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Woodland wonders: From curry-scented mushrooms to ‘Mr Whippy’ spiders

The Woodland Trust has revealed its top 10 list of creatures, fungi, lichen and mould hidden in UK woods.

Tree lungwort has properties for destroying disease-causing prions (Alastair Hotchkiss/Woodland Trust/PA)
Tree lungwort has properties for destroying disease-causing prions (Alastair Hotchkiss/Woodland Trust/PA)

A mushroom that smells of curry powder and a spider whose egg sack looks like a whippy ice cream are among the hidden wonders lurking in woodlands, experts have said.

The Woodland Trust has selected its top 10 weird and wonderful creatures, fungi and lichen that are found in UK woods but people may never have seen or heard of.

They also include a bright yellow slug, a fungus that changes the sex of the plants it lives on and slime moulds that can find their way round a maze.

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Curry milkcaps smell strongly of curry powder as they dry (Alastair Hotchkiss/Woodland Trust/PA)

Alastair Hotchkiss, conservation adviser at the Woodland Trust, said: “Many people love to visit our woodlands for a relaxing walk and will be used to seeing common critters like blackbirds, bumblebees or perhaps a badger.

“However, take a peak a little closer and there are in fact many, often hidden, but remarkable stories being played out within our woodlands.

“Picking 10 was not easy as our woodlands have many more tales to tell.”

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The ‘Mr Whippy’ spider lays eggs sacks which look like ice-cream (Woodland Trust/PA)

The Woodland Trust’s top 10 hidden wonder of the woods are:

1 The curry milkcap (Lactarius camphoratus): A small brownish-red mushroom that delivers a rich smell of curry powder as it begins to dry.

2 Lemon slug (Malacolimax tenellus): An ancient woodland slug, so named due to its bright yellow appearance, which lives underground most of the year but heads out to eat big mushrooms in late summer and autumn.

3 Mr Whippy spider (Paidiscura pallens): This tiny yellow spider lays its egg sack on the underside of oak leaves and it looks like a whippy ice cream.

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Campion anther smut (Alastair Hotchkiss/Woodland Trust/PA)

4 Campion anther smut fungus (Microbotryum lycnhidis-dioicae): A fungus that produces spores on the anthers of red campion flowers so pollinators transport its spores, and it also changes the sex of the campion plants so they are all male.

5 Tree lungwort (Lobaria pulmonaria):  The name lungwort dates from when it was thought to have medicinal properties for respiratory ailments but more recently this lichen has been found to contain compounds that break down the prion proteins of currently incurable diseases such as BSE and CJD.

6 Log-jam hoverfly (Chalcosyrphus eunotus): This spring hoverfly sits on sunlit log-jams, an important habitat in woodland streams and a form of natural flood management, where their larvae munch through the soft wet wood.

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The yellow-necked mouse is also on the list (Anne-Marie Kalus/Woodland Trust/PA)

7 Wasp spider (Argiope bruennichi): The wasp spider looks like a common wasp, keeping it safe from predators, even though it is not dangerous itself. It can be found in southern England but is spreading north.

8 Yellow necked mouse (Apodemus flavicollis): Closely related to the wood mouse, the yellow-necked mouse was only recognised as a separate species in 1834. It has a band of yellow fur on the neck and is common in ancient woodlands.

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Slime mould has a ‘memory’ (Alastair Hotchkiss/Woodland Trust/PA)

9 Slime mould: A single-celled organism with neither neurons nor brains but scientific research has suggested it has an external “memory”, leaving a slime trail which tells it where it has been before so it can successfully explore its surroundings and even navigate a maze.

10 Hawfinch (Coccothraustes coccothraustes): This is the UK’s largest finch, with an enormous bill powerful enough to crush a cherry stone but it is elusive and people rarely spot one, especially during the summer nesting season.

PA

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