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We all have a good idea what fungi are, often calling some of them ‘mushrooms', but many people will be new to the term 'Lower Plants', yet these groups of plants are critical to our health and future.

Fungi are vital parts of our environment: 'It was mind-blowing to me that something I knew nothing about was the sophisticated engineer of all that I could see' (Tim Smit; Eden Project)

Fungi are essential for nutrient recycling, soil fertility, a source of medicines, like penicillin, other chemicals, and food. NTS are aware of this and try to ensure that our land management conserves our fungi and allows them to get on with their key job of keeping our natural environment running.

Properties like Mar Lodge, Ben Lomond and Killiecrankie are great places to see fungi, especially in autumn.

We also run fungi forays on several of our properties each year to allow people to appreciate these extraordinary organisms.

Lower plants include groups like lichens, mosses, liverworts, seaweeds and other algae. Some of these species you would hardly notice, whilst others make a dramatic difference to our lives.

For example, Sphagnum mosses are the building blocks of Scotland's peat bogs, now key carbon sinks in our fight against global warming, and also, the habitat that often gives whisky its colour and taste!

NTS has carried out many surveys for fungi and lower plants at properties like Dollar Glen, Brodick, Glencoe and Canna. Many of its properties, like Ben Lawers, are home to rare species, like the Scottish Beard Moss.

This work has underpinned our knowledge of these groups; a knowledge that has shown that Scotland is one of the richest places on earth for mosses and liverworts.