I came across this attractive fungus – Plicatura crispa – on some beech deadwood when carrying out some tree work over winter.
Plicatura crispa is a saprotrophic or ‘recycler’ fungus, meaning that it breaks down deadwood. Fungi are the only group of organisms that can break down lignin in wood and without them we would be buried under many metres of woody debris. They also play a vital role in driving the carbon cycle, releasing nutrients that they don’t require back into the immediate environment.
I later found out that this particular species was included in Bruce Ing’s 1992 provisional red list of fungi for its rarity, but a later evaluation by Shelley Evans for the 2007 red list showed that the species had increased its range significantly and was therefore not included in the revised red list. Reasons for its decline and sudden resurgence are unknown but some believe it could have been down to lead pollution.