Members of the public in Wales are being urged to record colourful waxcap fungi they see in their local green spaces to help reveal ancient meadows.
Conservation charity Plantlife is launching the “WaxcApp” survey app and hopes people will use it to head into their local outdoor spaces and record the colours of the fungi they see on laws, parks and cemeteries.
Wales is particularly important for grassland fungi, due to its warm wet climate and remaining grasslands that have not been “improved” by ploughing or fertilisers, making it home to more than half the UK’s 112 species of waxcap.
These fungi come in an extraordinary array of shapes and colours, from the frilly pink ballerina waxcap to the violet waxcap which resembles an underwater coral and the black, finger-like olive earth-tongue.
They are a very good indicator of ancient meadows, the experts say, because once a field is ploughed or fertilised it can take waxcaps up to a century to recolonise the site.
By using the app to record the colours of the fungi they spot, the public could help uncover hidden fragments of forgotten grassland and other unknown fungi sites.
The app could reveal the condition of grassland habitats to help target conservation work, spark conversations with landowners about managing sites and generate leads for conservationists to follow up on.
The app is part of a project by Plantlife, with partners including the National Trust, funded by the Welsh Government to increase the extent and resilience of Wales’ meadows and species-rich grasslands across the countryside and towns.
Plantlife conservation officer Lucia Chmurova said: “Many of us associate fungi with woodlands but, actually, Wales’ grasslands are particularly rich in fungi – particularly those of the waxcap family.
“We’d love people to visit nearby grassy sites including parks, sand-dunes, heathlands and stately home grounds, as these are all key ‘old grassland’ habitats for fungi.
“If you are looking at a colourful fungus on grassland, such as Apricot clubs or Parrot waxcaps, then you are likely standing in a precious unimproved grassland, which could be home to hundreds of wildflowers in the summer.”
Ben McCarthy, head of nature conservation at the National Trust, said: “Despite our waxcap grasslands being of international importance they really are so often the forgotten kingdom.
“As our conservation work demonstrates with sensitive management at sites such as Stackpole and Chirk Castle, the magnificent colours of Scarlet Waxcap and Violet Coral can bejewel the lawns and grasslands of Wales.”
For more information and to download the app from Saturday, people can visit: