Pink waxcap (Hygrocybe calyptriformis)

GenusHygrocybe (1)
SizeStem diameter: 0.5 - 1 cm (1)
Cap diameter: 2.5 - 6 cm (1)
Stem length: 5 - 8 cm (1)

The pink waxcap is provisionally classified as Low Risk in Great Britain (4).

The attractive pink waxcap (Hygrocybe calyptriformis) has a pinkish-lilac conical cap with fine striations and a slightly greasy appearance. As specimens age, the cap often becomes more flattened and splits at the margins (2). The gills are pinkish to whitish (1). The stem (stipe) is long and delicate, and often becomes split lengthwise (3). The flesh of the pink waxcap is also fragile and pinkish (8). The generic name Hygrocybe means 'moist head' (5).

WARNING: many species of fungus are poisonous or contain chemicals that can cause sickness. Never pick and eat any species of fungus that you cannot positively recognise or are unsure about. Some species are deadly poisonous and can cause death within a few hours if swallowed.

The pink waxcap is found in Europe, North America and Asia (4).  The pink waxcap is widespread but local throughout the UK (1).

The pink waxcap is found in unimproved short grasslands (1), pastures (3), lawns, and woodland edges on calcareous (1) or acidic soils (4).

Fungi are neither plants nor animals but belong to their own kingdom. They are unable to produce their own food through the process of photosynthesis, as plants do; instead, they acquire nutrients from living or dead plants, animals, or other fungi, as animals do. In many larger fungi (lichens excepted) the only visible parts are the fruit bodies, which arise from a largely unseen network of threads called 'hyphae'. These hyphae permeate the fungus's food source, which may be soil, leaf litter, rotten wood, dung, and so on, depending on the species (8).

The fruit bodies of the pink waxcap develop between August and October (4), especially after rain (6).

The past population trends of the pink waxcap are not known, however the main threat to this species is the 'improvement' of its grassland habitats by ploughing and fertiliser use. Changes in the grazing or mowing regime at some sites may also have resulted in this species being ousted by invading woody species and tall vegetation (4). Atmospheric pollution and agricultural drift may also be important factors (7). The pink waxcap, along with other members of the waxcap family, is thought to have declined right across its European range (8).

The pink waxcap is a priority species under the UK Biodiversity Action Plan (UK BAP) and is included in English Nature's Species Recovery Programme. The Action Plan aims to maintain current populations, and increase them where possible. One of the important sites in Wales is managed by the National Trust in ways that benefit the species. One site in England and four other Welsh sites are Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs), and therefore receive a level of protection (7). At all pink wax cap sites, scrub should be controlled (4).

The UK BAP Species Action Plan is available on-line at:


Information authenticated by Carl Borges of English Nature: and by Dr Peter Roberts of Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew:

  1. Courtecuisse, R. (1999) Collins Mushrooms of Britain and Europe. HarperCollins Publishers, London.
  2. UK Biodiversity Species Action Plan (November, 2001)
  3. Jordan, M. (1995) The Encyclopedia of Fungi of Britain and Europe. David and Charles, Devon.
  4. Buczacki, S. (1992) Collins Guide. Mushrooms and toadstools of Britain and Europe. HarperCollins Publishers, London.
  5. Roberts, P. (2002) Pers. comm.
  6. Marren, P. (1998) Fungal Flowers. The Wax Caps and their World. British Wildlife, 9: 164 - 172.
  7. Borges, C. (2002) Pers. comm.
  8. Boertmann, D. (1995) The Genus Hygrocybe (Fungi of Northern Europe 1). Danish Mycological Society, Copenhagen.