The rare orchard tooth fungus has fruited at Awnell’s Farm, Herefordshire, showing that the regenerative farming practices used across the 220-acre grassland are helping to reverse the decline in British biodiversity, according to the Countryside Restoration Trust (CRT).

The fungus, which only grows on old apple trees near the end of their life, is a ‘vulnerable’ UKBAP (Biodiversity Action Plan) species that is in decline across the UK. It is thriving at Awnell’s Farm because the apple trees which are within a traditional cider orchard are allowed to grow old and their deadwood is retained. This is in contrast to more intensive practices where trees are frequently replaced. The orchard is therefore not only a haven for British biodiversity but is also profitable, producing apples and perry pears that are used to produce cider and perry locally.

Ruth Moss, Herefordshire Wildlife Monitoring Officer at the CRT, said: “I am pleased to celebrate this year’s UK Fungus Day with a good news story. If we allow our natural world to grow and thrive, then rare British species will do so too, like the orchard tooth fungus. The Awnell’s Farm orchard is home to 80-year-old apple trees and 300 to 400-year-old pear trees that encourage rich ecosystems, capture carbon from the atmosphere – and produce delicious cider! The orchard is also home to traditional Hereford cattle that graze and maintain the grass swards for part of the year. Regenerative farming practices such as this will help to reduce agriculture’s contribution to UK carbon emissions and reverse the precipitous decline in British biodiversity.”

Moss concluded: “I have discovered an abundance of wonderful fungi across CRT properties that point to the benefits of regenerative farming, including the dryad’s saddle that lives on decaying wood and recycles its nutrients. I have also found the pleated inkcap, characteristic of unimproved grass meadows, and yellow fieldcaps that live on old manure. We must find ways to make space for these fungi, which deserve a place in the farming ecosystem, alongside our crops and cattle.”