highways to restore meadows, from Dartmoor to north Yorkshire, to help people nature and wildlife.
Meadows and species-rich grasslands are magnificent, in many ways. They are extraordinary ecosystems, with native wild plants at their heart.
Species richness in grasslands can significantly improve carbon storage in the soil, which is a vital tool for addressing the climate crisis. They also have fungal networks covering thousands of miles, can be home to up to 140 species of wildflowers, provide flood mitigation and provide nutrient-rich grazing for livestock.
Species of wildflower can be found in a single meadow
Hectares of meadow will be restored and created
Insects are supported by the food plant Common Bird’s-foot Trefoil alone
Over the next 15 years, seven sites – six in Devon and one in North Yorkshire – will undergo significant grassland restoration with our team of meadow specialists.
Every meadow is home to different species and habitats. This project will require unique care to allow the meadows to bloom wilder than ever.
On the North York Moors
The Meadow Makers project will contribute towards our goal of restoring 100,000 hectares of species-rich grassland by 2040.
What you need to know about grasslands and how to manage them
Grasslands like meadows and parks are not just home to wildflowers, they are also an important habitat for a colourful type of fungi which prefer farmland to forests – waxcaps.
Every autumn one of the UK’s most colourful natural displays takes place: jewel-coloured waxcaps emerge through the grass across our countryside, cities and even some of our gardens. Let’s find them!
Waxcaps are types of mushrooms known for their shiny-looking caps. Together with other types of fascinatingly named fungi called pinkgills, earthtongues, club and coral fungi – they form a group called “grassland fungi”.
Waxcaps and grassland fungi come in a rainbow of different colours including vibrant violets, yellows, greens and pinks.
They also come in weird and wonderful shapes, which can help you to identify the species you’re looking at.
Chris Jones is the Warden at the Kenfig National Nature Reserve, one of our Dynamic Dunescapes sites, and has worked as a practical conservationist for over 25 years.
Kenfig is one of the largest sand dune systems in Wales and provides a unique habitat for a variety of rare and specialised species, including over 20 species of Waxcap fungi.
‘Waxcap fungi are commonly found in grasslands and meadows, and they are known for their ecological importance. They are often found in areas with short, grazed vegetation, but they can also occur in disturbed habitats, such as lawns and roadside verges.
Waxcaps are mostly found in the late summer and autumn, typically from September to November, depending on the local weather – but you can find them all year round.
The meadows where waxcaps are found are known as ‘waxcap grasslands’. These grasslands need specific conditions for waxcaps to thrive and are becoming rare.
On waxcap grasslands, waxcap fungi form partnerships with plants, where they exchange nutrients with the roots of host plants, benefiting both the fungi and the plants. This only happens in habitats with a high level of biodiversity, which the aims to identify.
Waxcap fungi are fascinating not only for their vibrant colours but also for their significance as indicators of healthy grasslands. Their conservation is important for maintaining biodiversity and preserving these unique and beautiful fungi for future generations to enjoy.
Many waxcap species are considered rare or threatened, primarily due to habitat loss and changes in land management practices such as tree planting and intensive agriculture. If you find any, please record them on the Waxcap Watch app.
I LOVE Waxcaps, they are AMAZING! It is ridiculously hard to pick a favourite, but if I had to choose it would be… all of them.’
This autumn, help Plantlife find Britain’s most colourful and important fungi – waxcaps.
We are working to restore Pasqueflower, which can only be found at 19 sites across England, and Juniper, which is facing extinction in southern Britain.
Pasqueflower, which is threatened and declining, has been lost from many of the places where it used to grow. This rare wildflower, which is considered ‘vulnerable’ in Britain, can now only be found at 19 sites across England – after it was lost from 108 sites.
Similarly, Juniper – which has been lost from nearly 50% of its historic range – is facing extinction from southern Britain. Over the past 60 years, this iconic shrub has struggled to regenerate and whole colonies are dying out. If this trend continues, more than 100 special invertebrates and fungi that depend upon it will disappear too.
