Look out now for Pink waxcap fungi, or ballerinas – named thus because of their pink upturned caps like a ballerinas tutu. They are just one type of waxcap amid a rich variety of fungi that can be found scattered across old, short turf grassland of churches, chapel yards and manor houses at this autumnal time of year.
Waxcaps are most likely to be found in grasslands low in nutrients that have been untouched for centuries except to be mown or grazed. They and a host of beautiful wildflowers thrive here.
Waxcaps are more common in the UK than elsewhere in the world. To such an extent that pink and date coloured waxcaps have been included in the government’s Biodiversity Action Programme, a plan to highlight the importance of conserving many species of flora and fauna, and also these special types of fungi.
The conservation charity Caring for God’s Acre (CfGA) promotes the importance of these distinctive fungi and class it as one of their flagship groups – “popular plants and animals…[which] encourage the sensitive care of churchyards and burial sites” – along with slow worms, bumblebees, yew trees, swifts and hedgehogs.
In order to help preserve these remarkable fungi, it is important to refrain from cutting the grass for just those few autumnal weeks to allow the waxcaps and others to flourish. Equally, if the summer has been particularly wet and the fungi emerge earlier than expected leave the grass cutting till they have passed. The “improvement” of grasslands through fertilisers can also be disastrous to these beautiful specimens.
Consequently, if you want to help these outstanding fungi to thrive, remember: less is more.
There are over 12,000 burial grounds across England and Wales and it is well documented that they are a rich source of wildlife, often functioning as a sanctuary for flora and fauna which are rare and endangered elsewhere in the U.K. From song thrushes and swifts to hedgehogs, newts and slow worms, the biodiversity of these areas also encompasses species of international importance, for instance, Yew trees and bumblebees. They are also important for their historic man-made structures such as monuments and memorials, boundary walls, lychgates, preaching crosses and mausalea. This varied interest makes them ideal places for learning and for community activity such as practical conservation work and recording of the stonework and wildlife habitats. Caring for God’s Acre produces a special Churchyard and Burial Ground Action pack full of useful information on a wide range of topics to help people with their local sites. The pack can be downloaded from the website free of charge or purchased as a pack from Caring for God’s Acre.
Editors' note - For further information contact Sue Cooper, Caring for God's Acre, 11 Drover's House, Craven Arms, Shropshire SY9 5DF. Tel: 01588 673041.