GANGS believed to be picking mushrooms commercially and selling them to restaurants in London are threatening Sussex heathland.
It is a problem that has been growing over the last few years and with the start of a new mushroom season concerns have been voiced about the threat to species on Stedham and Iping Commons.
We believe they are being picked for commercial use, which is illegal, and being sold to restaurants in London
Sussex Wildlife Trust has been forced to take action by posting notices and appealing to restaurants to be wary of where they buy their supplies.
Jane Willmott the trust’s reserve officer for Iping and Stedham Commons said: “We have been experiencing problems with groups of people coming on to the nature reserves and collecting buckets full of mushrooms for the past few years.
“With the onset of ‘mushroom season’ it has started up again and I am very concerned about the effect this is having on such an important area of heathland which carries a Site of Special Scientific designation.
“We know this is not the case of a few individuals picking a few mushrooms for their own use as the groups that come to the reserve are picking everything they see regardless of whether it is suitable for human consumption or not.
“We believe they are being picked for commercial use, which is illegal, and being sold to restaurants in London.
She said mushrooms and other fungi played a vital role as part of the natural process to keep the land healthy for the wildlife living there.
“The mushrooms seen above ground are the fruiting bodies necessary for reproduction and by completely denuding the reserves of them it puts the future of these species at risk.
“We have put up signs asking people not to pick them and appeal to local and national restaurants to check where mushrooms offered to them are sourced before buying them.” The problem of commercial gangs leaving a trail of destruction has also grown in other ancient woodland across the country including Epping and the New Forest where fungus groups say pickers are dropped from a bus and go line abreast collecting edible and poisonous fungi.
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