Funded by Natural England’s Species Recovery Capital Grant Scheme, we will be running a variety of species recovery projects – including for Pasqueflower and Juniper.
We have received a share of a £14.5m award to recover some of England’s most endangered species.
Both Pasqueflower and Juniper urgently need the help this project will provide.
Plantlife has been working to reinstate lost Juniper landscapes over recent years. Since 2009, we have been trialling techniques to reinstate the shrub and 10 out of 14 sites now boast healthy populations of young bushes.
Without vital work such as this, Juniper is likely to become extinct in lowland England within the next 50 years – which in turn could impact other species such as Goldcrest, Fieldfare and Song Thrush and Chalkhill blue and Silver-spotted skipper butterflies.
The project, funded by Natural England, will help Plantlife to save lowland Juniper at Lime Kiln Bank at Stockton Down in Wiltshire.
The process will involve habitat enhancement and we will collect, treat and sow locally sourced Juniper seeds. A provision of fencing and water supply infrastructure will also be implemented to facilitate the long-term management of the five-hectare site, which will gradually be restored back to chalk grassland with scattered Juniper.
Pasqueflower becomes more threatened every year and without intervention it may be lost in southern England within decades.
The remaining populations face serious threats from a lack of grazing and scrub encroachment, with more than 99% of Pasqueflowers now restricted to just a few chalk and limestone grasslands and only at a handful of nature reserves.
The project will restore Pasqueflower populations at 10 sites across the Chilterns, Cotswolds, Berkshire Downs and Yorkshire using techniques which have been trialled, tested and proven successful.
Restoring these wildflower’s habitats and creating new ones will also result in many other species being saved.
It will increase the ecological value of the land and be delivered by a team of specialist staff and landowners.
We are also working to protect temperate rainforests in another branch of the Species recovery Project.
Join Plantlife and an expert mycologist for an exploration of colourful Waxcap fungi in Deeside.
We will be introducing the work Plantlife are doing in the Cairngorms and the fungi we’ll be looking for during the day.
On the walk you will be practicing ID, learning about waxcap fungi conservation and habitat preferences, as well as surveying to gather information about these understudied species.
Please email email@example.com to reserve a place.
Please bring appropriate outdoors clothing and equipment and remember to bring along water and lunch.
Meet at Glen Tanar visitors centre, across bridge from visitors car park: https://goo.gl/maps/cn7Vn5LzsY3d6V4L7
NO 48064 96509
Plantlife may be in touch after the event for evaluation purposes, please let us know if you would like to opt out of this on the day.
Building on our previous work, Plantlife’s project, Rare Plants and Wild Connections, empowers people to take action to save and support our rarest wild plants
Plantlife Members, discover the wonders of lichens with experts Dr Oliver Moore and Dave Lamacraft.
On 28 September, join Plantlife to take action, standing united alongside the Restore Nature Now movement at the DEFRA offices in London.
Plantlife Members, join us in an engaging virtual journey through some fascinating British fungi species.
Meet at Invercauld Estate Car Park (pay and display), just North of Bridge of Dee and the A93: https://goo.gl/maps/EdGqjj4UczawEgJm8
NO 18826 91284
Grasslands in Wales are facing increasing threats – from development to pollution and damaging farming practices – and Plantlife is working to create positive change.
This 3-year partnership project will strive to recover the condition of some of our most important places for grassland habitats.
The grasslands we will be working on are Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs), and Important Plant Areas, or Important Fungus Areas, where their condition is poor or currently unknown.
We will also work with farmers and other landowners on land close to these important sites, to help protect the special habitats by creating more wildlife-friendly environments around them.
We will be doing this work in partnership with North Wales Wildlife Trust and PONT.
