Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire Wildlife Trust

The Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire Wildlife Trust is appealing to people not to pick mushrooms in its nature reserves after groups were seen roaming around reserves filling plastic bags with the fungus on a commercial scale.

The charity, which operates 86 nature reserves across the three counties, does not object to people foraging on any land when they get permission from the landowner, but has stressed it does not allow the activity on any of the sites it manages.

Roger Stace, the trust’s lands manager, says: “I’ve seen a lot of fungi that were obviously cut off, and a lot left upside down, so I suspect people were picking at them, realized they weren’t edible and left them.”

Members of the public have also reported seeing teams of people swarming the reserves with large transport bags.

“We see this problem every fall but I think it was worse last year and we definitely have more reports.

I suspect this is due in part to the cost of living crisis. I also fear that commercial foragers will sell the stolen fungi to restaurants.”

Although mushrooms and toadstools are just the “fruiting body” of the fungus and picking them does not kill the organism, it can cause other problems.

For example, it can prevent fungi from releasing their spores to keep the population healthy.

“We’re fortunate to have some incredibly rare fungi in our nature reserves,” says Stace, “and if people aren’t trained they can pick and destroy these rare species.

“On a commercial level, some untrained mushroom pickers take everything they see and someone else sorts them afterward and throws out what they don’t want, including potentially toxic mushrooms.

“That in itself is a very sad state of affairs, but if people do this year after year, you can destroy the precious collections of amazing fungi that we and our volunteers have worked for decades to protect, such as hedgehog mushrooms, death caps, wax caps and plums and custards.

“Fungi also provide food for other wildlife, so if you pick everything you remove is a food source for mammals, birds, insects and other invertebrates. Even other fungi depend on fungi: some types of fungi grow on other mushrooms and frogs and those can be particularly rare.”

Fungi also make use of their environment in more complex ways: all above-ground mushrooms and toadstools are the product of a large, intricate network of root-like hyphae below the surface.

Most fungi are also symbiotic with trees or other plants, sharing nutrients, water, and energy.

These webs of threads can stretch over vast areas in fields and woodlands, sharing resources and even communicating with thousands of other plants and fungi and interacting with countless animals.

These sprawling networks can be so vast that scientists have coined the phrase “Wood-Wide Web” to talk about the natural Internet-like system of communication.

The trust is also concerned about people wandering off footpaths to pick mushrooms, which could damage wild habitats that nature reserves are specifically designed to protect.

Mr Stace says: “We aim to protect and restore nature and inspire people about the amazing natural world. We want people to come to our nature reserves and enjoy the wildlife we ​​have there, including all the wonderful rare and unusual species you wouldn’t see in a local park or on farmland or other parts of the countryside.

“We know most people feel exactly the same and that’s why we want to remind people that if you’re going to take anything in our nature reserves, make it a photo and leave the beautiful wildlife for others to enjoy.”

Hughes House

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