Illegal mushroom pickers in Epping Forest issued warning

Measuring over 6,000 acres, Epping Forest is the largest open space in London. Credit: PA Images

Foragers are being asked not to pick mushrooms in Epping Forest to safeguard its delicate ecological balance.

The City of London Corporation, which conserves the ancient woodland, says fungi are vital to the health of Epping Forest’s one million trees. 55,000 of these are ancient, reaching up to 1,000 years of age.

Fungi play an important role in protecting the roots of trees, providing them with water and vital minerals.

Epping Forest is a Site of Special Scientific Interest and a Special Area of Conservation and one of the few remaining extensive natural woodlands in southern England. It is home to a over 400 fungi species, some of which are of national importance.

There are 440 endangered fungi species in Epping Forest. Credit: PA Images

All 440 endangered fungi species are rare and scarce wood-loving fungi, and picking damages the valuable forest biodiversity that has developed over the past 10,000 years.

They are also a valuable food source for animals such as deer and many rare insect species depend on them for survival.

Fungi are protected under Epping Forest byelaws, and the City Corporation has prosecuted nine people for bye-law breaches since 2022, with offenders receiving criminal records.

One person was caught with a 49kg haul, equivalent to multiple large black sacks.

Epping Forest lies on a ridge between the valleys of the rivers Lea and Roding. Credit: PA Images

Chairman of the City of London Corporation’s Epping Forest and Commons Committee, Ben Murphy, said:

“Fungi play a remarkably important role in the delicate balance of biodiversity which makes this ancient woodland so special.

“Picking mushrooms can seem harmless, but it actually damages our wildlife habitats and threatens rare species.

“We want people to come and enjoy our ancient woodland and experience these natural wonders for themselves, but I hope by explaining why Epping Forest's fungi is so unique, we can change behaviours and discourage foragers from this location.  If not, as Conservators, we are duty bound to take enforcement action."