Semi-natural grasslands now only occupy about 9% of Wales. In contrast, species-poor agricultural grasslands cover more than 1 million hectares, over half our land area. This is a relatively recent phenomenon; our semi-natural grasslands declined by over 90% during the 20th century.
We can see that even our SSSIs, our most important and protected wildlife-rich grasslands – have not fared well. When they were assessed by Natural Resources Wales in 2020, a third of protected features were in unfavourable condition. The condition of half was unknown.
Meanwhile over 40% of our threatened Welsh wild flowers are found in meadow and pasture habitats.
The need for us to act is clear, and through Glaswelltiroedd Gwydn we hope to recover the condition of some of our most important places for grassland habitats in Wales.
The project focuses on important grassland habitats. However, there are many different types of grassland in Wales. We expect to be working on a range of these and here are just some examples:
Meadow habitat is very threatened in Wales, with long-term declines in hay making, and re-seeding of cropped fields with ryegrass. We will support positive management of remaining meadows, and promote the value of species-rich meadows for farming and grazing livestock as well as conservation.
Rhôs pasture is a distinctive feature of the Welsh countryside. This damp grassland is often dominated by rushes and tall plants of Purple Moor-grass, and is home to a great number of other species too. The habitat has become threatened in Wales due to development, agricultural intensification, and in some places transition to scrub as farms abandon land of this type.
Ancient grassland can encompass a range of habitats. The feature they share is a long history of grassland management without ploughing, or other major agricultural impacts. If they have been heavily grazed, they may not be that botanically diverse.
However, if they have been kept short by mowing or grazing, their undisturbed soils can still be incredibly important for fungi. Despite being only 10% of the area of Great Britain, Wales is home to 55% of British grassland fungi. We hope to promote awareness and better protection of these fungal communities and the ancient grasslands where they occur.
As the project develops, we hope to have a range of volunteering opportunities. We will be looking for people who can:
We would love to hear from anyone interested in volunteering for Glaswelltiroedd Gwydn. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more details, or follow the instructions to take part in our waxcap surveys.
Plantlife created the Waxcap Watch to make it easy for people to get involved with waxcap recording. You don’t need to be able to identify species – just their colours.
The information this provides will help the project assess the value of grasslands across Wales for these important fungi. On Resilient Grassland project sites, this will also help us get the grassland management right. But data from anywhere in Wales is valuable, to help us find new, important places for these overlooked species and protect them for the future
Take part today
The Nature Networks Fund is funded by the Welsh Government and delivered by The National Lottery Heritage Fund in partnership with Natural Resources Wales.
A closer look at some of the headlines from the State of Nature 2023 report, and what they mean for our species and habitats in Wales.
Plantlife and our partners are calling on the UK Government to prioritise grasslands and commit to developing a Grassland Action Plan for England.
From mountain pastures to floodplain meadows, grasslands cover more than 40% of land in the UK.
They are a huge natural asset; vital for nature and people to thrive, for food production, and to combat climate change.
The true value of grasslands has been overlooked by successive governments in the UK.
The majority of our ancient wildlife-rich grasslands have been destroyed and they are now among the UK’s rarest habitats – with losses continuing today. Over-fertilised and monoculture fields now dominate our landscape, providing few benefits for nature, people or our climate.
It’s time for real action to make the most of our grasslands.
This would help to achieve national and international climate and nature targets, by driving the restoration, appropriate management, and creation of wildlife-rich grasslands, connected across the landscape.
Grasslands can provide many incredible ecosystem services and benefits – such as supporting wildlife, storing carbon, providing clean air and water, and producing nutritious food – but they could be doing so much more.
To unlock the benefits of grasslands, a new approach is needed. We’re calling on governments in the UK to make the most of our grasslands.
This briefing covers how Plantlife and its partners are calling on the UK Government to make the most of grasslands and commit to developing a Grassland Action Plan for England’
This briefing highlights the value of grasslands as stable carbon stores in order to make the case for action by policy makers, researchers and land managers to protect these grasslands.
