Velvet Shank

Velvet Shank ┬ęBen Cook

Velvet shank

Scientific name: Flammulina velutipes
The velvet shank can be found clustered on the dead and dying wood of deciduous trees, such as elm, ash, beech or oak. It has a bright orange cap and can be seen throughout winter.

Species information

Statistics

Cap diameter: 4-12cm
Stem height: up to 10cm

Conservation status

Common.

When to see

November to February

About

With its glossy, golden-orange caps, the velvet shank is quite commonly seen growing in clusters on stumps of decaying hard wood. It is also known as the 'Winter Mushroom' as it is one of the few mushrooms that can be seen throughout the winter months, right into early spring. The Latin name, Flammulina, refers to the bright orange, flame-like colour of the cap. Fungi belong to their own kingdom and get their nutrients and energy from organic matter, rather than photosynthesis like plants. It is often just the fruiting bodies, or 'mushrooms', that are visible to us, arising from an unseen network of tiny filaments called 'hyphae'. These fruiting bodies produce spores for reproduction, although fungi can also reproduce asexually by fragmentation.

How to identify

The velvet shank displays fleshy, yellow-orange caps that are convex at first, but become flatter, more irregular and undulating with age. The surface of the caps is smooth and quite slimy when wet, and they have a faintly striated margin. The gills are white to pale yellow. The stem is rich reddish-brown and quite velvety at the base.

Distribution

Widespread.

Did you know?

The velvet shank relies on dead wood, but the importance of this habitat for wildlife is often overlooked: to keep a place 'neat', mature and ageing trees may be removed and fallen dead wood cleared away. By keeping dead wood in your garden, you can encourage all kinds of fungi to grow, in turn, attracting the wildlife that depends upon it.

How people can help

Fungi play an important role within our ecosystems, helping to recycle nutrients from dead or decaying organic matter, and providing food and shelter for different animals. The Wildlife Trusts manage many nature reserves sympathetically for the benefit of all kinds of wildlife, including fungi: you can help by supporting your local Trust and becoming a member. Our gardens are also a vital resource for wildlife, providing corridors of green space between open countryside. Try leaving log piles and dead wood to help fungi and the wildlife that depends on it. To find out more about encouraging wildlife into your garden, visit our Wild About Gardens website: a joint initiative with the RHS.