Nature Notes from Argyll
(and occasionally other places)
Wed 14 Oct 2009 Glen Lonan
A group of us went to look for waxcaps, earth-tongues and club fungi - the indicator species of unimproved grasslands. Within an area of about 300 x 100 metres we found 9 kinds of waxcap, which signifies that the site is of "regional importance". The two above are the Snowy Waxcap, one of only two all-white waxcap species, and the Golden Waxcap, which is very sticky on top.
The very slimy Heath Waxcap, recognisable by its glutinous gill edges, and the Scarlet Waxcap, which also has a slimy cap, sometimes yellow-edged as here.
The Honey Waxcap, smelling of honey, and the Meadow Waxcap, one of the larger species, easily recognised by its whitish stem contrasting with the pastry-coloured cap.
The Parrot Waxcap is the only species with any green colouring. The amount of green varies and is greater on young specimens. Both cap and stem are very slimy; you can see the glutinous layer on the edge of the cap in the photo. A single Grey Waxcap (Hygrocybe lacmus) was found lying where it had been felled by slug or sheep; the lower picture shows the decurrent gills.
We also found the Crimson Waxcap but I omitted to get a photo of it. There's a recent one here.
We found two kinds of Earth-tongue. This is Geoglossum fallax, with a dry surface. The stem is clearly distinct from the club, the stem being a dark brown colour and the club black. The stem is covered by a network of hair tufts.
This one is Geoglossum glutinosum, the Sticky Earth-tongue. The whole thing is covered in a layer of slime which shows well in the close-up picture (the stem is torn in this pic).
We only found one kind of club fungus at our target site, the densely tufted Golden Spindles. At another site nearby which some of us visited after lunch, we found the Yellow Club Fungus, which occurs in looser clusters.
We tried to concentrate on grassland indicator fungi and ignore the other intriguing kinds around us, but I did get the camera out for these two, the Saffron Parasol (Cystoderma amianthinum) and a Blackish Puffball with the entire length of its stem fused to an old bracken stem.
Just as a taster of what else is out there, here are a couple of very small species that I've had to give up on. The first were in the layer of moss on top of a rock. The gills and stem are hairy, but I couldn't get a spore print. The second looks like an Omphalina, but there was no lichenised material around its base, and the stem base is remarkably bulbous. This picture was taken at home. Again no spore print. I find these tiny delicate mushrooms fascinating but I'd spend a fortnight poring over books and microscopes for every day in the field if I insisted on identifying them all.
A view of the site. You can see traces of an old field system in the centre-left. The land is grazed by sheep and cattle, keeping the turf short, ideal conditions for waxcaps.
Parts of the site had numerous anthills completely grown over with moss but with active colonies of the Yellow Meadow Ant inside.
The site we visited after lunch was not so good for waxcaps but we
did see this splendid Ground Beetle, Carabus problematicus.
All photos and other content copyright © Carl Farmer