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This autumn, help us find the Britain’s most colourful and important fungi – waxcaps.
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They are generally found in unimproved grassland (favouring acid or neutral grassland) and in leaf litter on woodland edges and clearings. In the summer and autumn, they can be found on road verges, in cropped grassland and in churchyards.
After years of low-nutrient management, they can also appear on lawns.
This autumn, help Plantlife find Britain’s most colourful and important fungi – waxcaps.
Meadow Waxcaps (Hygrocybe pratensis) are a common find on cropped grassland and upland pastures. It appears from late August until December. Particularly in upland areas on acidic soil, the Meadow Waxcap is one of the few waxcap species that can tolerate small amounts of fertiliser being applied to its grassland habitat.
Two varieties of the Meadow Waxcap occur in Britain. One is apricot and the other is paler and almost white. It is a conspicuous and robust waxcap often persisting for several weeks.
This evergreen plant has long, tongue shaped leaves with a pointy end.
Widespread across Britain, except in the far north.
Can be found in sheltered moist habitats such as woods, on hedge banks, in walls and in ditches.
A evergreen woody climbing wild plant, commonly seen on old walls and tree trunks.
Ivy is often found carpeting the ground or growing up walls and trees.
Its flowers bloom in an umbrella-like spread. In fact the term for such a bloom – an ‘umbel’ – derives from the same source as umbrella – umbra, the Latin word for shade.
It’s leaves are dark green glossy above, paler below. On flowering shoots leaves are pointed oval.
Widespread throughout the UK.
Woods, hedgerows, rocks and walls. Very commonly found on tree trunks.
Flowers September to November.
Blackening Waxcaps (Hygrocybe conica) sometimes appears in lines along roadside verges, particularly on hillsides or where the grass is well shaded, moist and mossy.
Blackening Waxcaps can appear remarkably quickly after rain in late summer and autumn, but once mature they remain standing sometimes for more than two weeks.
They are one of the most common waxcaps in Northern Europe.
The Parrot Waxcap (Gliophorus psittacinus) can be found in the summer and autumn on roadside verges, cropped grassland and in churchyards. Appearing on lawns only after years of low-nutrient management.
It favours unimproved acid or neutral grassland, and are most plentiful in western Britain and particularly in Wales.
There are two Parrot Waxcap species that are recognised: Gliophorus psittacinus and Gliophorus perplexa; the latter was previously considered to be a mere variety.
Image by Sarah Shuttleworth
Snowy Waxcaps (Cuphophyllus virgineus) can be found in parkland, garden lawns, churchyards and pastures around autumn time.
One of the most widely recorded waxcaps in unfertilised grassland. A variable species which includes varieties having pale buff-brown colours on the cap. Snowy waxcaps are a little more hardy than other waxcap species.
The Cedarwood Waxcap (similar white colour with distinctive smell of woof chippings).
The Fibrous Waxcap (Hygrocybe intermedia) is an uncommon to occasional find in most of Britain and Ireland except in some parts of Wales, where it is more frequently recorded. Most often seen in unimproved grassland and, occasionally, in sand-dune systems.
The bright right orange (with hints of yellow) cap, fades and sometimes blackening with age.
The Blackening Waxcap
With a preference for unfertilised land, the Scarlet Waxcap (Hygrocybe coccinea) can be found on cropped grassland and woodland clearings. They often appear in large troops (a group).
Hygrocybe means ‘watery head’, these waxcaps are always very moist. Coccinea means bright red (as in the food colouring cochineal) . The image above shows the justification of the name.
The Crimson Waxcap
Hemlock has umbrella-like white flowers, which appear in dome shaped rounded clumps in summer, which are usually 2-5 cm across.
One of the easiest ways to identify Hemlock is by its stems – which are mostly large, hairless and have purple spots or blotches along their length.
The leaves are fine and look similar to ferns – lacy and similar to that of others in the carrot family.
Hemlock is one of the UK’s tallest native umbellifer species, growing up to 2 metres and can smell quite unpleasant. The unpleasant smell is caused by the poisonous chemicals and acts as a deterrent to animals.
All parts of this plant are poisonous and all members of this family should be treated with caution, notably because Hemlock can be easily mistaken for Cow Parsley and other harmless members of it’s family.
The hairless purple blotched stems are key to identifying this plant (pictured), as well as the extremely unpleasant smell.
It can also be distinguished through it’s flowering time, as it flowers after Cow Parsley, and around the same time as Hogweed, in June and July.
Hemlock could be confused with Hogweed, Upright Hedge-parsley and Hemlock Water-dropwort (also poisonous).
Likes damp places such as along streams, but can also be found growing in dry habitats such as scrubland and waste land.
Widespread in most of England and the lowland areas of Wales, also found in some southern or coastal areas of Scotland.
We must remember that almost all wild plants & fungi are no danger to us as we go about our days. Plants are the foundation of life, and we need a world rich in plants to tackle the twin climate and biodiversity crises.
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