From a fungus that oozes ‘blood’ to a bat that cloaks itself like Dracula: These are some of the weird and wonderful wildlife that can be found in British woods

  • The Woodland Trust has listed the weirdest creatures found in British woods
  • This includes a smelly, phallic fungus and bats that cloak themselves like Dracula
  • It comes as the charity call for greater protection of woodlands in the country 
  • A report found that only 7 per cent are currently in good ecological condition

If you go down in the woods today, you might be in for a big surprise.

This is because the British woodlands are home to a host of weird and wonderful wildlife, including a ‘blood’-oozing fungus and ducks that can leap from 30-foot trees.

The Woodland Trust has released a list of some of the wackiest creatures this country hosts, like a beetle that lives in a cocoon made from its own dung.

It has been published after a recent report showed that only 7 per cent of the woods they call home are in good ecological condition.

The charity is calling for greater protection of their habitats, so we do not have to say goodbye to phallic-shaped fungi, or bats that cloak themselves like Dracula.

Alastair Hotchkiss, conservation adviser at the Woodland Trust, said: ‘Now more than ever before, with the climate change and biodiversity crises, do we need to protect and restore the UK’s natural environments.’

The beefsteak fungus (picture) has the appearance of a raw cut of meat, and even oozes a blood-like substance when cut 

The Goldeneye duck (pictured) nests in natural cavities or old woodpecker nests up in trees, mainly around the Cairngorms in Scotland 

THE WOODLAND TRUST’S LIST OF BRITAIN’S WEIRDEST WILDLIFE 

  • Phallus impudicus – Stinkhorn
  • Bucephala clangula – Goldeneye
  • Usnea articulata – String-of-sausages lichen
  • Fistulina hepatica – The beefsteak fungus
  • Zygodon forsteri – Knothole yoke-moss
  • Cryptocephalus coryli – Hazel pot beetle
  • Anaptychia ciliaris – Eagle’s claw lichen
  • Ctenophora flaveolata – Wasp-banded comb horn
  • Rhinolophus hipposideros – Lesser horseshoe bat
  • Pseudomarsupidium decipiens – Deceptive featherwort

He added: ‘These ten species are just the tip of the iceberg – or the mushroom poking up from the soil’s vast mycelial web – of secrets that our woodland habitats hold.

‘Every species can tell us a story, everything has a role to play, and we have so much still to learn. We must do our best to make sure we don’t lose them.’

Phallus impudicus – Stinkhorn

The pungent Stinkhorn fungus is usually smelt before it is seen, but its shape could make you clutch your pearls as well as your nose.

The genus name Phallus is a reference to its penis-like appearance and impudicus is Latin for ‘shameless’. 

In fact, it was so embarrassing for some Victorians – including Charles Darwin’s granddaughter Etty Darwin – that they famously attacked them before they could spread their spores.

The fungus can grow up to 10 inches tall (25 cm), smells of rotting flesh and has a ‘skirt’ above its stem. 

This sticky cap attaches its spores to the legs of insects who land on it. 

It was used in medieval times as a cure for gout and a love potion, while more recent scientific evidence points to potential medicinal use for venous thrombosis.

Bucephala clangula – Goldeneye 

The Goldeneye duck nests in natural cavities or old woodpecker nests up in trees, mainly around the Cairngorms in Scotland.

Its nesting strategy means day-old chicks have to hurl themselves from as high as 30 feet up the tree while their mother calls encouragement.

This is reminiscent of the opening scene of the 1995 James Bond film ‘GoldenEye’, where the iconic spy bungee dives off the dam at the Soviet Arkhangelsk. 

The birds first nested in Scotland in 1970, and since then have been attracted to specially designed boxes put up on trees close to water as they are scarce breeders.

In winter, diving ducks from Northern Europe migrate to roam across the UK.

The pungent Stinkhorn fungus (pictured) is usually smelt before it is seen, but its phallic shape could make you clutch your pearls as well as your nose



The Goldeneye duck’s strategy means day-old chicks have to hurl themselves from as high as 30 feet up the tree while their mother calls encouragement

This is reminiscent of the opening scene of the 1995 James Bond film ‘GoldenEye’, where the iconic spy bungee dives off the dam at the Soviet Arkhangelsk

Usnea articulata – String-of-sausages lichen

This unique lichen resembles a miniature string of sausages, as its larger stems grow into into inflated segments reminiscent of the barbecue favourite.

It can grow up to 100 cm (40 in) in length, and a 2015 study found that it also has anticancer properties against human lung and breast cancer cells.

It is extremely sensitive to air quality and is mainly restricted to places well away from the worst of industrial pollution .

These include cleaner areas in Dartmoor in Devon and south-west Wales, where ‘fairy butcher shops’ are draped over the branches of trees. 

Fistulina hepatica – The beefsteak fungus

This woodland fungus has the appearance of a raw cut of meat, and even oozes a blood-like substance when cut.

It has been used as a meat substitute in the past, and produces a sour and slightly acidic taste. 

The species is usually found in broadleaved woodland, on the trunks of oak trees and sometimes on stumps.

It is known an ‘ecosystem engineer’, hollowing out ancient trees and leaving the rot inside to provide food to bugs and fungi, and holes for nesting birds.

