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Published on November 10th, 2010 | by Rachel Shulman


How to Forage for Wild Mushrooms Without Damaging Forest Ecosystems

A recent story in the Guardian suggested that wild mushroom foragers – especially commercial collectors – are damaging forest ecosystems in the UK. Even though small-scale collecting generally has little impact on ecosystems, you should still be mindful of forest ecology when you go into the woods to forage.

Here are some tips on how to harvest wild mushrooms (and other wild foods) responsibly:

  • Adhere to the rules and regulations of the natural areas where you are foraging. Check out the site’s website and state regulations before beginning a foraging expedition. When you encounter a sign denoting a sensitive ecosystem or a research experiment in progress, avoid that area.
  • Only collect as many mushrooms as you will personally use.
  • Don’t forage with large groups of people. The more people that are off-trail at a given time in a certain location, the higher the probability of trampling native vegetation.
  • Clean your boots and outerwear before foraging in a new area. Seeds from invasive plants often hitchhike on boots and clothing. It’s also a good idea to power-wash your car tires if you’ve been driving through areas with invasive plants. Pick your horse’s hooves if you’re traveling by horseback.
  • Go foraging with an experienced mushroom hunter. He or she can show you how to safely navigate off-trail and how to properly harvest mushrooms.

Image courtesy of Shira Golding via a Creative Commons license.

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About the Author

I'm an ecologist turned journalist turned farmer-in-training. I'm currently working on an organic farm and creamery in Illinois. Follow me on twitter (, friend me on Facebook (!/profile.php?id=3105709), or follow me on StumbleUpon (

2 Responses to How to Forage for Wild Mushrooms Without Damaging Forest Ecosystems

  1. Langdon Cook says:

    That Guardian story made the rounds here in the U.S. and gave many of us New World foragers a laugh. While your mileage may vary in the UK, it’s our experience over here that *rapacious logging for short-term profit* does more harm to the forest ecosystem than a relatively small band of mushroom hunters…

    • Rachel Shulman says:

      Very true. Mushroom hunting probably doesn’t even make the top 500 list of threats to forest ecosystems.

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