Northumberland National Park is conducting a survey of waxcap toadstools this autumn, and is requesting anyone intending to visit the National Park to look out for them and record any sightings.
(c) Shaun Hackett, Northumberland National Park
Mossy grasslands where there has been no ploughing or artificial fertiliser applied, such as the upland meadows in the hills and moorlands of the National Park, are the perfect environment for waxcaps (Hygrocybes). These jewel-like fungi have been described as the orchids of the fungi world and are easy to spot by their bright rainbow colours that range from yellows, reds, oranges and pinks to mauves, greys, whites, browns, blacks and greens. The toadstools have glossy caps and the stems are often the same colour as the cap.
A variety of these brilliant fungi in one site indicate an ancient grassland which may date back hundreds of years. The best time of year to look for waxcaps is from September to November.
Despite massive loss of habitat since the Second World War, it is felt that the UK still retains some of the finest ancient grassland in Europe and it may be that the uplands of Northumberland National Park are a haven for these declining species.
Ranger Shaun Hackett said: “Just recording the presence of the different colours will be a big help for rangers and ecologists to gauge good sites and to decide which sites need conserving. We do hope people will respond to the challenge. Children especially will enjoy discovering the toadstools with their glowing colours, but please don’t touch them as many are poisonous in spite of their beauty.”
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