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A visit to a grassland in Autumn could provide you with a mushroom spectacle. If you are lucky, nestled in the grass, you will see an array of brightly coloured fungi. They are waxcaps: the gems of the grassland.

Waxcaps, along with fairy clubs, earthtongues (so called because they look like small tongues coming up from the grass) and pinkgills, are indicators of ancient grasslands that have not been ploughed or treated with high amounts of fertiliser. Since the 1940s up to 95% of ancient grassland in the UK has been lost to agricultural improvement and other developments. Scotland, and National Trust for Scotland properties, remain a stronghold for waxcaps and there are many sites of international importance to visit.

Good sites for waxcaps include old pasture, meadows, graveyard lawns and the ancient lawns around historic houses. You may even have some in your garden.

Waxcaps can be found at many of the National Trust for Scotland’s properties, from the finely kept lawns at Haddo House, Hill of Tarvit and Geilston Gardens to sheep-grazed pastures at Ben Lawers, Canna and Fair Isle. If you are visiting any of our properties from August to November, be sure to take a closer look in the grass.

Waxcap species present at National Trust for Scotland properties include:

Parrot Waxcap (Hygrocybe psittacina) – A slimy, green/orange cap, with green colours at the top of the stem.
Heath Waxcap (Hygrocybe laeta) – An orange cap, slightly slimy with a smell of burnt rubber.
The Ballerina (Hygrocybe calyptriformis) – The only pink waxcap, its cap expands like a tutu as it grows!
Blackening Waxcap (Hygrocybe conica) – A very distinctive species. Its conical cap goes from yellow/orange to black as it ages or if it is damaged.