A new project at Kew will clarify species concepts in British waxcap fungi, and identify those species most in need of conservation.
09 Mar 2011
Hygrocybe conica, one of the most widespread species of waxcap fungi, can be recognized easily by the bright orange fruit bodies that blacken with age (Image: Derek Schafer, photographed at Whitchurch, Buckinghamshire, UK).
Unimproved (non-fertilized) grasslands have a unique assemblage of fungi, especially waxcaps (Hygrocybe species) with over 50 UK species. Many are highly colourful and are of considerable conservation concern due to degradation of their habitat, but are difficult to identify due to wide morphological variation.
Kew has recently received funding from Defra to carry out a molecular phylogenetic study of these fungi in Britain, to elucidate species concepts and to identify species in most need of conservation management. The project will also address the biological status of Hygrocybe, in collaboration with the University of Aberystwyth; currently it is not clear whether waxcaps form mycorrhizal associations with plants.
A key aspect of the work will be liaison and coordination with local fungal groups in the UK. There has been a number of waxcap recording schemes in the past and there is continuing interest in these fungi as fungal conservation icons.
Item from Paul Cannon (Principal Mycologist, CABI and RBG, Kew)
Originally published in Kew Scientist, issue 38
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