A review of the extent of semi-natural and/or species-rich grasslands in the UK, exploring trends overtime and between nations.
This report offers a review of existing literature and evidence on the numerous advantages associated with species-rich grasslands.
Different types of grasslands, such as meadows and parks, can be full of wildflowers and fungi, benefitting people, nature and climate.
Discover the wealth of benefits provided by these biodiverse habitats and why we need to take action to make the most of our grasslands.
If your organisation would like to support this important call out please contact Jo.Riggall@plantlife.org.uk
Plantlife are excited to have begun a 10 year partnership project with English Heritage, where we will restore and create 100 meadows across 100 historic sites, as part of the King’s Meadow Project.
Meadows and grasslands are essential for biodiversity, as well as for storing carbon and enhancing our well-being.
Understanding how meadows are established and the role we have as humans on sustaining them is crucial. Sarah Shuttleworth, Plantlife’s Senior Ecological Advisor, explains how collaboration between Plantlife meadow experts and English Heritage head gardeners and landscape staff, is helping to protect these beautifully biodiverse landscapes.
‘Nearly all land in the UK would eventually turn to woodland if it was completely left alone, therefore grasslands naturally start to turn to scrub and then woodland if they are not managed. This is why we need to cut them for hay and/or graze them with animals which helps to keep the diversity of specialised meadow critters from disappearing.
It was also important to explore the reasons behind their disappearance: we have lost over 97% of our meadows or species rich grasslands in the last century.
Our demand for food since World War II has intensified the way in which we manage the land, resulting in a shift from species-rich hay meadows that were cut by hand, to ploughing and replanting grasslands with grass seed mixes for silage, or pasture for animals to graze on. This is why this project to restore and create meadows is so exciting.’
Training led by Plantlife will have an impact on some of England’s greatest historic sites, whose meadows are as rich with nature as they are with heritage.
During a 2-day training event held at English Heritage properties, Plantlife led discussions about how to create new meadows at their sites, and enhance those that already exist at iconic landscapes across the country.
‘Plantlife’s meadows team helpfully showed us how we could improve the species diversity by cutting meadows earlier to control the vigour of grasses and other vigorous species. Our gardeners and managers have returned to their own sites across England enthused and have started planning soil surveys as the first stage to assess the potential of sites we are looking to restore in the years ahead.
With Plantlife’s support and advice, English Heritage is creating more natural spaces at the heart of 100 of our historic properties, ensuring that wildflowers and wildlife can flourish there once again, and helping our visitors to step back into history and experience something with which the sites’ historic occupants would have been familiar.
On one such site, over in Kent, Charles Darwin used his meadow at his home, Down House, to produce hay, for grazing his animals and as a place for observation and experiments. In 1855, with the help of his children’s governess, he started a survey of all flowering plant species growing in the neighbouring Great Pucklands Meadow. He would go on to use the data to demonstrate biodiversity in his seminal work on natural selection.
Today, both of Darwin’s meadows provide an outstanding show in the early summer. Buttercups turn the field into a golden blaze, followed by White and Red Clover, Great Burnet, Ox-eye Daisies, Knapweed and many more. This wonderful array is enjoyed by visitors large and small, including bees, butterflies, moths and wasps.
In a decade’s time, our coronation pledge will be an inspiring legacy of established, restored and new meadows at 100 of our historic sites – big and small – right across England.’
We’ve lost over 97% of our meadows in less than a century. Plantlife’s work, like the Kings Meadow Project, will restore healthy grasslands rich in wild plants and fungi, which can support more wildlife, store more carbon and so much more.
Learn how you can make an impact on Scotland's new Natural Environment Bill, putting wild plants at the heart of plans for nature recovery.
A new stock-take of the UK’s wildlife has revealed continued declines in our biodiversity, with over half of our flowering plants declining in their range since 1970.
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