Somerset Wildlife Trust

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Wonderful waxcaps

Under threat

Once a familiar sight in Somerset, waxcap fungi have become increasingly uncommon due to their intolerance of chemical fertilisers. Waxcaps only appear on unimproved grassland, a habitat which is in decline in Britain.

Other threats to these colourful additions to the autumn landscape can come from invading woody species, tall vegetation and atmospheric pollution. These brightly coloured mushrooms indicate grasslands good for biodiversity and concern about their future has prompted development of Species Action Plans.

How can I recognise them?

They have well-spaced, waxy gills and their caps are often slimy when wetted giving them a shiny appearance. There are many varieties and they are not all easy to identify but here are a few of the more common ones you might see in Somerset.

calyptriformis   waxcap coccinea   Blackening waxcap credit Strombilomyces

Ballerina  Waxcap, Hygrocybe Calyptraeformis. The  only dusky pink waxcap, on a white stem.


The Scarlet Waxcap, H.coccinea, is small and bright scarlet. Crimson Waxcap H. punicea is a deeper blood red/orange and can be very large.

  The Blackening Waxcap, H conica is the only waxcap which discolours from orange to black with age.
waxcap pratensis   waxcap virginea   Parrot waxcap credit M. Marshall
Meadow Waxcap, H. pratensis is stocky with an orange to brown cap and white stem. There is also a pale version.  

Chances are a pure white waxcap will be the Snowy Waxcap H.virginea but if it has a perfumed smell it could be the Cedarwood waxcap


The Parrot Waxcap, H psittacina, is occasionally orange but always has bright green on it.

Take part in a survey

Once again this autumn, FSC Nettlecombe Court Field Centre, in Williton, will be surveying their grasslands for waxcap fungi on Sat, 27th October. It starts at 10am, and will carry on until around 3 or 4pm, depending on such variables as the weather and the abundance of waxcaps! 

As always there will be tea and cake provided for willing helpers but everyone will need to bring a packed lunch. Booking essential - please contact Andy Nelson at the Field Studies Council on 01984 640320 or .

Download the flyer and visit the FSC website.

Come to a fungi foray

There are  plenty of fungi forays on our events page at this time of year - next forays are on Oct 20, 27 & Nov 3. Go to events page for details.

Photographs of waxcaps courtesy of Aberystwyth University