Top 10 weirdest and rarest woodland wildlife to get you in the mood for an autumnal walk


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Photograph of beefsteak fungus (Fistulina hepatica) issued by Woodland Trust.

If you go down into the forest today, you might see a fungus oozing “blood” or a beetle living in a cocoon of its own dung.

The Woodland Trust has published a list of some of the weird and wonderful wildlife found in the woods, including some that are much more common – and rarer – in Wales.

They range from a stinky, phallus-shaped mushroom that some Victorians attacked with clubs out of embarrassment, to ducks that nest in trees, to a cranefly disguising itself as a “wasp”.

The list was released after a recent report by the charity showed that wildlife in forests is declining and only 7% of the country’s forests are in good ecological status.

Alastair Hotchkiss, Conservation Adviser at Woodland Trust, said: “Now more than ever in the face of climate change and the biodiversity crisis, we need to protect and restore Britain’s natural environment.

“These 10 species are just the tip of the iceberg – or the fungus emerging from the vast mycelial web of soil – of secrets our forest habitats hold.

“Each species has a story to tell us, everything matters and we still have so much to learn. We have to do our best to make sure we don’t lose her.”

The 10 examples of weird and wonderful woodland creatures are:

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Photo issued by Woodland Trust of a banded wasp (Ctenophora flaveolata) comb horn.

Wasp crested crest (Ctenophora flaveolata)

This is a species you will see less frequently in Wales – and you might be happy to hear that!

A harmless species of cranefly, it mimics more of a wasp, which can bring a nasty sting and is found in old growth woodland where its larvae live in the rotting wood of large, old trees.

It is rare in England and even rarer in Wales where it is a priority for conservation efforts.

Photo issued by Woodland Trust of sausage lichen (Usnea articula).

Sausage braid (Usnea articulate)

This lichen, which resembles a miniature string of sausages and has anti-cancer properties, is an organism you’re more likely to encounter in Wales than anywhere else in the UK.

Because it’s extremely sensitive to air pollution, it’s mostly confined to cleaner areas like south-west Wales, where “fairy butcher shops” are draped across the branches of the trees.

Photo issued by Woodland Trust of a stinkhorn (Phallus impudicus).

Stinkhorn (Phallus impudicus)

This pungent mushroom is usually smelled before it is seen, but its phallic shape so embarrassed some Victorians that they attacked it with clubs.

It was used in the Middle Ages as a remedy for gout and as a love potion, while recent scientific evidence suggests potential medicinal uses for venous thrombosis.

Photo issued by Woodland Trust of knothole yoke moss (Zygodon forsteri).

Knotty moss (Zygodon forsteri)

If you spot this world-rare moss in Wales, tell a naturalist.

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This world-rare moss is only known to survive at three sites in the British Isles, living in the water-filled rot holes of ancient living trees such as:

According to the Woodland Trust, the moss is a good example of how protecting ancient and veteran trees supports a variety of other wildlife.

Photograph issued by Woodland Trust of a Goldeneye (Bucephala clangula).

Goldeye (Bucephala clangula)

A duck nesting in natural burrows or an old woodpecker nesting in trees, mainly around the Cairngorms in Scotland.

Its nesting strategy means that day-old chicks – like James Bond’s leap from the dam in the opening scene of the film Goldeneye – must pounce up the tree from a height of 30 feet while their mother calls for encouragement.

Beefsteak Mushroom. Image by Henk Monster (CC BY 3.0).

The beefsteak fungus (Fistulina hepatic)

This forest mushroom looks like a raw piece of meat and even secretes a blood-like substance when cut.

The fungus is an “ecosystem engineer,” hollowing out old trees and leaving the rot inside to provide food for bugs and fungi and holes for nesting birds.

Photo issued by Woodland Trust of a hazelnut pot beetle (Cryptocephalus coryli).

Hazel pot beetle (Cryptocephalus coryli)

This is one of Britain’s rarest insects and Sherwood Forest, the legendary home of Robin Hood, is one of the few known remaining sites for the once widespread beetle.

It creates a pot or cocoon to lay eggs and keep in it larvae it created with its own feces.

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Photo issued by the Woodland Trust of eagle’s claw lichen (Anaptychia ciliaris).

Eagle claw lichen (Anaptychia ciliaris)

This lichen, which looks like the claws of an eagle clinging to a tree trunk, has been hit by the loss of elm trees to Dutch elm disease, as well as air pollution.

It is now facing loss of trees to the ash dieback and is limited to only a few spots, mainly in south-west England and the Welsh borders.

Photograph issued by Woodland Trust of a lesser horseshoe bat (Rhinolophus hipposideros).

Lesser horseshoe bat (Rhinolophus hipposideros)

This bat likes the cover and abundance of its prey—small moths, gnats, and gnats—in forests.

But unlike many tree-roosting bats, horseshoes mostly reside in caves, mines, and mansions in wooded landscapes, hanging Dracula-style with wings wrapped around their bodies.

Photo issued by Woodland Trust of Deceptive featherwort (Pseudomarsupidium decipiens).

Deceptive featherweed (Pseudomarsupidium decipiens)

This glossy liverwort grows in loose clumps on rocks in very wet or boulder-strewn forests in western Britain and Ireland.

The species’ UK localities – which are also found in the tropics – are their northernmost locations, found in our rare temperate rain forests, which face a variety of threats from air pollution to invasive rhododendrons.


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