Reasons not to pick mushrooms

Not to complain, but there are many cases where I feel we should all refrain from picking mushrooms. I do understand they are the fruiting body of a fungus, and they are open for several days to disperse spores. There are other concerns, however.

First, on a public trail, land, or open space, you are actually not allowed legally to pick anything nor take anything. Furthermore, many people would like to see the mushrooms growing and decomposing naturally, and as is, not picked and turned upside down. To do this in a public space is illegal and selfish to all other people trying to enjoy a natural area in its natural state. I dislike greatly when I hike a public trail and someone selfishly picked the mushrooms.

Picking anything in National Forest is illegal without a permit, and in a designated Wilderness it is especially bad. Picking mushrooms on private property is also illegal unless you have permission.

Use a small mirror to photograph them!


Any statement about legality is only meaningful if you specify the country/jurisdiction you’re referring to. Since you didn’t specify, I’ll assume you’re probably from the US like most of the internet. I’m from the UK, where it’s perfectly legal to forage for mushrooms and plants even on land you don’t own.


Yeah, it is very much location specific. Here is Canada I once had a warden in a provincial park tell me they could arrest and charge me if he saw me place my hand on a tree to balance myself while doing up the laces on my boots.


Picking mushrooms is legal in many (not all) federally owned lands in the US.

That said - I 10000% agree with everything else you said. If I’m out to enjoy nature, I wanna see the nature as it is, not destroyed by some selfish jerk. I actually had to leave a lot of mushroom groups because questions like this would get laughed at with replies like “I destroy every mushroom I find, just to p*** off the people that say I shouldn’t” and it made me too mad


that one sounds… person-specific


While there are certainly spaces where collecting of mushrooms is illegal, I think (based on personal experience in California, so YMMV) only in botanical and/or conservation areas is personal collection totally prohibited (as opposed to commercial, which is more restricted). I also believe (although am not certain and very open to clarification) picking in legal terms is meant to refer to the taking of the mushrooms, not the disruption of their stipes. I would suggest you would be very hard-pressed to distinguish between mushrooms that have been plucked/turned over by humans and those disrupted by squirrels and other animals. I’ve been many places where the odds of other humans having walked through are VERY LOW and seen mushrooms disturbed in ways that you might assume were from a human mushroom enthusiast. Squirrels love to pick them up and carry them off.

With all that said, best practices that I tend to follow are a) not plucking the mushroom if it’s the only one, but doing my best to find other ways to move around it to get photos for ID, and just picking one out of a group if there are multiple to flip for ID, and b) tucking its stipe back into the ground so it can continue spore dispersal etc. Unfortunately a mirror rarely allows for examination of volva, gill attachment, etc. But certainly it’s best to disrupt things as little as possible, and to restore them if you move anything.


Something can be technically true (which this is) yet still be utterly meaningless.

There are park wardens who get hired because they love the outdoors, nature and lifestyle, and some who get hired because the local mall cop gig was filled already.


i think laws related to foraging are quite interesting.

laws probably aren’t the best reason to base an arugment for not picking mushrooms though. i tend not to pick them myself, but picking doesn’t make me mad, as long as it’s done reasonably. (i wouldn’t want someone going through the forest kicking up all the mushrooms so that no organism benefits.)


I disagree. You evidently live in a country where there is not a strong traditional culture of foraging for food. Also, as has been mentioned, just because something is illegal where you live does not make it so elsewhere: you’re making assumptions that absolutely do not apply in other parts of the world.

I also hear people argue that one should not collect wild mushrooms because one might have an effect on the wild populations.

I disagree with this as well. In many cases, foraging is more sustainable than the known damage caused in the cultivation of those same species. This is so particulary of saprobic taxa.

That is not to say that specific taxa (especially mycorrhizal ones) have not been overcollected to the point of virtual extiction and are deserving of legal protection, which is a whole separate issue, and in my mind a more useful discussion to have.


Hahaha yes I’ve had cops on a power trip say similar things.


Something else to consider, many identification characteristics essentially require picking the mushroom: spore printing, gill photographs, color changes after damage, etc. Though this might be a feasible rule of thumb for many well known taxa, but I can’t imagine this working for more obscure taxa. Also, though this may cause some damage depending on the time picked, I imagine these negative effects can be mitigated by leaving the cap on site and slightly elevated from where it was. While this doesn’t alleviate the human experience of someone else coming to see and enjoy it, the natural harm seems minimal.


I usually don’t pick them, i usually get a gill shot from the underside using selfie mode on my phone, with the additional result of goofy pictures of my face appearing on lots of them. Sometimes they aren’t sufficient to be diagnostic, but other times they are. I have less issue with someone picking a mushroom and taking it home to do a spore print, personally, than I do with someone kicking one over to look at the gills (or out of spite !!) then just leaving it there.

Everything is location specific, culture specific, law specific, landowner specific, etc. Given this is a global forum there’s no real way to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to this. I am still very skeptical that there is any time were iNat use gets anywhere near the level of other human caused ecosystem stressors in terms of conservation concerns, but it’s worth having the conversation. And it’s worth just saying hey, if I don’t have a good reason to do so, i am not going to intentionally impact something.


It is only legal with a permit in the National Forest. That’s for edibles, and only for a small amount for personal use.

You need a permit.

Just check your local laws, but aesthetically, I still argue for a hands off approach.

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This is a tangent on the discussion.

Again, this doesn’t discuss whether or not to pick mushrooms. I’m not here to talk about law enforcement.

I suggest a mirror.

Yes it is, but this:

is not.


I’m going to point out what I pointed out in the “peeves” thread: sometimes you’re observing in places where you can be more than reasonably certain no one else was ever going to look at that mushroom in its brief period of undecomposed fleshiness.

Since there’s pretty much zero ecological basis for an objection except in a limited set of cases, anyone and everyone should exercise judgement in their own actions in regards to the aesthetic concern that remains, and that includes being able to make the judgement “turning this mushroom over and then bisecting its stipe to make sure I get the identifying features is perfectly appropriate here and not going to ruin anyone else’s enjoyment.”

I mean, speaking of “policing”… that may not be what you’re here to talk about, but what posts like this often feel like they’re trying to do.


Squirrels rarely use knives to cut off mushrooms… ;-)

Picking mushrooms must surely decrease the amount of spores spread that could potentially start new colonies.
However, as with many human activities, those who engage in it will defend it until (and probably even beyond) the point where it may be recognized as being harmful to the sustainability of the “resource”.