Two young wildlife enthusiasts discovered a rare fungus while exploring with their monthly wildlife group.

Abigail Bradley, aged 9, and Rosie Fernihough, aged 12, found a small clump of Cortinarius violaceus, or violet webcap, a nationally rare fungus that has only been found a handful of times in Worcestershire, all in the Wyre Forest. The group, Wyre Forest Wildlife Watch, meets monthly for outdoors activities and games aimed at helping the members discover more about the natural world.

Chris Doncaster, one of the group’s leaders, explained “Our September meeting was all about fungus - the lifecycle and the many different species as well as getting out into the Forest to see how many different kinds of fungus we could find.

“Depending on the weather, woodlands at this time of year can be absolutely brimming with all sorts of fungus; some that grow on tree stumps, some that spring up in different soils and some that are only associated with one species of tree.

“Despite its fabulous colour, Abigail and Rosie did really well to spot this fungus – it was in the early stages of growth so was really quite small. It wasn’t fully developed so we’ve had to wait until experts could confirm the identification.”

Rare violet fungus

Violet webcap (c) Chris DoncasterAlthough the fungus has previously been found in this location, it has not been seen since 2004 and none of the group were aware that they could possibly come across it.

Violet webcaps are so called because of the deep violet colour of the cap. The caps can grow up to 15cm in diameter while the stem can grow up to 12cm. The base of the stem is distinctly bulbous, making the fungus relatively easy to identify.

The fungus grows in deciduous woodland during autumn, often among oak, birch and beech. Because of the rarity of the fungus, the location of the find is not being made public; the species is on the Red Data List of Threatened British Fungus.

Exciting find

Rosie commented “We’re both really excited to have discovered a rare fungus so close to home. We have a great time at the Watch group each month and this is really the icing on the cake.

“We were looking forward to getting outside to see what we could find but had no idea we’d stumble across something so beautiful and so rare. Although it was small, the colour caught our eye so we shouted the rest of the group over to help identify it.”

Chris added “We’d like to thank Wyre Forest expert Rosemary Winnall for confirming the identity of the fungus and Phil Rudlin of the Forestry Commission for allowing us to regularly explore the Forest.

“Although we don’t discover rare species every month, we do have a great time so I’d urge any young people who are interested in wildlife to come along and get involved.

“We meet once a month on a Sunday afternoon and explore all sorts of different places and aspects of the Forest. It’s such a great place with so many natural things to discover.

“We normally meet at the Wyre Forest Discovery Centre but our October meeting - on Sunday 12th - will be taking place at Uncllys Farm when we’ll be apple picking in this wildlife-rich location.”

The group was awarded joint 3rd place in the National Watch Group of the Year awards in 2013. Activities are aimed at 8 to 15 year olds but younger children with their parents are welcome.

For more information about forthcoming Wyre Forest Wildlife Watch events email Chris Doncaster  or contact the group’s other leader Mary Bendall on 07977 412832.