Hygrocybe miniata is a cosmopolitan species, i.e., a worldwide distribution. The basidiocarps are typically coloured anywhere from vibrant red to pale orange; few of these grow to more than 7 cm (~2.5 in.) in height. The generic name Hygrocybe originates from the Greek words “moist” and “head”, while the specific epithet suggests “red-coloured”. This genus comprises around 150 recognized species of often brightly-coloured agarics, some of which are considered to be edible.
In the field, vermilion waxcap can prove difficult to identify due both to its similarity to some other Hygrocybe species and its morphological variability. Taxonomic classification of fungi without the help of genetic tools is no easy task; it took mycologists 50 years after Hygrocybe miniata was first described to assign it to its current genus. Although it’s difficult to identify on macroscopic features alone, the vermilion waxcap is one of few species in the Hygrophoraceae with a scurfy-textured, rather than greasy-textured, cap.
The colours and forms of fungi around the world can seem almost impossible to believe. I urge BPotD readers to check out Ken Beath’s other photos on his Flickr page (link) to see the amazing diversity of fungi he has encountered in Australia. I appreciate the unique perspectives achieved through macro photography of the microenvironments and organisms that often go unnoticed. Particular scenes that I am keen to photograph one day are those showing close-ups of mushrooms that almost resemble trees in a forest.
Several webpages seem to agree that the total number of fungal species in Australia is estimated to be around 250,000, of which only 5% are currently described. The Wikipedia page dedicated to the fungi of Australia also mentions that “at governmental level, scientific neglect of Australian fungi continues”…due to the fact that fungi are merely mentioned once as a photo caption in the National Biodiversity Conservation Strategy (PDF) currently in place for Australia until 2030.