Grassland Paintbox

There is colour, and then there are waxcaps: the jewels of autumnal meadows, sparkling after the rain.

Golden waxcap1 30 Oct 20

The UK is internationally important for waxcaps. In a similar vein to wildflowers, these strange and beautiful fungi are dependent on ‘unimproved’ grassland – that is, fields which have not been damaged by fertiliser, reseeding, overgrazing or the other problems of modern agriculture. Some of the best waxcap displays are in the west but we do have a few good places here in the south-east as well.

Golden waxcap is the most common.

Golden waxcap2 30 Oct 20

Blackening waxcap can start off as a similar hue.

Blackening waxcap2 30 Oct 20

But it soon changes.

Blackening waxcap 30 Oct 20

Scarlet waxcap does not – a tiny, impossibly vivid ruby in the grass.

Scarlet waxcap 30 Oct 20

There are green waxcaps. There are white waxcaps. There is even one species that is pink. But they are all sensitive to pollution, and if grassland is damaged, they can take decades to recover.

Meanwhile, back in the shelter of the trees, fly agaric reach preposterous sizes.

Fly agaric 30 Oct 20

What is a fungus? The bright caps catch our attention, but are only the fruiting body. The actual organism, which is neither plant nor animal, exists as strands of white threads – mycelium – in the soil or other substrate. Many species form symbiotic relationships with plants, supporting them with nutrients. Fungi are essential to life, but they are also patient: in any given year, a field will not have all species in fruit, and discovering all the fungi that actually live there can take a good part of a lifetime.

Patience. A good word to remember in this uncertain year.

19 thoughts on “Grassland Paintbox

  1. Adele, very nice post! I love all the different types of Fungi! We have some Fly Agaric that grow along the fence near one of our local schools. They do well until the kids discover them and stomp them!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I know kids will be kids, but it’d be nice if the teachers took that opportunity to teach them some boundaries with nature!

      Fly Agaric never looks quite real. Not hard to imagine a mythical being sitting on it


      1. Back in Serbia, it would not be storms that would take dry leaves away; it would be nice until first frost comes in. Then in few days all the leaves would be gone. Usually around the end of November.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. This year has a been bountiful for Amanitas in our lawn. Some very large ones have popped up among all the falling leaves. It’s a shame they aren’t edible as each would be enough to feed a family of four. 🙂 I don’t forage so making a fatal fungal mistake isn’t going to be my fate.

    Most people have no idea how vast a fungal network lays beneath our feet and how necessary they are to our and the planet’s health and wellbeing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Fungi hold our world together with their silent work. Without their support, so many plants that we take for granted would struggle.

      I don’t forage either – I much prefer to leave them there for other walkers to enjoy.

      Liked by 1 person

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