At the recent national symposium on Waxcap fungi, a number of speakers, including my dear friend Ted Green, raised the issue of illegal picking of, or foraging for, edible mushrooms. Whilst on many sites this is legal, on for example, Royal Parks with appropriate bye-laws, it is not. Culprits if apprehended may be fined and , importantly their ‘haul‘ and any associated equipment can be confiscated and destroyed.
The problem is not the carefully harvesting of a few choice specimens for the pot, (importantly so long as you know which species are safe to eat!!), but the broad-scale, destructive, commercial harvesting for posh restaurants and often with a huge amount of collateral, wasteful damage to inedible mushrooms picked almost at random to be discarded later. The business end of the fungus is in the soil or in the wood of living and dead trees, the ‘mushroom‘ is the equivalent of a flower or seed head. Taking a few should not be a problem but too many may affect fungus dispersal to new sites.
The over-collection from sites across the UK, mainly woodland and grasslands, and often specially protected sites, is now believed to be a cause for serious concern as some highly sought species have declined worryingly. Sites affected include many owned and managed by the National Trust, by the Forestry Commission or the Woodland Trust.
It was this in mind that the attached articles caught my eye. One, from the Metro newspaper, was of a collector apprehended and fined for stealing Her Majesty’s mushrooms from Richmond Park. The other, from the Sun, was about the discovery of so-called ‘magic mushrooms’ in the Queen’s garden at Buckingham Palace. Whilst Alan Tichmarsh expressed amazement, and the papers loved it, this is not really so unexpected. More to follow………!