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Read in: EnglishCymraeg
A recent fungi fanatic, Plantlife’s Sarah Shuttleworth, has been exploring the wonderful world of fungi with her family.
Fancy a half-term adventure for the whole family, that gets the kids outside and interested in nature? Well, the answer is on your doorstep…fungi hunting.
Fungi are one of our most fascinating creations, and best of all, they are right under our noses – perfect for children to spot. You don’t even need to go to a nature reserve, the hunt for fungi can begin in your back garden or local greenspace.
With autumn well and truly here, I have found myself delving into the weird and wonderful world of fungi – very much aided by my children’s interest. The questions about what is this strange looking mushroom, what are these neon blobs, or gelatinous goo on the log – prompted my own interest in jolly-well finding out.
As it turns out, fungi are as diverse and complicated a group as one might expect. And it’s quite astonishing how brilliant children are at spotting them. (I suppose being that much closer to the ground and having 20:20 vision is probably a large amount to do with it!)
You can find fungi in so many places, here are just a few:
On our first trip out, we found more than 30 species in just one hour, ranging from the colourful circus like fungi, to the downright weird freak show of stinkhorns and slime moulds. We have been to woods in the Blackdowns, Dead woman’s ditch in the Quantocks and even round the corner at Thurlbear. All of these places gave us a range of fascinating finds, just by stepping off the path and looking around. Even if you don’t know the species, a few quick photos from different angles and a social media post, will soon increase your knowledge.
I think the children particularly like the sheer surprise element in fungi finding, you really don’t know what could turn up. Plus, the names are a delight – from The Sickener Russula Emetica, Green Elfcup Chlorociboria Aeruginascens, Amethyst Deceiver Laccaria Amethystina, Bearded Dapperling Cystolepiota Seminuda, Snapping Bonnet Mycena Vitilis, Yellow Brain Tremella Mesenterica and Turkey Tail Trametes Versicolor. Some of them ooze blood like droplets, turn bright blue when sliced, smell like honey or puff magic smokey spores when prodded! There are literally so many reasons for not only kids but the kids in us to be fascinated by this world of mycelial magic in the woods.
Here are some top tips for those first-time fungi hunters:
This Autumn, we’re also asking for your help to find Britain’s most colourful and important fungi – waxcaps. Click here to take part and find out more about our #WaxcapWatch– and you might even be able to help us find some important species-rich grassland in the process.
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!
Watch Sarah Shuttleworth record her first waxcap find on the Waxcap Watch app.
A place of like-minded enthusiasts where you can share knowledge and photos of waxcaps and related species.
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.
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.
Chris Jones, the Warden of Kenfig National Nature Reserve, recently found the very rare fungus, during a routine survey.
Chris Jones is the warden at Kenfig NNR. He is also a passionate fungus recorder. In 2022 he made an important discovery… A Date Waxcap, Hygrocybe spadicea! “A gorgeous shade of brown with yellow gills that I have only seen once in 20 years of looking for waxcaps, it was indeed a lucky day!”
Chris describes how the describes how the discovery came about:
“Kenfig National Nature Reserve is a magical place for me. It is 1339 acres of sand dune marvels and beauty, some days there is a new species surprise around the corner.”
“I am fungi obsessed, I love all the mycological delights but my favourites by far are the colourful grassland fungi, the waxcaps. About 23 call Kenfig their home.”
“We found the Date Waxcap on the day the volunteers decided to do a Dune Waxcap Hygrocybe conicoides survey on the frontal dunes – this waxcap is quite common in sand dunes. It is very variable in colour, from a deep red through oranges and yellow. As we talked and walked, in the corner of my eye, I spotted it! The unmistakable colouration of the Date Waxcap.”
Being a land of grass, here in Wales we see permanent pastures and rough grazing all around us. Most of these are intensively managed for sheep and cattle. However, less intensively farmed grassland can offer very important habitat for grassland fungi. This includes waxcaps, but also other important groups. One of the most stunning examples must surely be the Violet Coral Clavaria zollingeri.
Waxcaps are named for their shiny, waxy and often brightly coloured caps. They can look like blobs of red, orange, green or yellow wax in the turf. Here in Wales, we have some beautiful species such as the Pink or Ballerina Waxcap Porpolomopsis calyptriformis, and Scarlet Waxcap Hygrocybe coccinea. In fact, despite our small size, Wales is home to over half the number of waxcap species found in Britain.
Violet Coral. Trevor Dines
It’s not just our farmed grasslands that are good for fungi, either. Other habitats such as old lawns, churchyards and grass in parks and gardens can all be incredibly important. And of course, sand dune grasslands too, just like Kenfig. They just need to be sensitively managed.
We know many grassland fungi are declining and threatened. They are under-recorded, so their habitat may be destroyed due to a lack of knowledge. Waxcaps are also very sensitive to changes in their environment. Some cannot tolerate the regular ploughing, re-seeding, and fertilising on intensive farms. Consequently, some species, like Date-coloured Waxcap Hygrocybe spadicea are now very rare.
We are still learning about these beautiful fungi. We have too few fungi experts (mycologists) in Wales. We also have many unanswered questions about their distribution, ecology and conservation needs.
However, we do also have some amazing places for wildlife, places that we already know are important for grassland fungi. Kenfig NNR is one of these. Kenfig is an Important Plant Area (IPA), and Plantlife has been involved in its management for many years. Most recently this has been through our Green Links project based in Bridgend.
Parrot Waxcap Gliophorus psittacinus – Lucia Chmurova-Plantlife
Waxcap grasslands are an important part of Plantlife Cymru’s work. We are seeking to understand more about their distribution and management. We would also like to see them better protected from both accidental and deliberate damage.
Would you like to get involved with waxcap recording? You can download a site survey app that helps us find new, important places for grassland fungi. You don’t need to be able to identify species- just their colours!
Download a free Survey123 app on your smartphone or tablet:
Google Play (Android)
Apple Store (iOS)
Hit 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
You are ready to go!
Of Wales’ total land area is used for farming
Half the number of Waxcap Species can be found in Wales
Kenfig National Nature Reserve is an Important Plant Area (IPA) – Plantlife has been a partner in managing Kenfig.
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