As a gateway into identifying Fungi you can’t get much better than Waxcaps. Not only are they easy to spot, being brightly coloured and found on open unimproved grassland, but they are (relatively) easy to identify using a simple key (there are several available online).
I have also noticed as I try to ID the waxcaps at Taf Fechan that there is a truly spectacular scope for generating “funny” looks from passing people as you first smell your waxcap (some waxcaps have characteristic smells one smells of Honey another of Cedar wood) and then even “funnier” looks as you kiss your waxcap. Yes that’s right identifying waxcaps involves a bit of fungi kissing.
The most important way of telling waxcaps apart is whether their caps and stems are slimy or dry (some waxcaps have a slimy cap and stem, some a slimy cap and dry stem, some with both their cap and stem dry) and the best way of telling is to lightly touch them to your lips if they stick they’re slimy if they don’t they’re dry.
So far I have found 11 species of waxcap at Taf Fechan and our recent foray with the Glamorgan fungus group found another 3 (including the uncommon Yellow foot Waxcap) which not only indicates the quality of our unimproved grassland but also the fact I’ve kissed a lot of fungi.
Graham Watkeys – Taf Fechan Warden
Editor’s note – don’t go around kissing strange fungi – it’s not always advisable unless you know what you are doing and they don’t always like it!