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Fantastic fungi: Sand dune ‘shrooms to see in the UK

Emma Waldron

Late autumn is a brilliant time to see many of the UK’s mushrooms and sand dunes can have some of the most interesting of them all! Here’s our guide to spotting some fantastic fungi.

4 mushrooms are lying flat in an outstretched palm
Image credit: Emma Brisdion

Dune Brittlestem

Dune brittlestem feed on dead and decaying marram grass and their appearance varies depending on the conditions they’re found in. They are often sandy brown in colour and their caps can vary from bell-shaped to flat, depending on their age. This photo was taken at our Studland site, but you can find these fantastic fungi at most marram grass dunes.

You can spot dune brittlestem between June and November.

A small brown mushroom can been seen in amongst the sand and brown grass stems
Image credit: Julia Galben

Dune Stinkhorn

The dune stinkhorn is, as the scientific name Phallus hadriani suggests, an interesting looking fungus. It starts off life as an ‘egg’ before the fruiting body erupts out, bringing with it the putrid smell through which it earned its common name. If you’re out looking for stinkhorns the immature egg is brown, mottled and usually partially buried in the sand. The mature fruiting body has a white stem and a dark brown cap with a honeycomb structure and an olive-green sticky coating. This photo was taken at Studland.

You can see dune stinkhorns between June and October and they've been reported in Formby, Cromer and Cardigan.

A fungus with an olive green cap and white stem can be seen in front of brown dying grass
Image credit: Julia Galbenu

Dune Waxcap

Dune waxcaps can be found along much of the UK coastline and prefer sandy soils with short grass. They have yellow stems which can have some blackening with age and their caps can range between orange, yellow and red.  Dune waxcaps are edible but due to the amount of sand found in their gills people tend to avoid them! You can find these mushrooms at many of our sites, including Morfa Bychan.

You can spot dune waxcaps between August and November.

Do not use this guide to identify edible fungi and never eat a mushroom that has not been confirmed as an edible species.

A person is holding an tan-orange coloured mushroom in their hand. Soil can be seen hanging from the bottom of the mushroom
Image credit: Emma Brisdion

Puffballs

Puffball mushrooms are very common and there are several species to be found in and around the UK. Common and meadow puffballs can be found on dunes, around dune slacks and stable areas of grassland. Look out for white, club-shaped, cap-less fungi covered with pointy warts for common puffballs and the meadow puffball can be slightly browner in colour. Puffballs are likely to be found at many of our sites as they're common all around the UK coast, but have been spotted at Oxwich.

Common puffballs can be seen between July and November and meadows can be seen from June to October.

A cream coloured mushroom covered in spikes is held in the palm of the hand
Image credit: Emma Brisdion

Black Earthtongue

Poking out of the ground like a gruesome tongue, the black earthtongue is not your average fungi. You can find them in dune slacks and areas with sandy soil and poor nutrient content but look closely, their fruiting bodies only grow 1-5cm tall. Earthtongues have been reportedly found at Studland, Dorset and Sandscale Haws, Cumbria.

You can spot black earthtongues from June to November and there's been lots of reports along the South Wales and Norfolk coastlines.

A small black, bulbous fungi grows out of the sand
Image credit: Julia Galbenu
Comms officer Emma Waldron sits smiling on a rock by the coast

About the Author

Emma Waldron
Communications Officer, Dynamic Dunescapes

After studying wildlife ecology and conservation at university, I joined the world of communications via zoos and spent a few years working in bird of prey conservation, before joining the Dynamic Dunescapes project. I'm passionate about connecting people with stories and knowledge that'll empower them to make a difference and learn more about our natural world.