15 October 2014
Waxcap Wander - Baileouchdarch, Lismore
Our Waxcap Wander this year formed part of the LNHG Waxcap Grasslands Project which is supported by Argyll & The Isles Coast & Countryside Trust
LNHG's sixth annual waxcap wander. As the date has to be set in advance, it's always
a gamble on how well these unpredictable fungi will be fruiting, which depends on
the previous few days' weather and various other factors. We were
very fortunate on our first
five waxcap wanders as they all coincided with a flush of waxcaps. But this
time it was different. Not only were the waxcaps few and far
between, but the recent dry weather had faded their colours and often
dried out their slime which is
an important identifcation feature.
"There must be a waxcap somewhere!"
In the first half-hour or so we only found 2 waxcap
species and a possible third that would need checking at home. At this stage it seemed certain that
we'd fall well short of our previous lowest total, which was 9. But
we kept at it and slowly the figure crept up. To my amazement by the end of the day we had 15
kinds of waxcap, making
it the most productive waxcap wander yet. The previous best was
The Crimson Waxcap was by far the commonest species. This one has kept most of its colour and is
still sticky on top.
This one is dried and bleached by weather and age. Many of the
day's finds were in this condition.
More Crimson Waxcaps hidden in the grass. For a long
time every splash of colour we investigated turned out to be this
species. But persistence paid off in the end...
New vice-county records: the Citrine Waxcap on the left,
found by Jan, and the Big Blue Pinkgill on the right, found by Noelle.
The latter is a UK-BAP priority species, which was on the Red
Data List from 1992-2006 and is "found in old semi-natural grasslands,
especially calcareous grasslands, of high conservation value" (http://www.habitas.org.uk/priority/species.asp?item=39245
The one on the left had me puzzled; it turned out to be a young and very red Spangle Waxcap. When mature they are yellow apart from the top of the stem which often remains red.
We also recorded any dung fungi that we could identify. On the right above is the Petticoat Mottlegill, found and photographed by Jan. Fungi that grow on dung or recently manured ground are common on waxcap grasslands, but are of less interest than the grassland fungi, as they are not restricted to unimproved semi-natural sites with a long history of grazing, and are not generally of any conservation concern.
Here is the list of grassland fungi that we found.
These are indicative of high-quality unimproved
grassland with high conservation value. Crimson Waxcap, the most
plentiful species on the site, is "exclusively found in sites with a very
long continuity as unfertilised grasslands" (Boertmann 1995).
Common species that are not too fussy about site quality, such as
Scarlet, Blackening and Snowy Waxcaps, were absent or very scarce, and
Meadow and Golden were not dominant like they often are. Instead
as we plodded across the seemingly barren grass there was a slow
succession of specialist habitat species, giving just a hint of what
might be there on a day when fungi are fruiting in profusion.
Waxcap grassland - a rapidly declining habitat throughout Europe,
including much of the UK, but still plentiful in Argyll
As usual we came across mystery mushrooms which we couldn't identify but which Jan took beautiful photos of. Fungi are a vast kingdom and it would take several lifetimes to get to know them all. But you don't need to know their names to admire them.
Thanks to Liz and Noelle for driving us to and from the ferry, and thanks to Liz and Barbara for helping to arrange the event.