String of sausage lichen (pictured) resembles a miniature string of sausages, as its larger stems grow into into inflated segments reminiscent of the barbecue favourite

Zygodon forsteri – Knothole yoke-moss

The globally rare Knothole yoke-moss only survives at three sites in Britain due to reliance on the micro-habitats only provided by ancient and veteran trees.

These include the water-filled rot holes of ancient beech pollards in the New Forest, Epping and Burnham Beeches near London.

The Woodland Trust says the moss is a good example of how protecting ancient and veteran trees supports a host of other wildlife.

Cryptocephalus coryli – Hazel pot beetle

The Hazel pot beetle is one of the UK’s rarest insects as it is reliant on wooded ‘ecotones’.

These are areas where dense forests transition to more open vegetation with scrub, heath and scattered trees.

Sherwood Forest, the legendary home of Robin Hood, is one of the only known remaining sites for the once widespread beetle.

It creates a protective pot or cocoon to lay eggs and keep larvae in that it has created using its own faeces.

The globally rare Knothole yoke-moss (pictured) only survives at three sites in Britain due to reliance on the micro-habitats only provided by ancient and veteran trees

The Hazel pot beetle (pictured) is one of the UK’s rarest insects as it is reliant on wooded ‘ecotones’. These are areas where dense forests transition to more open vegetation with scrub, heath and scattered trees

Anaptychia ciliaris – Eagle’s claw lichen 

This lichen looks like the talons of an eagle clinging to a tree trunk, as it has long curved eyelash-like structures on the margins of its lobes.

It was once common in the UK before it was hit by the loss of elms to Dutch elm disease that resulted in an up to 80 per cent decline since the 1980s.

The lichen is also sensitive to air pollution, from acidic sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxides to excessive enrichment from ammonia.

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

Ctenophora flaveolata – Wasp-banded comb horn

The wasp-banded comb horn is a harmless species of cranefly, but mimics something more like a wasp that could bring a nasty sting.

It is found in old wooded landscapes where its larvae live in the decaying wood in big, old trees.

It is scarce in England and even rarer in Wales, where it is a priority for conservation action.

The Eagle’s claw lichen (pictured) looks like the talons of an eagle clinging to a tree trunk, as it has long curved eyelash-like structures on the margins of its lobes

The wasp-banded comb horn is a harmless species of cranefly, but mimics something more like a wasp that could bring a nasty sting 

Rhinolophus hipposideros – Lesser horseshoe bat

This unique bat has a horseshoe-shaped nose that is thought to focus the echolocation pulses that it emits to find its prey.

At rest, it hangs upside down and cloaks its plum-size body in its wings, reminiscent of the famous vampire Dracula. 

It enjoys the cover and abundance of its prey – small moths, midges and mosquitoes – provided by the woods.

But, unlike many bats which roost inside trees, these mainly roost in caves, mines and stately homes in well-wooded landscapes.

They are now rare in the UK, partially due to insecticides and starvation as a result of their low body mass with small fat reserves.

Pseudomarsupidium decipiens – Deceptive featherwort

This shiny liverwort grows in loose cushions on the side of rocks in very humid or boulder-strewn woodlands in western Britain and Ireland.

The British localities of the species – which is also found in the tropics – are its most northerly sites.

It lives in the rare temperate rainforests which are under a multitude of threats, from air pollution to invasive rhododendron.


The lesser horseshoe bat (left) has a horseshoe-shaped nose that is thought to focus the echolocation pulses that it emits to find its prey. At rest, it hangs upside down and cloaks its plum-size body in its wings, reminiscent of the famous vampire Dracula (right – stock image)

The Deceptive featherwort (pictured) grows in loose cushions on the side of rocks in very humid or boulder-strewn woodlands in western Britain and Ireland

The Woodland Trust has set a goal to map every ancient tree by 2030, and triple the area of native woodland deemed to be in good condition.

This will help reduce the risks of pests and disease towards British flora and fauna, as well as preserving their habitats.

Mr Hotchkiss added: ‘Many species are on the brink of UK extinction, like the knothole yoke moss and hazel pot beetle. 

‘They cling on in a few remaining woods, facing habitat destruction, climate change, pollution and could disappear within years without conservation efforts. 

‘But we also can’t take widespread species for granted, as they can vanish alarmingly quickly, like the eagle’s claw lichen.

‘All is not lost though. We can reverse a decline in nature. 

‘We addressed sulphur dioxide pollution and this is helping some species to recover like the string of sausages lichen which is now moving back to places it hasn’t been seen for hundreds of years. So there is some hope.’

How over 400 British species have become extinct over the past 200 years 

Britain has lost almost half of its biodiversity since the Industrial Revolution and more than 400 species over the last 200 years. 

Plus, a further 1,188 could follow over the next century unless rapid action is taken to reverse the impact of humanity and man-made climate change.

Of the 8,431 species in Great Britain that have been assessed by conservationists, 13 per cent have been classified as threatened with extinction.

That includes 440 plants (18 per cent), 232 fungi and lichens (15 per cent), 111 vertebrates (40 per cent) and 405 invertebrates (12 per cent). 

Since 1970 alone, 133 species have been lost, from ants, bees, beetles, butterflies and dragonflies, to fish, fleas, fungi, mammals, moths, shrimps, spiders and wasps. 

Experts now say more than a quarter of the UK’s 107 species of mammal are at risk of extinction, while 68 of the fish species found in Britain are on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) red list.

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