A vermilion waxycap stands out among the forest floor debris at Gaines' Mill
Richmond National Battlefield Park is home to a diverse fungal population. The park's forests with their many wetlands, streams, and seeps create a protected, moisture-rich environment well suited to fungal growth. Mushrooms, as well as other fungi, play an important role in the park ecosystem. These organisms get their energy through the break down of organic materials, and in the process return valuable nutrients to the soil. This is especially important in older forests, such as at Gaines' Mill, where growth depends heavily on the availability of soil nutrients.
In addition to being important recyclers in the park ecosystem, mushrooms and other fungi can be very beautiful as well. Crown coral fungi, as the name suggests, resembles a tropical coral cluster growing among forest floor debris. The vermillion waxycap, with its bright red body and cap, is as colorful and attractive as any wildflower. These, as well as many other species of fungi, thrive in areas such as Malvern Hill where wetlands and seeps provide the constantly moist environment ideal for these organisms.
While the park's mushrooms and fungi may be very attractive, it is important to refrain from touching them because they are very fragile and because they may contain toxins.