Collecting Fungi

Information in this section has been adapted from Iliffe, R., (ed. 2004, emend 2008 ), Guidance Notes: Collecting and recording fungi, published by the British Mycological Society, and also from English Nature, (1998), The Conservation of Wild Mushrooms. However, the view expressed here is of SFSG and may not necessarily be that of the BMS or of Natural England which succeeded English Nature.                                


No fungi should be collected without permission from the landlord. Even where managed land is open to the public, it is essential to obtain permission of the manager of the land if collecting fungi is intentional. Some open spaces are nature reserves, SSSI or subject to local bye-laws, in which case collecting specimens will very probably be further restricted.

Four species of fungi are legally protected from collection even for scientific purposes (Schedule 8 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, England, Scotland and Wales). The species covered are Hericium erinaceum (Bearded Tooth), Piptoporus quercinus (Oak Polypore), Boletus regius (Royal Bolete) and Battarrea phalloides (Sandy Stiltball). Should you find a fungus suspected to be one of these four species, please do not collect it nor broadcast the fact but contact us immediately. 30 specifically named lichens are also protected under the same Schedule.

It is prohibited to possess fungi which contain the hallucinogenic substance psilocybin with intent to use or supply them as “magic mushrooms” (Section 21 of Drugs Act 2005).

[Exception – You are not committing an offence if they grow in your property naturally. It is not necessary to flood your property with fungicide, which will have a harmful effect on the other organisms. You are not committing an offence either by collecting a specimen and holding it for disposal or delivery to a person who can lawfully take custody of them, e.g. licensed staff at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, so far as you intend to do so in time which is reasonably practicable.]

Collecting Fungi in Surrey

Located in SE England, most areas in Surrey tend to remain rather dry throughout the year. Toadstools and brackets do not often fruit in abundance as in northern or western parts of UK. As they are important natural elements on which life and death of many other organisms are dependent [Our Aims] we must take good care of their presence in our local environment. We would like to encourage the people to recognise and appreciate the fungi as wonderful organisms with important roles in UK countryside, objects of natural beauty, and subjects of modern scientific study, and not just simply as food sources to be harvested, eaten and forgotten.

Recently, there have been numerous incidents in parks and nature reserves in London and Surrey, where unknown culprits stole a quantity of edible fungi. Reflecting this and in the interests of conservation, some landlords and local authorities have become reluctant to grant access to field mycologists to collect specimens.

However, the current scientific view, given that fungi form an essential part of any ecosystem, is that it is vital for a manager to obtain fungal data for the land which he/she manages in order to enhance and increase its biodiversity, conservation value and thus in most cases its value as an estate. Such a survey of fungi should be undertaken only by experienced mycologists and should not be left to a wild-food collector who promises to provide a short list of fungi names found during his/her cooking courses, as such a list would almost certainly be of little scientific value.

Our advice to local managers is that they might consider clarifying the purpose of permits which they are to issue to fungi collectors, clearly stating that it is either (1) “for study purposes only” or (2) “for consumption”. We hope that any conservation organization would be extremely careful before issuing a permit (2).

Concise guidelines for mycologists collecting specimens

Abide by laws, bye-laws and the Country Code.

Minimise disturbance. If logs have to be rolled over ensure that they are turned back to their former position.

Minimum quantities should be collected but enough for valid identification.

Avoid collecting the same species from the same location repeatedly with no particular purpose.

If you are given permission to collect only for a scientific purpose, do not collect for the pot!

For more comprehensive explanation see

(Mariko Parslow)