Archbishop’s Tutu

By Ruth D’Alessandro, The Wildlife Gardener The Wildlife Gardener loves the fungi this time of year. But this summer has been so disappointing that many species arrived (and disappeared) early and I have missed them. Parasol mushrooms (Macrolepiota procera) were out in August instead of September, and, most frustratingly, porcini mushrooms (Boletus edulis), usually just appearing at the beginning of September, were a wet, smelly, finished mush when I went to forage for them. No wild mushroom risotto for la famille Wildlife Gardener this year.

Pink waxcap

But it’s an ill wind (and rain) that blows no species any good. Some fungi hate hot sunny summers and refuse to appear in autumn, whereas a wet summer brings them out later in all their glory. I sometimes amble around the ancient churchyards in our part of the North Downs, as wildlife thrives undisturbed and there’s usually something fungal and interesting to see. We may not have had a feast for the table this year, but instead I came across this rare feast for the eyes. The Junior Wildlife Gardeners were of course thrilled by the Barbie pinkness of the mushrooms. They glowed out from the moss and clover like little ballet dancers, and that is exactly what they are: Pink, or Ballerina waxcaps (Hygrocybe calyptriformis). They are the only pink toadstool in the UK! They also have their own Species Action Plan in the national Biodiversity Action Plan so they are something special. Waxcap mushrooms just love the summers we don’t. In their own small delightful way they compensate us for a miserable August by being so cheery and colourful in the autumn. There’s the yellow Citrine waxcap (H. citrinovirens), the Crimson (H. punicea), the bright green Parrot (H. psittacina) and the milky Snowy (H. virginea) as well as the more common Meadow waxcap (H.pratensis) which is orange. Waxcaps are indicator species of ancient grasslands. They thrive in left-well-alone mossy areas that have not been cultivated or fertilized. Old churchyards, like the home of our Ballerinas, are an ideal habitat. Such undisturbed grassy sites are rare and becoming rarer, threatening some species of waxcap with extinction. The National Trust is currently carrying out a survey of waxcap fungi. If you see any of these jolly mushrooms, go to www.nationaltrust.org.uk/waxcaps where you’ll be able to find out lots more about them and log any sightings. The Wildlife Gardener and family had such a miserable summer with rogue builders, wet weather, the credit crunch, the oil crisis, the biblical plague of slugs and the tomato blight, that not a lot has made us smile recently. Apart from these little pink pirouetting peaks of joy that have made me SO happy I just have to give you another picture of them:

Pink waxcaps

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2 thoughts on “Archbishop’s Tutu

  • 12th May, 2012 at 6:12 pm
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    Happy to make you happy, pajamadeen. At least our builders are on this side of the Atlantic, so they shouldn’t trouble you too much. My sympathies are with you on the Alzheimer’s front. Mr Wildlife Gardener’s dad has this, and if you don’t laugh, you cry. “Everything is fine” is great day to day, but we also say “never believe you are winning”.
    I’ll try and find some more pretty fungi for you.

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  • 12th May, 2012 at 6:12 pm
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    Oh dear, rogue builders. That lot does leave an interminable trail of misery in their wake. Pajamadeen knows them well, having been forced to become her own general contractor on three home restoration projects in the past. I will have to explore your archives to see if you elaborate further on the “builders.”

    The pink Ballerina Waxcaps are, indeed, a delight! Thank you for posting this. You made my day. No, you probably made my week.

    (I am attempting to dig myself out from a rabbit hole of Alzheimer’s insanity, from which ma mere suffers. Nothing makes sense but “everything is fine,” of course. I should needlepoint pillows for some members of my family which say “Everything is fine,” perhaps emblazoned with a house afire as the backdrop? hahaha)

    Thanks again for the tutus!

    Reply

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