Dozens fined for illegal mushroom picking in London

Some illicit pickers caught with more than 5kg of fungi and one confiscated bag weighed 49kg

Fungi grow on the trunk of a tree in Epping Forest on 25 October, 2008 in London, England.  People have been fined a total of £2,000 for illegally picking mushrooms in the forest.
Fungi grow on the trunk of a tree in Epping Forest on 25 October, 2008 in London, England. People have been fined a total of £2,000 for illegally picking mushrooms in the forest.

Dozens of people have been fined a total of more than £2,000 for illegally picking wild mushrooms.

The City of London Corporation (CLC) said it has given out £80 fixed penalty notices to 27 people caught picking fungi in Epping Forest in Essex alone over the past 12 months.

Some illicit pickers were caught with more than 5kg of the mushrooms, with one confiscated bag weighing 49kg.

Epping Forest Keepers, meanwhile, often have to issue verbal warnings to mushroom pickers, the CLC said.

The fungi are protected under Epping Forest bylaws, with the site itself being designated a “Site of Special Scientific Interest” and a “Special Area of Conservation”.

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In addition to being illegal, CLC warned that removing the mushrooms could risk damaging the forest’s ecology.

“Fungi are vital to the health of the site’s ancient trees, some of which are up to 1,000 years old, as particular species protect their roots, and provide them with water and vital minerals,” the CLC said.

The organisation said mushrooms are being sold to restaurants and markets, which not only impacts the trees, but also removes a food source for animals, such as deer.

“Fungi play an incredibly important role in the delicate balance of biodiversity which makes Epping Forest special,” Graeme Doshi-Smith, Chairman of the CLC’s Epping Forest and Commons Committee, said in a statement.

“Stripping the ancient woodland of mushrooms damages its wildlife and threatens rare species,” he said.

He also warned that many varieties of mushrooms are “dangerous for human consumption and can indeed be fatal”.

“We welcome the millions of people who come to enjoy this protected site,” he said. However, Mr Doshi-Smith said he would “urge visitors to leave the fungi how they find them - untouched”.

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