15 October 2014

Waxcap Wander - Baileouchdarch, Lismore

Photos by Jan Hamilton, Sallie Jack, Noelle Odling and Carl Farmer.  Mouse over the photos for photo credits and other info.

Our Waxcap Wander this year formed part of the LNHG Waxcap Grasslands Project which is supported by Argyll & The Isles Coast & Countryside Trust

This was 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.

Waxcap wanderers

"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 13.

Hygrocybe punicea

The Crimson Waxcap was by far the commonest species.  This one has kept most of its colour and is still sticky on top.

Hygrocybe punicea

This one is dried and bleached by weather and age.  Many of the day's finds were in this condition.

Hygrocybe punicea

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...

Hygrocybe calyptriformis

The Ballerina Waxcap, easily recognisable by its conical pink cap, which is rather faded here.

  Hygrocybe flavipes

The Yellow-foot Waxcap (in pieces) and a couple of young Meadow Waxcaps that have already lost some of their sandy brown colour.

Hygrocybe laeta var. flava

The uncommon yellow form (var. flava) of the Heath Waxcap

  Hygrocybe lacmus

The very decurrent gills of the Grey Waxcap

Hygrocybe citrinovirens   Entoloma bloxamii

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 & http://jncc.defra.gov.uk/_speciespages/2245.pdf)

Clavulinopsis fusiformis

These Golden Spindles found and photographed by Sallie are remarkable for their bright red tips.  Usually the tips are either yellow like the rest of the fungus, or brown.

  Ramariopsis kunzei

The first vice-county record of Ivory Coral Fungus, and my first sighting of it anywhere.  Found by Cynthia.

Hygrocybe insipida   Panaeolus papilionaceus

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.

Clavulinopsis corniculata Meadow Coral
Clavulinopsis fusiformis Golden Spindles
Cystoderma amianthinum Earthy Powdercap
Entoloma bloxamii Big Blue Pinkgill
Entoloma conferendum Star Pinkgill
Hygrocybe calyptriformis Ballerina Waxcap
Hygrocybe chlorophana Golden Waxcap
Hygrocybe citrinovirens Citrine Waxcap
Hygrocybe flavipes Yellow-foot Waxcap
Hygrocybe glutinosa Glutinous Waxcap
Hygrocybe insipida Spangle Waxcap
Hygrocybe lacmus Grey Waxcap
Hygrocybe laeta var. flava Heath Waxcap (Yellow form)
Hygrocybe laeta var. laeta Heath Waxcap (Normal form)
Hygrocybe pratensis Meadow Waxcap
Hygrocybe psittacina Parrot Waxcap
Hygrocybe punicea Crimson Waxcap
Hygrocybe reidii Honey Waxcap
Hygrocybe splendidissima Splendid Waxcap
Hygrocybe virginea Snowy Waxcap
Lycoperdon utriforme Mosaic Puffball
Ramariopsis kunzei White Coral

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

Waxcap grassland - a rapidly declining habitat throughout Europe, including much of the UK, but still plentiful in Argyll

Unknown mushroom   Unknown mushroom

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.

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This project is supported by Scottish Natural Heritage

All photos and other content copyright Carl Farmer except where stated.  Some photos on this page are Jan Hamilton, Sallie Jack and Noelle Odling.