A brightly coloured, often shiny, highly distinguishable type of fungi of the genus Hygrocybe, often seen on unimproved lawns in autumn. Likely places to spot a waxcap include: churchyards, parks, grasses around historic houses and monuments, reservoir embankments, your garden and other grassy areas where turf is short.
Found in variety of colours including red, yellow, pink, green, brown, white and orange; only a few waxcaps have common names (as opposed to Latin names). There is only one pink waxcap, the ballerina waxcap, Hygrocybe calyptriformis, and the United Kingdom is home to around half of the worlds population of this species. There are around 40 other waxcap species in Britain and Ireland and over 25 species have been recorded on Exmoor.
Although once common, waxcaps are very intolerant of chemical fertilizers, because of this intolerance the presence of waxcaps indicates high quality unimproved grassland habitat. Good waxcap sites are almost invariably rich in other fungi. During wet summers, waxcaps may be found earlier in the season. Waxcaps perform a role in their habitat, however there is uncertainty as to exactly what that role is, there is a possible link between mosses and waxcaps. Ploughing is also harmful to waxcaps as it destroys the network of mycelia in the soil.
There are Somerset Species Action Plans for all waxcap species for West Somerset and Quantock areas as well as an Exmoor SAP. Only Hygrocybe calyptraeformis, the Ballerina Waxcap, is a UKBAP priority species. Regular waxcap surveys are held by various organisations in the autumn, why not get involved? Click here to download the National Trust’s guide to identifying waxcaps http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/main/w-waxcap_leaflet.pdf.
Photograph copyright of the National Trust