Eyes down for Waxcaps? and Inspiring Meadows.

A quick reminder to look out for Waxcaps and other meadow fungi from now on.  Many thanks to Julian for putting together this timely post. The post is in two sections – first part, wax caps, second part some inspiring meadows to think about for next year.

I’ve been surprised at just how many have appeared in our East facing sloping upland hay meadow over the last week, which we only began to manage for increased diversity about 6 years ago.

On September 1st, I counted 492 separate Waxcap mushrooms, loosely grouped into what I recorded as 72 patches. Some of these clusters or patches might in fact have all been from the same larger network of fungal mycelium.  I used a rather arbritary visual assessment of where one cluster finished and another began. The biggest “clusters” numbered 59 fruiting bodies, for H. intermedia, and 60 for H. chlorophana.

Many of the smaller, younger fruiting bodies are only just showing through the ground hugging mossy basal layer which is present in most of this meadow.  My guess is that this is critical in creating both a much warmer, and moister micro-climate for them to develop.

We rarely find any in more recently mown areas. Apart from sheep grazing from October to early February, the meadow is ungrazed, and cut once in stages, from mid May onwards. It occasionally has wood ash spread on areas of it, and on two occasions had a light top dressing of dried seaweed meal.

Last year this meadow produced a heavy crop of field mushrooms from a different area of the meadow. This year, so far I’ve only found 2 field mushrooms.

The majority of the Waxcaps were the orange coloured, and quite large fibrous Waxcap, Hygrocybe intermedia, with much smaller numbers of Golden Waxcap, H. chlorophana, and a few H. citrina, and H. glutinipes.Most of these mushrooms are very short lived, so just 4 days later, many of the Fibrous Waxcaps had disappeared, with perhaps 29 new ones having popped up, although this was very subjective, being judged by the undamaged appearance of any “new” ones. But I reckoned there were now an additional 124 Golden Waxcaps and a further 16 H. citrina.

Many of these mushrooms are quickly damaged by slugs, but since the “Beast From The East” in March 2018, and then the very dry summer last year, our meadow slug population is a tiny percentage of what it has been in the past.

I’ve been surprised by how many of these even quite large clumps are difficult to spot, unless you’re almost right on top of them. Much of the area of meadow I included in this survey now has aftermath regrowth of several inches, and lies within a defined very short near perimeter close mown path, so it’s fairly easy to assess where you’ve surveyed.

I walked back and forth at roughly 2 metre distances across the slope. Taking quite a while to do this and record what I found. We always start to see a few fibrous waxcaps as we mow the field in sections from late June onwards, but it’s clearly impossible to assess just how many might be present earlier in the year, beneath the uncut sward.

After the excellent CMG talk last year by Gareth Griffiths, I thought I’d weigh a few typical mushrooms, which seemed to average about 10 g apiece.

So maybe a standing crop of about 5 KG of Waxcaps in this fairly small, less than one acre area, on just one day. Using Gareth’s estimate that the biomass of many fruiting bodies is only about 1% of the total fungal biomass, that would imply about 500 KG of fungi in this meadow. Not bad for carbon sequestration either. And that’s just from these early species – no sign yet here, of any Pink Waxcaps.

So a prompt for meadow owners to maybe spend a little time walking their fields, eyes down, to see what they might find.

______________

Too late for this year, but a suggestion for next year to any members is to use the resource of the Coronation Meadows website to visit meadows in other parts of the UK if one happens to be visiting at an appropriate time of the year.

We were in Northumberland for a few days in early July, and by chance just before we left, I found this link, click here, to the Barrowburn meadows, which are rated as some of the best in Europe. They didn’t disappoint, as a few pics show, and are set in spectacular upland scenery.

In addition on the way up, we called in at the more local and recently established meadows at Hurdley Hall, Churchstoke, Powys. Open under the NGS garden scheme, click here, the meadows were created just 3 years ago by collecting green hay from the nearby Coronation meadow for Montgomeryshire.

Both these meadows looked quite different to ours, and had a different plant mix, but show how inspiring really floriferous meadows can be towards their peak.

I wonder if either have any interesting mushrooms in them now?

Julian Wormald

1 thought on “Eyes down for Waxcaps? and Inspiring Meadows.

  1. The past week has seen also seen lovely fruiting of the smaller waxcaps on Waun Las NNR – always an exciting experience to see the re-appearance of waxcaps. Did Gareth Griffiths talk about the reasons for fruiting – heat/rainfall/humidity/something else? They can be frustratingly hard to predict.

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